California Dreamings

by Stephen P. Atwood

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“When the wintry winds start blowing and the snow is starting in the fall
Then my eyes went westward knowing, that’s the place that I love best of all”

Those are the opening lines of a famous song you probably do not recognize because in most cases it’s the chorus that gets used on TV and in the movies. But, if you look it up you’ll realize it’s the opening to the familiar refrain: “California here I come, right back where I started from…” originally sung by Al Jolson (1924, Jolson, De Sylva & Meyer) but performed by everyone from the cast of I Love Lucy to actors in old western movies and Broadway musicals, and even by animated characters in the Bugs Bunny cartoons.

This came to mind as I sat down to write this month’s editorial to introduce our March/April issue, which highlights, among other things, the upcoming annual Display Week event in San Diego, California. Coincidentally, it really is snowing lightly here in late February as I write this and the thought of being in southern California in a few months after this long winter is very appealing!

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to San Diego, which is a beautiful city that forms a delightful oasis between the California desert and the Pacific Ocean. Early in my career, I had the privilege of visiting the Sony television assembly plant where they had just begun to manufacture Trinitron television tubes and TV sets in the U.S. It was a big deal back then, both the technology and the migration of that technology to the U.S., and it was in a wonderful new facility just north of San Diego. We dreamed of flat-screen TVs that might hang on the wall but hardly imagined the eventual total domination of LCD technology. Now as I look back I really am amazed by how much the field of displays has changed and evolved since that time – and it still seems like yesterday.

Our cover story this month celebrates the SID 2014 Honors and Awards, recognizing the many achievements of those who have invested so much of their careers to furthering the field of displays. And, as you look through this year’s group of recipients, you will notice that practically all of them are being recognized for their contributions to LCD or active-matrix technology – nary a mention of CRTs. As I have written previously, while the honors are being bestowed on these leaders of the display industry, the real honor goes to those of us who have had the privilege of knowing them, working with them, learning from them, and using their innovations to build better products that enrich people’s lives.

Each year we do our best to capture their achievements in the biographies and citations thoughtfully compiled by our own Jenny Donelan. But nothing we write can come close to documenting the lifetime’s worth of ideas, challenges, setbacks, inspirations, and successes that these individuals have weathered on behalf of our industry. Great innovation never really happens overnight and so much of the technology that we take for granted today was built layer upon layer, with each new advancement leveraging the achievements of the previous for its support. I’m sure, as you read this story, you will come away with something from the award recipients’ lives and work you can relate to. Take the time to reach out to them and say “Congratulations and Thank You” for everything they have achieved.

We also have a strong offering of technical articles for you this month, covering notable topics in OLEDs, backplanes, and paper electronics. The subject of paper electronics sort of snuck up on us over the past year, when we first started hearing about people actually attempting to use paper as a substrate for active semiconductors. Paper electronics are not the same as electronic paper. The latter is a widely understood alternative for paper that is the subject of extensive research using a variety of display, backplane, and substrate technologies. Paper electronics refers to a nascent but growing effort to actually create electronic circuits and display topologies on paper – yes, cellulose pulp-style paper. In their Frontline Technology article titled “The Future is Paper-Based,” authors Rodrigo Martins, Luis Pereira, and Elvira Fortunato describe the many exciting opportunities for paper-based electronics and displays, along with the current state of the art and what is likely coming soon in terms of new research work. I don’t think this story will persuade you to hold your breath waiting for this technology to emerge in the short term, but it did convince me that the field of research is viable and the commercial opportunity is worth the effort.

On the subject of backplanes, we never wait very long for more news these days, and there are always a lot of questions about the commercial impact of each new advancement. It seems that everyone is working on some type of innovation or improvement on this very basic but critical architectural component of virtually all electronic displays. You’ve no doubt heard the latest news about commercial adoption of both oxide and LTPS technology into OLED TV panels. Well, with the help of our guest editor Dr. Adi Abileah, we convinced author and professor John Wager from Oregon State University to give us a complete update on the state of the art in both IGZO and LTPS technologies. We came away believing both technologies have a long future in both AMOLED and AMLCD applications. We’re grateful to Dr. Abileah, a longstanding supporter of SID and ID magazine, for helping us assemble this issue and we hope you will enjoy reading his Guest Editorial, “A Short History of Backplane Technology.”

Backplane technology is also a dominant theme of this year’s International Symposium at Display Week, and after you finish John Wager’s article you’ll be primed to get the most out of the three full sessions and 12 new papers devoted to this very same topic – exploring the merits of oxide and LTPS TFTs. Backplanes are just one part of the amazing array of technical sessions at the symposium, which cover everything from quantum dots to wearable displays. The paper highlights are carefully previewed for you this month by Jenny Donelan in her feature, “Everything You Need to Know About Displays (in Four Days).” I’m especially interested in the light-field and holography papers, especially after all the coverage we’ve had here in ID on these topics over the past couple of years. It’s a rapidly moving area of research and soon to be yet another development that leaves people asking: “Where did that come from?”

We had quite a bit of excitement this issue when display metrology expert Ed Kelley came to us with the second part of his Frontline Technology series on the optical performance of curved OLED TVs, this time focusing on reflection measurements. Ed made a rather surprising discovery during his measurement investigation, and it will have at least some impact on the next generation of IDMS reflection measurements. I’d love to reveal the surprise but I’ll save it for Ed in his article titled “Considering Reflection Performance in Curved OLED TVs.”

We’ve also talked quite a bit about OLED technology for lighting, both at SID events and in this magazine. The question always comes down to: When will it happen? And: How will they get there? Author Khasha Ghaffarzadeh from IDTechEx takes his best shot at answering these questions in his Display Marketplace feature, “OLED Lighting: The Differentiation Challenge.” Khasha talks about the challenging dynamic of the marketplace, where technology is commoditized almost the instant it becomes commercially viable. Given the huge potential market for OLED lighting products, there will be a lot of market dynamics at play over the next few years. However, as Khasha shows us, there is a viable path to cost reductions that will bring this technology into the mainstream, and there are some strategies manufacturers can adopt to at least partially protect themselves from the relentless attack of commoditization at the same time.

Earlier this year, there were two other interesting industry events that started things off with renewed excitement for displays. The first was the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where the display headlines were Ultra-High Definition (UHD) and curved displays including some that were bendable – yes, with an adjustable bending angle. We were a bit skeptical of the pre-show publicity, so to make sure we got the real story we sent longtime contributor Steve Sechrist on a mission to chronicle all the important display happenings at CES. Steve returned with some great revelations which I’m sure you’ll enjoy, and we truly appreciate all his effort on our behalf.

Also in February, the LA Chapter of SID kicked off its “One-Day Conference on Technologies for Advanced Television.” Former New England Chapter supporter Seth Coe-Sullivan, co-founder and CTO of QD Vision, boldly predicted the early demise of OLED TV! Fortunately, chair and conference moderator Ken Werner was able to report back to us first hand on all the details. In his SID News feature titled “Quantum-Dot LED’s Victory over OLED TV Predicted, Debated at Advanced TV Conference,” Ken describes the whole story behind the bold quantum-dot victory declaration and numerous other key topics discussed and roundly debated at this event. I’m glad Ken was there to help us set the record straight.

And so, as we all look forward to the promise of a little warm weather soon, we wrap up this issue of Information Display and hope it gives you something to enjoy ahead of your upcoming trip to San Diego. I look forward to seeing all my friends and colleagues from the industry there! •