Manufacturers all around the world (Asia, Europe, and the United States) are investing more and more capital in flat panel displays research and development and infrastructure, banking on the growing popularity of LCDs. Although R&D efforts are concentrating recently on active matrix technology, all aspects of LCDs are seeing improvements.
Japan is the industry leader supplying displays with improved color, higher resolution, larger size and smaller weight, expanded viewing angles, and faster response time. At the same time, progress has been made in reducing operating voltage and power consumption, improving peripheral circuits, and optimizing backlight.
Korean companies such as Samsung, Goldstar, and Hyundai are new entrants teaming with LCD specialists, while in China a number of foreign companies are looking for a cheaper labor force.
Taiwan, considered by many the world's second supplier of LCDs after Japan, as a result of local Japanese subsidiaries, is eager to enter the high-quality active matrix LCD market by exploiting cooperation between local makers and government owned laboratories offering R&D support. In Europe, Phillips (Netherlands), through a joint venture with Sagem and Thomson CSF (France), is close to starting volume manufacturing of matrix LCDs. The European companies are strongly supported by excellent R&D centers, such as CNET in France and the Laboratory for LCD Technology at the University of Stuttgart.
Finally, in the United States, Motif is starting a new manufacturing plant. OIS in Michigan is building the first volume active matrix LCD facility, while Xerox-Standish and AT&T are in preproduction and design phases. The formation of the United States Display Consortium will strengthen infrastructure while the efforts of ARPA, NSF, NIST, the Liquid Crystal Institute of Kent State University, and the new Display Center of University of Michigan will enhance R&D and display manufacturing engineering.
In light of all the world activities cited above, the LCD industry status in the former Soviet Union was a big unknown. The WTEC panel found that the needs of the avionics, defense, and electronics industries in the FSU triggered many LCD activities, particularly in twisted nematic and supertwisted nematic LCDs. Furthermore, a few companies demonstrate active matrix LCD capabilities using both two- and three-terminal devices. This report will emphasize the technologies applied in the FSU LCD industry, including a description of equipment makers and university/industry R&D cooperation.
In the category of nonemissive display technology, the panel found, in addition to LCDs, active R&D in electrochromic materials in Moscow (Niopik) and Kyyiv (Ukraine Academy of Sciences). The technology is in its very early stages; as a result, this report will concentrate on the status of the LCD industry in the FSU.