Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Child Killed by Falling Signage

One of the larger hidden hazards of the CRT was the weight of the device, more particularly, the weight distribution. Due to the possibility of injury from flying glass from a tube implosion, the glass in the front of the device was relatively thick. Most of the weight of a finished TV was the front face of the tube. This meant that with a tug on the front of the set, a TV could be sent toppling forward. For larger sets, serious injury or worse could result. With flat panels, this particular hazard has largely vanished.

However, the news informs us of a 10 year old boy killed, and the rest of his family injured by the toppling forward or a floor mounted display. In this case, the harm most probably resulted from the weight of all of the other components besides the display. But still, a metastable arrangement of a display found a way to reach a more stable position and hurt those that were in the way.

The accident happened at the newly renovated airport in Birmingham, Alabama. The Accident would not have happened in, California or any other earthquake zone as the display would have been fixed to the wall even if it was resting on the floor. So, maybe a lesson learned for the digital signage industry. Sitting a display on the floor is one way to get around Americans with Disabilities Act requirements however it is still incumbent on the venue owner to consider the safety of those that can directly touch the display. UL provides minimal guidelines for impact safety, but it could be wise to follow normal architectural guidelines for display case glass to prevent consumer injuries from broken glass.

An Apple 4K TV?

Digitimes is reporting that Apple will release a 4K Apple branded TV in late 2013 or early 2014. Though possible, I would say this is unlikely. As has been widely discussed, 4K shares many of the handicaps that lead to disappointing 3D sales: specifically, an extreme premium on pricing with a bare content library. My impression is that to be the type of player that they want to be in TV, Apple has to be shooting for at least a 30% US market share. With the top end of the TV market, sets double the price of the average TV, never being more than 15% of the market, Apple needs to effectively split the TV market into the new and old. This is effectively what they accomplished with the cell phone market; smart phones became not just the high end of the market but a different category of phone. Can Apple do this with a new category of TV without either an existing 4K content base or an existing 4K developer community? Also, when Apple introduced increased resolution to the phone market, it was a pre-existing need and there were immediately applications that utilized the extra visual bandwidth. Few consumers make full use of HDTV resolution now, the extra visual bandwidth of 4K does not have the pre-existing need that phone resolutions had.

I think Apple is more likely to bring about their TV revolution by increasing the utility of existing available content. The Apple branded TV won’t be 4K but it will be a new aspect ratio with specialized HD content for the new screen real-estate. 4K may come later but coming on the heels of 3D, launching a new TV format with no existing content library is unlikely.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

A rant on "The Next Big Thing"

Digital Trends proclaims, "Sapphire is unscratchable, unbreakable, and the next big thing in touchscreens" Sapphire has not a prayer of living up to this hype. If you read through the article, the author makes no mention of Sapphire's index of refraction. Indeed, being a software guy, it would not be surprising to know that the author does not know what an index of refraction is. As I have pointed out in other posts, when displays were actually made in the US, materials science degrees were common among display development staff. When the US moved to 100% off-shore purchases, that went away as did much of the ability to comprehend materials impact on display technology.

As far as I know, every material harder than glass has a higher index of refraction (including Sapphire), meaning that it will have a much more reflective surface. With the exception of digital paper, current displays are terrible in bright sun. Switching to a Sapphire lens cover will make them unusable outdoors... kind of defeats the purpose of having a mobile device.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Flexible Glass Product 3 Years away

ZDNet is reporting that flexible glass products are still 3 years away. Flexible glass been offered for sale before. It was part of my product line in the mid 1990's and was already an old product then. The difference between Willow and Corning's previous flexible glass is that Willow is made with the same process used to make LCD substrates and has much better surface quality. There are two reasons for using a flexible glass substrate. One is cost reduction. (1) Roll-to-Roll processes are inherently lower cost than unitized production. However, roll-to-roll manufacturing is orders of magnitude harder to develop. This is especially true when manufacturing steps require specialized atmospheres. Added to this will be increased fab contamination from higher glass breakage with a spooled product; the bending puts the outer surface under some stress. As with all glass products, the edges are particularly susceptible to breakage but with a spool of glass, the breakage has much more glass that it can either propagate through and contaminate with micro-particles.

If, instead of cost reduction, the objective is (2) to merely make a flexible product, the spooled glass can be cut into sheets and handled like an ordinary substrate, only thinner. Shipping spools rather than individual sheets will result in some level of cost reduction but this may be off-set by higher breakage in glass and display manufacturing as well as transport breakage.

(2A)Also consider if the display will actually be flexible in use rather than just curved. If the objective is to make a curved display, rather than being flexible, it might be more beneficial to have a glass that can be reformed (sagged) at reasonable temperatures that will not spoil the TFT photolithography. Or, as with curved samuria sords (made from a straight piece of metal) it may be possible to heat treat or ion stuff the glass to develop a naturally cylindrical shape. The thinness of Willow will help with this.

The ZD Net article speculates that the product for flexible glass will be the iWatch. I expect this product may have a curved display that is not flexible, at least if it is an LCD rather than an OLED. I also would not assume that the first product of this type to come from Apple. Samsung had a standing request for Fusion drawn .1 mm glass (what is now called Willow) since flexible glass was first offered. They are also one of the leaders in OLED. They have been thinking about this for a good 20 years.