Pioneer Opts Out of AMOLED Partnership as Losses Mount

TOKYO – In an effort to shore up its struggling business, Pioneer Electronics announced in December it is closing out its active-matrix organic light-emitting-diode (AMOLED) joint venture and refocusing production on high-end plasma-display panels (PDPs).

Pioneer expects its 2006 net losses to reach about $721 million, after initial projections showed an anticipated $198 million in net losses. The news came on the heels of the November 2005 announcement of the new company president, Tamihiko Sudo, effective Jan. 1, 2006. He replaced former President Kaneo Ito, who along with Chairman Kanya Matsumoto stepped down, taking responsibility for recent poor sales of PDPs and DVD recorders.

The latest development in Pioneer's reform strategy will be the liquidation of ELDis, a joint venture formed with Semiconductor Energy Laboratory and Sharp in March 2001, by April 2006, according to a Pioneer spokesperson. The group originally formed with the goal of mass-producing AMOLEDs, but Pioneer decided to discontinue the project because it doesn't "anticipate tangible profitability in this business under the current market situation," the spokesperson said. Sharp backed out of the project last year and was replaced by TDK, but as of 2006, Semiconductor Energy Laboratory will be the sole participant.

Pioneer will continue research-and-development work on AMOLEDs with the hope of benefiting from its existing AMOLED-related patents. Pioneer now will focus on passive-matrix OLEDs (PMOLEDs). The company currently uses its PMOLEDs in its car-stereo and home-theater equipment.

"We will continue to use OLEDs for this purpose in the future, and will also sell these OLEDs to other companies for use in similar products, as well as possibly for cellular phones, PDAs, and other items," the spokesperson explained. "For PMOLED, we will boost adoption of displays for use with our products while at the same time proposing new applications and focusing on attracting new customers."

In addition to leaving ELDis, Pioneer also anticipates rebuilding profits by focusing its efforts on large-screen high-resolution PDPs.

"We will focus more on finished Pioneer brand products, whose sales have been growing steadily worldwide and seek to recover profitability," the spokesperson said. "Moreover, we are going to strengthen our advantages in high-resolution panels, focusing on 50-in. 1080p (1080 visible lines) PDP TV to be launched at the early stage of the next fiscal year. Under the new management, we will announce details of plans as well as our sales strategies as soon as possible."

At the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Pioneer introduced "one of the world's first" 50-in. 1080p plasma TVs. The Elite PureVision PRO-FHD1 plasma TV features 1920 x 1080 resolution and is capable of displaying the entire range of HD broadcasts including 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. This TV should be available for retail in June at a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $10,000.

– Jessica Quandt


Samsung to Open New Gen 7-2 LCD Line in April

TANGJEONG, Korea — Samsung will begin mass-production of Gen 7-2 LCD glass panels at its Tangjeong, Korea, plant starting in April 2006, the company announced in October. The new 7-2 line is optimized for producing both 40- and 46-in. glass panels, according to Joe Virginia, vice president of LCD Business for Samsung Semiconductor Inc.

Each motherglass panel in the 7-2 line will measure 1.87 x 2.2 m and will be divided into either eight 40-in. or six 46-in. panels. In addition to the 60,000 Gen 7-1 substrates currently being produced every month at the 4.23 trillion won (about $3.96 billion) facility, the Gen 7-2 line will contribute another 45,000 substrates per month beginning in April 2006. This will increase to 90,000 per month by the second half of the year, Virginia said.

Samsung expects consumer demand for 40-in. LCD TVs to grow throughout 2006. However, Samsung is prepared to alter its manufacturing schedules if needed to correlate with consumer demand.

"Samsung believes that the LCD-TV market demand is as important as market supply, and it should be created and not simply predicted," Virginia said. "Market projections, rather than give us cause for concern, instead afford us an opportunity to adjust production volumes and mixes to better address the needs of our customers."

Samsung's Gen 7-1 line, which produces substrates of the same 1.87 x 2.2-m size for 32- and 40-in. panels, is a joint venture between Samsung and Sony. Samsung is also planning an upcoming Gen 8 line, which will produce 2.16 ´ 2.46-m motherglass, primarily for 46- and 52-in. panels. These will also be manufactured at the Tangjeong plant, but no time frame has been set for production.

– Jessica Quandt


Sales of Larger Microdisplay TVs Expected to Outpace Smaller Models in 2006

Microdisplay television (MDTV) sales in the United States hit record highs in 2005, but according to predictions from manufacturer LG Electronics (LGE) and research group iSuppli, sales of smaller-screened MDTVs will begin to slow in 2006.

"Actual sales to date show that the MDP (microdisplay panel) growth has already slowed and is the slowest among new TV technologies," said Bob Perry, LGE's vice president of sales and channel marketing. "As plasma and LCD (liquid-crystal display) take the majority of the market in 50-in.-and-smaller displays in 2006, MDTV makers will be competing for sales with 57-in. MDTVs, and consumers have historically voted that only about 15% of the PTV (projection TV) market is in sizes above 50 in."

Perry added LGE studies have shown that in the 42-in. category, consumers will purchase LCD or plasma TVs instead of microdisplays even if the MDTV costs 15–20% less. LGE is expecting the same to be true of 50-in.-and-smaller displays in 2006.

Microdisplays larger than 50 in. still have strong sales potential, according to Tim Alessi, LGE's product-planning and brand-advertising director.

"While we're predicting that the whole industry is going to start to flatten out or decline," he explained, "there's still going to be some growth in the larger screen sizes because flat panelsabove 50 in. are still going to be priced much higher than microdisplays. So that's where the opportunity will be for that category."

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January in Las Vegas, several display manufacturers introduced large-sized MDTVs. LGE unveiled 71- and 62-in. liquid-crystal–on–silicon (LCoS) microdisplay 1080p high-definition televisions (HDTVs), as well as 62-, 56-, and 52-in. digital light-processing (DLP) HDTVs. Samsung unveiled its Gen 7 line of 1080p DLP HDTVs, measuring 61, 56 and 50 in., as well as what the company billed as the world's first light-emitting-diode (LED) light-sourced DLP rear-projection HDTV, which at 56 in. will hit retail stores in April.

"The sub-50-in. (MDTV) category is growing at a slower pace than the 50-in.-and-larger category," explained Rhiddi Patel, principal television systems analyst for iSuppli. "We believe that 50-in.-and-larger LCDs have some more time to go before they can become affordable by even early majority (consumers who gauge reaction to a technology before paying a premium for it). So in the next couple years, plasmas are likely to impact MD RPTV sales in the 50–60-in. range and not LCDs as much. With that said, MD RPTVs will still dominate the 50–60-in. category through the forecast period (2005–2009) with plasmas gaining share."

– Jessica Quandt


LG.Philips & E Ink, Samsung Unveil Large High-Resolution Flexible Displays

TOKYO — LG.Philips LCD and electronic-paper company E Ink announced at October's FPD International tradeshow in Japan they have teamed up to create one of the world's largest high-resolution flexible displays to date. With a diagonal measurement of 10.1 in., the e-paper display has a resolution of 100 ppi and is about as thick as a sheet of construction paper.

"This is the first demonstration of a large-sized, shatterproof, flexible electronic-paper display by LG.Philips LCD," said Darren Bischoff, senior marketing manager for E Ink. "Due to the fact that it was fabricated with traditional LCD (liquid-crystal-display) materials and processes, it is likely to be the fastest path to market for high-resolution flexible displays."

The 10.1-in. display is E Ink's second to use a flexible stainless-steel substrate; the first was a 3-in.-diagonal display made in 2002. While not fully rollable like some of the thinner plastic materials being used by other flexible-display companies, the steel foil has the advantage of being easily fabricated with traditional materials and processes, making it ideal for the fast track to commercialization, Bischoff explained.

While the company has seen "strong interest" in its flexible displays in the publishing field, E Ink spokesperson Jennifer Haightexplained it has not yet announced a specific customer. E Ink sees flexible displays hitting the market in the next two to three years.

"This is not necessarily a product that will be developed 'as is' for the market," she stressed. "The display was intended to demonstrate that a fully flexible display could be manufactured using standard commercial materials and processes."

Samsung announced in November it has developed the world's largest flexible LCD panel having two layers of transparent plastic. More durable and flexible than displays made with traditional LCD glass, Samsung's 7-in. display maintains thickness and minimizes distortion of images when bent or exposed to heat. Its 640 x 480 resolution is high enough to view standard-definition digital TV content. The display is optimized for use in cell phones, notebook computers, and other mobile devices, and may one day be used in fashion-enhancing or wearable electronic-display applications, according to a statement from Samsung.

– Jessica Quandt


Display Briefs

Kopin has signed on to produce a display subsystem that will be used in night-vision goggles for the United States Army. Kopin's high-resolution, ruggedized CyberDisplay SVGA microdisplay and a Kopin subsystem both will be used in the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle system currently under development by ITT Industries Night Vision. ITT has a $560 million contract with the military to produce the goggles, which are designed to allow soldiers to see through smoke and fog in any lighting conditions.

Schott will invest $195 million in its melting and processing capacity for TFT-LCD glass. Schott will jointly process the glass withKuramoto Seisakusho Co. Ltd. at a new $115 million plant in Chungcheongbuk-do Ochang Science Park, 70 km south of Seoul, Korea.

The United States House of Representatives has set Feb. 18, 2009 as the deadline for a complete transition to digital television broadcasts. The U.S. government will set aside $3 billion to provide vouchers for Americans who can't afford the new required digital tuners for their TVs.

Imaging Technology International Corp. announced in January that it has opened an office in Cambridge, England, as the first stage of the company's international expansion. The ink-jet systems manufacturer also announced the appointment of Debbie Thorp as the new Vice President of European, Middle East and African Operations.

ZBD Displays, a British manufacturer of display technology for portable electronic devices, has appointed retail technologistAndrew Dark as a non-executive director in a move towards strengthening the company's focus on the retail sector.

Chuck Quinby has been named Business Development Manager for Conductive Products at InteliCoat Technologies. Quinby has been with the company for more than 20 years in various positions, including managing the R&D lab at its South Hadley, MA, headquarters. InteliCoat manufactures conductive films used in products such as medical sensors, flat-panel displays, computers, fuel cells and batteries.