Display technology has become a constant presence in our lives, putting sharp text, vivid pictures and brilliant video on the screens we view all day, every day. For makers of display devices, this presents a handful of important opportunities and challenges.
Opportunities exist in a growing range of applications, from the smartwatches on our wrists, to interactive screens in connected cars, to the dynamic signs and screens in stadiums around the world.
Challenges arise in the enhancement of details that ensure ever-better picture quality: resolution, refresh rate, color gamut, luminance, contrast ratio, and more. Achieving next-generation performance demands innovation in areas such as backplane technology and light-conversion efficiency.
Modeling the marketspace of display technology
A simple model of the display technology market spans three essential categories: industry, application, and form factor. Beyond consumer electronics, other noteworthy sectors are automotive, healthcare, and retail. In these areas and more, the major applications are mobile devices, wearables, digital signage, high-definition TVs, and monitors for PCs and laptops (Figure 1).
For manufacturers and end users, form factor is a key area of innovation. Ongoing research is making fantastic progress towards new materials that enable flexible, foldable, stretchable, or transparent displays. Next-generation applications in mobile devices, wearables, and connected cars promise to be especially exciting.
Sketching the display technology roadmap
Within the display industry, the path forward passes through mainstream, near-future and exploratory technologies. Today’s mainstream is populated with liquid-crystal display (LCD) and organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technologies, with more applications transitioning from LCD to OLED. To compete with OLED, many LCD manufacturers are developing new technologies such as quantum-dot LED (QLED) and mini-LED.
Looking to the future, display manufacturers are making capital investments in technologies such as active-matrix OLED (AMOLED), micro-OLED and next-generation quantum dot (e.g., pixel-color conversion quantum dot). They are also investing in next-generation technologies such as micro-LED and electroluminescent quantum dot, both of which necessitate tighter design and production parameters.
Outlining the challenges
For mainstream display technology, process control (e.g., metrology) and failure analysis (FA) are the keys to enhancing yield and quality. The latest display architectures require precise control of the critical dimensions, lateral and vertical, of backplanes and light-emitting units (Figure 2). This demands high-accuracy metrology. Because defects due to particles, contamination or process deviations can severely affect yield and quality, increasingly detailed failure analysis is essential in the earlier stages of the product lifecycle.
For R&D focused on materials engineering, crucial topics include new backplanes for innovative form factors, and new areas such as thin-film encapsulation (TFE) of OLED; light-emission and nano-encapsulation of quantum dots; and the quantum efficiency of micro-LEDs.
Addressing the needs of the display devices industry
Across R&D, metrology and failure analysis of semiconductor devices, Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a unique and comprehensive set of workflows that meet the needs of display makers. Our metrology solutions provide exceptional repeatability and high-quality nanoscale analysis capabilities. For the isolation and analysis of defects, our scanning electron microscope (SEM), focused ion beam SEM (FIB-SEM), and transmission electron microscope (TEM) solutions provide automated, high-precision sample preparation and industry-leading imaging.
To be continued
This post is the first in a series of four focused on display devices. The next three will cover process metrology; failure analysis of backplanes, panels and modules; and the future technology roadmap as it relates to R&D in materials science.
Xiaoting Gu is a product marketing manager at Thermo Fisher Scientific