Makers of TFT-LCD modules are boosting output and stepping up to new-generation LCD production lines to keep pace with electronics trends.
Touchscreen and LED backlighting technologies are shaping China’s TFT-LCD module industry. In line with trends in consumer electronics, particularly the popularity of the iPod, iPhone and iPad, more releases now incorporate capacitive touch panels. Some companies have developed transmissive and transflective sunlight-readable models.
LED-backlit panels measuring larger than 40in are forecast to register faster growth than staple small and midsize units, according to DisplaySearch. Modules belonging to the last two categories are typically targeted at portable terminals, automotive onboard displays, industrial apparatuses, medical equipment and amusement devices.
Makers in China are also increasing resolution and supporting 3D capability. Other R&D trends point to higher brightness, wider viewing angle and operating temperature range, lower power consumption and anti-glare.
With mobile phones still the top application, a-Si TFT-LCD modules remain dominant. More than 60 percent of handsets this year will adopt it, while upscale phones go for LTPS.
Most enterprises are optimistic of continued growth after registering as much as 40 percent upturn last year. Although the global industry experienced an oversupply in 2H10, a rising number of local manufacturers are looking to expand capacity to meet mounting domestic demand and boost overseas business. A few are in fact bolstering exports. China Display Technology Co. Ltd attended the 2011 International CES last January to reach more clients from the US and Europe. Its new factory in Huangshan, Anhui province, will start operations in June, churning out capacitive touchscreen panels and 3D glasses.
Tianma, meanwhile, has commenced manufacture of TFT LCDs and color filters at its Wuhan province facility. Once in full operation, the plant will have a monthly capacity of 30,000 panels, 90,000 color filters and 20 million TFT-LCD modules. The enterprise is authorized to establish a national standard for onboard TFT modules for cars. Its Chengdu factory in Sichuan province has also started mass-manufacturing TFT-LCD modules.
BOE has finished building its 8G TFT-LCD line, which aims to yield 2,200x2,500mm panels for 26, 32, 47, 52 and 55in LCD TVs.
If the 8.5G lines of BOE and TCL kick off mass production by end-2011, China is expected to surpass the capacity of Japan and become the third-largest hub for this line worldwide.
Optimism for the sector and the low technology threshold have been expanding China’s maker pool, which currently numbers nearly 100. More than half of manufacturers are clustered in the Pearl River Delta region, taking advantage of the area’s solid supply chain and local government subsidies. Others are located in the Yangtze River Delta region, Fujian province and in the port city of Dalian in Liaoning province.
Many major globalplayers also have manufacturing facilities in China.
With production costs rising in eastern coastal areas due to mounting labor and operational expenses, a number of tier 1 manufacturers have set up new factories inland to skirt both issues. Wuhan, Sichuan and Anhui provinces are among the top options. Plant equipment is typically purchased from Japan, South Korea and the US.
TFT-LCD modules from China can be classified into a-Si, LTPS, CGS and HTPS based on the TFT material used. All these are active-matrix types, which provide a greater resolution than passive alternatives.
The first category is mainstream and boasts the most mature technology and a production process with a good yield. It is suitable for large panels, but fails to deliver high-performance, superthin, compact display modules.
LTPS variants require a temperature below 600 C during manufacture, which includes rapid thermal annealing, excimer laser, solid-phase and metal-induced crystallization, and sequential lateral solidification. The lightweight, superslim module has a low power consumption yet an elevated current/integration feature, which meet the requirements of TFT LCDs and AMOLEDs. One drawback is the technology’s inhibitive cost.
TFT modules such as those from China Display target mainly small and midsize applications measuring 1.77, 1.8, 2, 2.2 to 3.5in, including mobile phones and medical equipment. The maker supplies the CDT-T-0177-1V0, CDT-T-0180-1V0, CDT-T-0200-3V0, CDT-T-0220-3V0 and CDT-T-0350-3V0 models to Haier, Konka, Lenovo and Creative.
Solomon Goldentek Display Corp. launched midsize 5.7 to 8in modules last year. Its GKTQ57SNAD1E0 model delivers 320x240-pixel RGB resolution and has an active area of 115.2x86.4mm in a 5.7in screen.
This superhigh-brightness release has a white LED backlight of 1,200cd/sqm and operates at a 4:3 display rate with an 18-bit interface TTL in -20 to 70 C. The module boasts transmissivity, having undergone anti-glare surface processing for sunlight readability and suitability for outdoor use.
DLC Display Co. Ltd’s DLC0350AMG-T-2 model adopts outdoor display enhancement technology. The 3.5in transflective unit supports 240x320 resolution, 53.64x71.52mm active area, RGB/CCIR interface and a S6DH04H0X controller. It has an outline size of 640x85mm and touch-enable function. The module works under various lighting conditions and is suitable for both indoor and outdoor setups.
Transflective TFT-LCD modules are made up of several layers, namely a polarizer, λ/4 film, color filter, ITO, reflector, TFT and retardation film.
In terms of materials, the key inputs for production are the LCD panel, ITO glass, polarizer, backlights and PCBs. The first, also referred to as the cell, is made up of a color filter substrate, liquid crystal layer and TFT array substrate. Backlight units have a frame, prism sheet, diffuser, light guide, deflector and CCFL tube or LED.
The panel accounts for more than half of the total outlay. This is mainly sourced from Chunghwa Picture Tubes, CMO, Tianma and BOE.
Most other key raw materials are imported from Japan, but more makers are now opting to choose Taiwan suppliers for cost and delivery considerations. Polaris, based in the former, is the first choice of many local TFT-LCD module manufacturers. Dai Nippon and Toppan are the top providers of color filters, while it is Hitachi for anisotropic conductive film. Sankyo Seiko and Ever Jet are popular partners for backlighting inputs.
Other components and PCBs are sourced from domestic companies. Shenzhen Laibao, for instance, offers ITO conductive glass and color filter.
Except for touch panels and related controllers, supply of raw materials has been generally sufficient. As such, makers have kept quotes fairly stable despite the rise in the cost of some key inputs. Spending on ITO glass and polarizers, for instance, increased by 15 percent last year.
Hong Kong suppliers of TFT-LCD modules provide ready-to-use models for mobile phones, portable DVD and other media players, digital cameras and photo frames, GPS devices and car entertainment systems. Besides releasing products regularly to suit every season’s hottest consumer electronics, some makers design modules and driver board solutions on request.
An order consists of a panel, a driver board, an LED or CCFL backlight and an interface that can be serial digital input, analog or digital RGB, or 1 or 2-channel LVDS. A touchscreen panel may also be included. Small and midsize models with a diagonal length of 1.1 to 10in are mainstream, but several can provide 21in variants.
Manufacturers of 7-segment, character and graphics LCD modules dominate the small supplier base. In addition to TFT-LCD modules, units supporting TN, FSTN, HTN and CSTN are a natural extension of their product line.
There are also trading firms that carry TFT-LCD modules from the Greater China region in standard sizes and configurations. Some of these render extensive QC and aftersales service that equal or even surpass those from in-house makers.
Major players provide design, software engineering and assembly services. Several companies carry related display components and mechanical parts that they outsource from partner firms. A few offer recycled and refurbished TFT-LCD modules.
Established in 1995, Bona Fide Technology Ltd has a selection that includes TFT, TN, HTN, STN and FSTN with TAB, COB and COG bonding. The supplier also develops driving circuits, PCB layouts, software, backlighting systems and mechanical parts.
Microtech Technology Co. Ltd offers 1.77in and larger TFT-LCD modules and dot-matrix, TN, STN and CSTN units. It conducts electronic and mechanical design and IC stocking distribution.
Value-added features such as touch panels, vandal and water resistance, and anti-glare are defining the R&D landscape in Taiwan’s TFT-LCD module line. Touchscreens, widely used in industry-grade instruments and commercial ATMs and kiosks, are emphasized, a trend that points to intuitive human-machine interfaces as the next development initiative for most makers. Gesture and face recognition are expected to follow suit.
The majority of manufacturers in the island are small and midsize suppliers that specialize in customized services. They carry related products to boost competitiveness in a line heavily dominated by tier 1 players such as AU Optronics, Chimei Innolux and Chunghwa Picture Tubes.
Thunder Components Ltd targets the industrial PC segment. Besides modules, it makes monitors, panel PCs and touchscreen terminals.
Palm Technology Co. Ltd provides small and midsize modules for niche markets such as automotive applications.
Promate Electronic Co. Ltd takes advantage of its strong industry resources to offer custom-made solutions that combine ICs, display modules and embedded systems. It has a series of small and midsize open-frame modules used in highly specialized applications, including airplane A/V and industrial automation. Vending machines, POS systems and medical equipment are also major targets.
Acemi Optronics Technology
Model: ATMP101-V1.0 10.1 Advertising Machine
Bona Fide Technology Ltd
Microtech Technology Co. Ltd
Palm Technology Co. Ltd
Solomon Goldentek Display Corp. (mainland China)
Thunder Components Ltd
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