Preparing for what it believes will be a $1,000m market by 1998, NEC Corp is establishing a division specifically to market its colour plasma display panels. The company, which has yet to bring a product to market, has seen Fujitsu Ltd establish itself as the leader in the fledgling market, following its launch of a […]
Preparing for what it believes will be a $1,000m market by 1998, NEC Corp is establishing a division specifically to market its colour plasma display panels. The company, which has yet to bring a product to market, has seen Fujitsu Ltd establish itself as the leader in the fledgling market, following its launch of a 21 screen in March (CI No 2,632). But now, the Colour Plasma Display Panel Business Promotions Division at NEC corporate headquarters in Tokyo, has been formed to address this market and establish the company as pre-eminent, once it gets its displays away. Manufacturing at the Tamagawa plant will begin next year and the company will spend $120m in 1997 to expand the facility. It expects to be making 150,000 screens a month and have sales of more than $1,200m by 2000. It believes it can gain market share not because its screens are technically superior to Fujitsu’s – essentially the two companies are using the same technology – but because it will use the displays in its own products. This, it reckons, will generate interest in plasma display panels, thus growing the market, and it claimed to have created just such a market in thin-film transistor displays when it used home-made screens in its notebook computers. A plasma display panel consists of two glass panels, about 2mm thick, sandwiched together with a gap one micron wide that is fille d with neon and another inert gas. The panel that forms the viewing screen is covered in phosphorescent material. When a voltage is applied to electrodes in the gap, the gases are activated and generate ultra-violet light that excites the phosphors, which then fluoresce red, green and blue. Individual twists to the technology come via the drivers and gases used, and how the phosphorescent material is deposited, all of which can affect the quality of the image. Fujitsu’s display uses an alternating current supply; this enables it to cover the electrodes, so the wear and tear on them is reduced, extending the life of the system, it says. The other advantage of AC is that it has an open pixel structure, as opposed to the grouping of pixels in cells, as in a direct current system. In DC panels, each cell has its own pilot discharge, which means that they are always glowing. In an AC system the pilot discharge can be tucked away in a corner, leaving the background completely dark, thus improving contrast. The attractions of plasma panel displays are larger viewing angle, up to 160o; better manufacturing yields than for other screen types; high resolution flicker-free screens unaffected by magnetic interference; and good yields at large sizes. The downside is that their lifespan is not very long: around 10,000 hours is the best so far, and a great deal of research is devoted to boosting this to at least 50,000.