Manufacturing yields for active matrix colour liquid crystal display screens are said to be less than 30% of projected volume. According to Electronic News, Hitachi Ltd, Sharp Corp and the joint venture between IBM Corp and Toshiba Corp will fail to reach the 200,000 screens they anticipated manufacturing collectively this year. Some analysts believe that […]
Manufacturing yields for active matrix colour liquid crystal display screens are said to be less than 30% of projected volume. According to Electronic News, Hitachi Ltd, Sharp Corp and the joint venture between IBM Corp and Toshiba Corp will fail to reach the 200,000 screens they anticipated manufacturing collectively this year. Some analysts believe that even 50,000 display units would be ambitious, and while specific figures are hard to come by, Sharp is said to be producing 10,000 units as opposed to its target of 35,000. Display Technology Inc, the IBM-Toshiba venture, is producing a mere 500 units a month, which is far short of the 10,000 screens Toshiba needs every year, and nowhere near the 100,000 figure once projected. Hitachi is claiming to have manufactured over 1,000 units in March, but analysts are sceptical and suspect that the company is lagging Sharp, especially for the OEM market. Most commentators believe that active matrix displays will take off at some point, but the prohibitive price of panels is believed to have limited demand. However, price is not the only issue. Existing demand has not been met because of high contamination rates during manufacture and the 12-month lead time for installation and testing. Both Hitachi and Sharp have acknowledged that manufacturing problems and price are affecting their production, but they insist that the orders are there to be filled, albeit on a very selective basis. A spokesman for Sharp believes that prices will have to fall to around $600 before demand really takes off, and suppliers are currently quoting sample quantities at between $2,000 and $4,000. Sharp is said to have led analysts and OEM customers to believe that 35,000 units this year was an achievable figure, but with a rate nearer 10,000, it denies that that it misled the industry with over-optimistic predictions, and Hitachi says that the misunderstanding has been caused by over-excited salesmen. Hitachi’s shortfall forced Chisholm Co to postpone the launch of a personal computer projection system when it received only 10% of promised volumes, and Dolch Computer Systems Inc has switched to Sharp as its supplier because Hitachi was unable to deliver. Perhaps even more embarrassing is that Toshiba Computer Systems has gone to Sharp after production difficulties at Display Technology Inc, just as Toshiba started shipping its new colour portable. There are reports that IBM is considering in-house screen production, entirely independent of Display Technology. Analysts expect the new screens will replace cathode ray tubes in personal computers and workstations, but they are now looking towards the end of the century, when price and availability issues are resolved. Nonetheless, the Japanese manufacturers have invested more than $3,000m in development and manufacture, and they are expected to invest a further $2,000m by 1993. Investment on such a scale has convinced many US companies that the Japanese will become sole suppliers of LCD screens, and their own attempts to participate in what could be a $7,000m market, are likely to be unsuccessful. They are therefore looking at alternative technologies such a gas plasma, and passive matrix or small scale active-matrix displays. Compaq Computer Corp has paid In Focus Systems Inc $850,000 for rights to use its patented passive-matrix screen technology which is claimed to be cheaper, less problematic and less power-hungry. While Compaq has yet to reveal its plans, commentators are speculating that it will launch a battery-powered colour portable within the year, and that implies use of In Focus’ passive-matrix technology. In Focus says it will be in small manufacturing volumes towards the end of this year, but larger volumes are still two or three years away. In Focus has shipped 1,000 panels a month for the past 18 months, largely for use in colour screen projectors, but claims demand means it could ship up to 5,000 per month. Hitachi says that there will be other offerings and while they will have a two or three-year grace period, if they do not get into full
production very soon, active-matrix displays will overtake them.