One to Watch – The Displays Market Can Present Tough Choices

The displays market can present tough choices when it comes to cost, quality and delivery times. Electronics Sourcing asked Review Display Systems what buyers should watch out for

Q – What factors should purchasers assess to ensure they source the right display?

A – There are quite a few considerations when sourcing displays. First, what will the display be used for and in what kind of environment? Harsh environments require rugged displays that can withstand tough conditions and have relevant ingress protection. Secondly, consider the supplier. Most display manufacturers are in the Far East, but going direct isn’t necessarily the best route. It’s important to evaluate suppliers thoroughly to establish whether they support the product adequately. Ask if product is available long term, whether they supply support products such as boards and interface cards and whether they offer credit facilities or buffer stock.

Q – What types of display are available in the electronics supply chain?

A – There aren’t that many types of display. If you want a colour solution, opt for thin film transistor liquid crystal or organic light emitting diode displays. LED displays are TFT LCDs with a light emitting diode backlight. TFT LCDs are well established and available in a range of sizes, specifications and formats, from super fine to high brightness. OLEDs are relatively new, with exciting possibilities for the future, however, due to demand, production is a problem, as is the fact that water affects the organic structure. Short lifespan could be an issue, but in today’s mobile applications and wearable fields, it probably won’t be a problem.

Q – What are display lead times like in the UK?

A – Lead-time is a key consideration when purchasing displays and it depends on the type of display. Lead-times from eight to 24 weeks should be factored into a project, although for medical applications, it could be 16 to 24 weeks. Component and substrate shortages caused by high demand are currently a problem, but working with a display specialist can help by providing a buffer stock, flexibility in meeting production deadlines, or by offering alternative solutions.

Q – Has the cost of displays fluctuated over the last few years?

A – This depends on the size and format of the panel and its use. In general, all manufacturers have reduced costs, with many substrates now being manufactured in China. To achieve these cost savings, however, displays might have similar mechanical characteristics and even the same interface, but there will be a difference in brightness, viewing angle, contrast and lifetime. Understanding these differences helps buyers make an informed decision on whether switching to a lower cost version is possible. Costs will also vary depending upon exchange rates.

Q – What is the most popular display distributed by RDS?

A – Review Display Systems specialises in industrial displays, so we understand the requirements of typical users in the medical, military and industrial sectors. Common screen sizes range from five to 15in and can include a range of additions, such as custom backlights, electronic interfaces or bonding to a custom front cover glass or touch screen. Commercial products favour 4.3 to seven inch solutions, where cost per pixel is at its lowest. Here, custom design work may be required to allow easy interface to the drive electronics. Larger sizes are also popular for advertising applications and again, some engineering might be involved. For example, taxi top signage in London operates in a very hostile environment and may require specialist design-in protection from the sunlight, cooling and heating, as well condition monitoring.

Q – What can we expect from display technology in the future?

A – Display technology is always evolving, with no one technology meeting every application need. TFT technology continues to improve with increased contrast, higher brightness, wider temperature operation and general usability, particularly with the recent move from low voltage differential signalling towards electronic paper display interfacing. OLED improvements will push into larger screen sizes once manufacturers overcome the current shortage of production capabilities. Interesting improvements in flexible substrates and low power will also open new markets, as will 100 per cent transparent electroluminescent technology.

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