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Industry News

Metal Oxide Backplanes Gaining Traction

Metal oxide display backplanes have already gone commercial. Sharp has invested in establishing a Gen8 IGZO plant at its Kameyama plant in Japan while LG has also selected IGZO backplanes for its large-sized white OLED technology. At the same time, Chinese companies such as BOE are fast playing catch up with both prototype and production capacity announcements.

The IDTechEx market research report “Metal Oxide TFT Backplanes for Displays 2014-2024: Technologies, Forecasts, Players” estimates that 7 square kilometers of metal oxide backplanes will be used in the OLED industry in 2024, enabling a $16 billion market at the display module level. The LCD display market will add an extra demand of at least 1 km sqr per year in 2024 for metal oxide backplanes.

A strong value proposition

The metal oxide backplane technology has many clear advantages. It offers high field-effect mobility and spatial uniformity. This is beneficial for large-sized OLED displays, which are current driven. It is also good for high-definition displays as the high mobility enables increasing the aperture ratio. The ON/OFF ratio is high (also the leakage current is low) meaning that device power consumption is low. The manufacturing process is based on sputtering, which is a well-known process in the industry, therefore not requiring drastic modification to existing installed processes. The wide bandgap nature of the semiconductor also suggests that devices can be transparent, paving the way towards transparent displays although we note that instability issues under visible illumination persist.

This technology therefore compares favourably with many competing solutions. While it is neither as fast nor as stable as LTPS, it is more scalable. It is not as low cost as amorphous silicon (depreciated assets and large accumulated production experience) but is faster and more stable. It is perhaps not as intrinsically flexible as organic and carbon nanotube TFTs, but it is already more mature, stable, and amenable to large-scale production.

Technology limitations

The technology is however not without its limitations. The production yield has been low, largely due to a lack of accumulated production experience in the industry. The window of optimal processing conditions is narrow, making manufacturing more challenging that initially assumed. The device stability (e.g., threshold voltage stability) has remained a persistent challenge, although the devices are now far better as the channel composition, the dielectric/challenge and the passivation layer deposition processes are all further optimised.

Plastic and flexible displays are emerging. The first commercial examples are bent or curved mobile phones that are rigid but on a plastic (i.e., polymide) substrate. All types of backplane technologies can be utilised here as the processing takes place over a carrier glass and polyimide substrate itself can also tolerate high processing conditions.

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Normal Taps Stratasys to Mass Produce Custom Earphones

Custom earphone maker Normal is using Stratasys Ltd’s 3D Printers for mass customization of earphones.

Ordered through a free mobile app or from Normal’s flagship in New York City, Normal earphones are customized to fit each user’s ear, 3D printed, and typically shipped and delivered anywhere in the U.S. in as little as 48 hours. The company currently operates 10 Stratasys Fortus 250mc 3D Printers, manufacturing custom parts for the earphones using FDM 3D Printing Technology.

“We’re excited to be able to create accessible, tailor-made earphones that sound incredible,” explained Normal’s Founder and CEO Nikki Kaufman. “We’re using Stratasys’ 3D printing technology to build a product that is completely personalised.”

Each pair of earphones is engineered, 3D printed, assembled and shipped at Normal’s flagship, which serves as their factory, headquarters and retail store. With 10 Stratasys 3D Printers lining the perimeter of the space, and a fully exposed assembly process, Normal encourages auditory, tactile and visual exploration of how Normal earphones or “Normals” are sculpted and built.

The alternative option for custom earphones involves a health care professional, silicon molds, several weeks waiting and a product that costs up to thousands of dollars. Using 3D printing, Normal is able to provide premium, custom-fitting earphones at a more accessible price and process. The 3D printed part of the earphones is made with ABSplus thermoplastic and available in seven custom colors. Normal currently sells the earphones in the U.S. for $199, including tax, shipping and a personalized carrying case.

“The implications of 3D printing for a company like Normal are huge. It’s a game-changer for customized goods: the ushering in of a new era in manufacturing,” said Stratasys’ Vice President of Marketing, Bruce Bradshaw. “Today, companies can offer consumers customized products, in a time-efficient manner, made possible with 3D printing.”

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UBM Canon Partners Science@OC to Support STEM Education

UBM Canon and Science@OC have announced their 2015 partnership to promote education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). This will mark the second of a three-year collaboration. The partnership will also include a STEM Education Day on Tuesday, February 10, 2015, at UBM Canon’s Advanced Manufacturing Trade Show at the Anaheim Convention Center next month.

The collaboration is designed to help educators better understand the quality and vast array of career opportunities available to students who have the math and science skills required by Orange County manufacturers. The program is a part of a long-term approach to address a chronic challenge faced by Orange County manufacturers: finding qualified workers.

“Science@OC is using a grant from the UBM Foundation to send 25 middle school educators from six Orange County school districts to the exposition and conference,” said Science@OC Executive Director Sue Neuen. “Educators will take a guided tour of the exhibit hall and discuss how to best share these experiences with students and their parents. We believe that educators need to start promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education early to inspire students to be qualified for high paying jobs for the next generation of local manufacturing workers.”

Middle school teachers who attended the STEM Education Day at the advanced manufacturing trade event in 2014 were surprised by the sheer number of technology and manufacturing companies exhibiting at the event as well as the number of them who told the visiting teachers that they are starved for qualified applicants for their jobs.

The Southern California Advanced Manufacturing Trade Show, scheduled for February 10-12, 2015, is the largest comprehensive manufacturing exposition and professional development conference on the West Coast. It is an ideal location to provide the connection between educators and manufacturers. The event attracts more than 30,000 participants and includes more than 2,000 exhibits of equipment, products and services in manufacturing, with the following co-located eventsPacific Design Manufacturing, ATX West,MDM West,Quality Expo, WestPack, PLASTEC West, Electronics West, and AeroCon.

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