Prospect 50 Let Oktyabrya 101
Telephone: (845-2) 13-32-98
Fax: (845-2) 13-32-98 or 13-21-33
Telex: 241 138 ZARYA
Dates Visited: October 27-28, 1993
Report Author: D. Slobodin
Nikolai G. Kuzmin
Vladimir V. Chinchikov
Valerii A. Orlov
Dr. Boris I. Gorfinkel
Dr. Nikolai D. Zhukov
Reflector is a joint stock company (partially state-owned, partially privately-owned) that has focused on the volume production of displays and related products. Reflector became independent of the wholly state-owned Volga Research and Development Institute in 1992. However, the two organizations share the same building and jointly develop manufacturing processes. Typically, Volga researches and develops up to the pilot production stage, and then Reflector mass produces.
Reflector was founded in 1953 as a state-owned enterprise to manufacture amplifier and receiver tubes principally for television and radio products. During the late 1950s and through the 1960s, the company was Europe's largest receiver tube manufacturing and design enterprise. With the advent of the transistor, Reflector scaled back its tube manufacturing operations and began to focus on display products. In 1971, the R&D institute developed vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) technology. (The institute's scientists acknowledge that their development came after Japanese development of VFDs). VFD production began several years later. Now Reflector manufactures VFDs at volumes of up to several million per year. These VFDs are used in avionics, automobiles, and consumer and industrial electronics. During the WTEC visit to Russia, panel members found VFD clocks produced by Reflector in many Russian cars and buildings.
In 1973, the Volga Institute began to develop reflective passive matrix liquid crystal displays. Soon after, Reflector began producing small LCDs for watches. Reflector now produces LCDs at volumes of several million per year for watches, games, and personal computers. Reflector's current focus is on the production of VFDs for consumer electronics and avionics and supertwisted nematic (STN) LCDs for computers and television.
Reflector not only produces tubes and display components, but also produces specialty integrated circuits, semiconductor lasers, photodetectors, and finished consumer goods incorporating displays such as games. Reflector also produces specialty glass products such as streetlight envelopes, vases, and drinking glasses.
Since Reflector is a production enterprise, the following summarizes the production activities:
As mentioned, in the early 1970s, Reflector developed VFD technology and began production. Volga obtained patents on phosphors and device structures for low- voltage VFDs; the phosphor patent was later transferred to Russia's main phosphor production enterprise, Luminophor in Stavropol. In the 1980s, Japanese (from NEC and possibly elsewhere) visited the facility and Reflector purchased a green monochrome VFD production line from NEC. To bring the production line up, there was extensive interaction with the Japanese. There is currently no active cooperation with the Japanese, but the Japanese still maintain a casual interest in Reflector. Since purchasing the NEC production line, Reflector and the Institute Volga developed red, green, and blue multicolor VFD production process.
Reflector provided the WTEC team with a tour of the VFD production line. The line, not surprisingly, consisted chiefly of Japanese production equipment. Some process modules were highly automated, while other modules were mainly manual. Modules shown included (1) glass cleaning, (2) phosphor screen printing, (3) carbon coating and screening, (4) anode screen and frit alignment, (5) welding, (6) cathode wiring, (7) front plate assembly and frit seal, (8) bake out, (9) pump-out and tip-off, (10) final test, and (11) burn-in. The cathode wiring module had an automatic wire feeder, but required a highly-skilled operator to weld onto the springs. The wire is Russian-made. The pump- out and tip-off operation took place on a large, periodically rotating carousel that held and pumped out about 50 displays simultaneously. Displays were inserted and, after undergoing a full revolution on the carousel, were sealed off manually with a torch and removed. Company hosts provided the team with several sample VFDs.
Reflector claims several technical competitive advantages, including the low voltage structure (most companies use high voltage structures) that provides very high brightness and high lifetime (approx. 100,000 hrs), and multicolor capability. In addition, Reflector claims that it can undersell the Japanese for equal performance and quality displays. Reflector now [Oct. '94 information - ed.] is exporting displays to several South Korean companies (e.g., Goldstar). Reflector and Volga representatives believe that their knowledge of VFD technology and production will allow Reflector to quickly and naturally transition to producing field emission displays. Volga representatives present at the site visit have indicated that they would be interested in partnering with an organization to commercialize field emission displays, though they feel that volume production is likely to be years off. Volga representatives indicated that Volga assembled the working field emission display demonstrated by the Polytechnic Institute of Krasnoyarsk at the 1993 International Vacuum Microelectronics Conference in July.
Reflector also provided a tour of its reflective STN LCD production facility. The facility was a class 1,000-10,000 area, with critical operations carried under laminar flow hoods. The facility is capable of producing displays of sizes from 0.5- 8" diagonal. On the day of the tour, Reflector was producing 1" x 2" displays for a French customer in a two-shift operation. Most production equipment and materials were Russian-made except for polarizer and reflector sheets, which were Japanese (Nitto Denko). Process modules observed included substrate cleaning, ITO sputtering, photolithography, alignment layer application, alignment rubbing, spacer application, assembly and edge seal, vacuum fill, and manual inspection. Displays were produced in batches of roughly 20. H2O2/NH4OH bath, ultrasonic bath, and spin dry processes were used to clean the glass. Photoresist was applied using both dip and spin coating. Rubbing was performed with a rotating brush. Resist was patterned using a proximity exposure system. Displays were manually tested and some were reworked if the edge seal was not sufficient. Hole seal was performed as a batch operation. The host stated that Reflector used statistical process control, developed a zero defect program, and now its yields are about 90%. The workers appeared disciplined and skilled in performing their duties. When asked about worker incentives, the production manager said that workers receive a 40% pay bonus for meeting orders on time and on specification.
Reflector provided significant information about the Russian display manufacturing infrastructure. Our hosts indicated that all necessary materials and components for STN and TN LCDs are available in Russia. Russia has joint patents with Switzerland (Hoffman-LaRoche) on LC materials, and consequently state-of-the art materials are freely available. Sheet glass in the 1.1-1.2 mm thickness is produced by the vertical rolling and drawing method, and is polished at two plants elsewhere in Russia (Jalanagorsk [Iron City] and Golman). Glass flatness and surface finish are still a problem, so Reflector also redraws glass to 0.4 mm thickness for its internal use. Color filters are also produced in Russia, although the team did not learn where. At the time of the WTEC visit, our hosts indicated that the LCD manufacturing process developed by Volga was in use at four other plants in the former Soviet Union, including two in Ukraine (Venitza and Ruvno). Reflector sees manufacturing equipment as Russia's major weakness, and is interested in accessing more advanced equipment. The company feels its strength is its highly qualified workforce. All workers have a secondary level education. Reflector collaborates widely with other institutes. It works closely with Saratov University and has 40-45 legal agreements with other scientific institutes.
Reflector demonstrated LCDs of various sizes produced on site, including an 864-line monochrome square STN display for aircraft use. Reflector has a partially constructed 20,000 square meter building that was to be used for LCD production. Construction was stopped when the government canceled the project. Reflector is very anxious to find joint-venture partners to invest and help complete the new building.
Reflector is a successful, leading display producer in Russia. However, by global standards, Reflector is a second-tier display manufacturer with relatively unsophisticated production equipment and facilities. Reflector has access to unique state-of-the-art display technology by virtue of its close association with the Research and Development Institute Volga. Because of its technology access, its previous experience with international joint ventures, and its skilled but low-cost workforce, Reflector may be of interest to U.S. companies as a joint-venture partner.
N.N. Chubun, et al. 1991. Tech. Digest of Int. Vacuum Microelectronics Conf., Nagahama, Japan:60.
Reflector Corporation 40-Year Anniversary Publication.