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China leaps into the future with next-generation displays

Optoelectronic suppliers in China are forming strategic partnerships to launch new displays based on the latest technologies, including laser, OLED, capacitive touchscreen and 3D.

China is recognized mainly for its manufacturing prowess, not for its R&D capability. But a few display companies are aiming to change this.

China leaps into the future with next-generation displays
Beijing Visionox set up Kunshan New Flat Panel Display Technology Center Co. Ltd, the first medium-scale pilot production line for AMOLEDs in China and a joint venture with the Kunshan Industrial Technology Research Institute.

By working with major research institutes and universities in the country, suppliers such as Beijing Phoebus Vision Optoelectronics Technology Co. Ltd and Beijing Visionox Technology Co. Ltd have been able to develop core technologies for producing new displays alongside major industry players. A few others also have managed to accomplish the same feat sans research partnerships, including Truly Semiconductors Ltd, China Display Technology Co. Ltd and Changhong.

Beijing Phoebus Vision claims to be the first China manufacturer to devote R&D to laser displays, including source modules, TVs, projectors and 3D cinema solutions. It is now the second-largest holder of laser display patents globally, having roughly 110 protected designs from core technologies to finished devices.

Beijing Visionox Technology Co. Ltd, meanwhile, is said to be the first in China to have a line for manufacturing PMOLED, with annual yield topping out at 12 million 1in panels. In Q4 2009, the company became the fourth-largest global PMOLED supplier, next to TDK, RiTdisplay and Pioneer. Now, it wants to extend this success to the AMOLED area, where Samsung currently holds more than 90 percent share of global shipments.

Appliances and consumer electronics manufacturer Changhong is venturing into the OLED line as well. Together with the Chengdu Hi-Tech Investment Group, the company set up Sichuan CCO Display Technology Co. Ltd, a joint venture that will concentrate on OLED production. A PMOLED trial line started operating in April and has a projected annual yield of 120 million 1in panels. An AMOLED line has been under construction since late 2009.

As of April 2010, Changhong has applied for more than 170 OLED patents, including 34 foreign ones, covering OLED materials, device structure, driving circuit and manufacturing process. It has also released 2.6 to 7.6in AMOLED demonstration panels.

The popularity of Apple's portable electronics, including the iPad, has furthered development in capacitive touchscreen technology as well. This comes as increasing demand is tightening supply of 7in and above displays. Recognizing the growth potential in the segment, China Display Technology Co. Ltd developed its own version of 3 to 7in capacitive touchscreen displays for mobile phones, GPS devices and other portable electronics in 2009. Midsize panels for laptops measuring 10.1 to 15.6in were released in March 2010.

Further, the popularity of 3D displays is bolstering growth in the 3D glasses line. Truly Semiconductors Ltd spent four years developing lenses for 3D glasses and has since been granted four patents. In July, the company set up its 3D glasses factory in Guangdong province with two production lines. Projected annual output is 120 million 3D lenses.

Technology partnerships bolster R&D

Beijing Phoebus Vision owes much of its technological breakthroughs to the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Optoelectronics, which is the country's top development center for the industry. The company's chief engineer Bi Yong came from the CAS, while its head scientist was from the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Beijing Phoebus Vision also received authorization from the CAS to use 10 of the latter's core laser technology patents as a starting point for product development. Moreover, unlike typical manufacturers, more than 80 percent of the company's 200 employees work in the R&D department or have a technical background.

Further, Beijing Phoebus Vision is part of the Laser Display Industry Innovation Alliance, a coalition established in mid-2009 to bring together up- and downstream suppliers. The company is now working with several makers of finished devices that will use laser displays for mass production.

Beijing Visionox' success in the PMOLED segment came six years after the company launched its pilot line in 2002 through a partnership with Tsinghua University, one of the country's leading science and engineering institutes. By tapping OLED technology developed by the university, the collaboration has resulted in 228 IPR applications, including 39 foreign invention patents. Ninety have been granted so far.

In June 2010, Beijing Visionox set up Kunshan New Flat Panel Display Technology Center Co. Ltd, the first medium-scale pilot production line for AMOLEDs in mainland China and a joint venture with the Kunshan Industrial Technology Research Institute. The JV is planning to release 3 to 12in AMOLED panels in the first stage of production and 12 to 17in panels in the second phase.

The new company was established in response to growing worldwide demand for the display panels, which are often used in mobile phones, and supply shortage problems have led many manufacturers to accelerate AMOLED production plans. Taiwan-based Chimei Innolux, for instance, recently announced it will be ready to mass-produce AMOLED panels for mobile phones in Q3 2010.

Further, Beijing Visionox is planning to create large-screen AMOLED lines for mass production in the next two or three years. It is working on developing downstream lines such as OLED lighting, targeting to release such models within the same time frame. The company recently formed a strategic partnership with Hong Kong's Solomon Systech, which will help develop AMOLED-based lighting products.

Kunshan New Flat Panel Display Technology Center is also working with Taiwan's AU Optronics and launched 2.4in AMOLED demonstration panels with 240x330 pixels, a 10,000:1 contrast ratio and a viewing angle exceeding 170 degrees. The displays incorporate electron-transport layer materials developed by Beijing Visionox and Tsinghua, and TFT substrates from AUO.

Domestic laser displays on a par with foreign models

Lasers are touted as the next-generation display technology, particularly for large screens and 3D panels. This is mainly because of their wider color range. The best LED-backlit LCDs are said to provide 62 percent of the colors the human eye can see. In contrast, laser displays render 90 percent.

Seeing the lucrative possibilities, many of the international display manufacturers such as Sony, Mitsubishi, Epson and Samsung are developing their own versions of laser panels. Compared with their releases, China suppliers' displays are not lacking in performance. At 210 percent of the NTSC standard, the color range of Beijing Phoebus Vision's models is just a little below Sony's 214.4 percent, but the coverage rate is the same at 67 percent. While the electrical-optical efficiency of Beijing Phoebus Vision's laser panels is lower by 2.7 percentage points, the flux efficiency is higher at 270lm/W as opposed to Sony's 238lm/W.

The company is now working on building up capacity for mass manufacturing, estimating scaled production to be in place by 2012. Two factories are currently being built, one in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, and the other in the Caofeidian New Area in Tangshan, Hebei province. The first stage of construction for the latter is expected to be finished late this year. A laser display center in Beijing is also in the works.


Note: This article "China leaps into the future with next-generation displays" was originally published by Global Sources, a leading business-to-business media company and a primary facilitator of trade with China manufacturers and India suppliers, providing essential sourcing information to volume buyers through our e-magazines, trade shows and industry research.

All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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