The importance of choosing the right display: it could save lives…

01 September 2020

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Finding the right display for your application is key to the success of any product. But it can prove a real headache to research & determine who manufactures the ideal display solution that will ultimately put your product ahead of the competition. Justin Coleman, Displays Division Manager at display solutions provider, Review Display Systems (RDS) reviews some of the important factors to consider…

This article was originally featured in the September 2020 issue of EPDT magazine [read the digital issue]. Sign up to receive your own copy each month.

The correct choice is generally governed by the application and the environment in which it is to be used. These factors obviously play a huge part in defining the requirements of the display panel, so by asking a series of simple questions – WHERE, WHAT & WHEN – you can rapidly start to focus on important criteria…

WHERE:

Is it to be used within a harsh environment? Are there operating and storage temperature requirements? What are the light conditions? Does it need to be sunlight readable? Is it a high vibration environment? Does it need to be waterproof? How is the unit to be powered?

WHAT:

What is the required size? What resolution is needed? What angle does the unit need to be viewed from? What can be done to tailor the panel, to reduce cost and increase performance? What is the application – industrial or commercial?

WHEN:

When will production start? When will production of the display end? It is becoming increasingly important to understand the long-term availability of a display, especially if the application demands specific regulatory approvals.

Being armed with answers to such WHAT, WHERE & WHEN questions will help you to narrow down the display options for your application.

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For example, TFT (thin-film-transistor) displays can be specified with increased shock and vibration protection and wide operating temperatures of -40°C to +85°C for harsh environments, high brightness backlights and optical bonding, anti-glare and anti-reflective surface coatings for daylight viewability, and projective capacitive touchscreens that can operate in mission critical systems or equipment, including gloved hand and water/salt spray conditions.

Another important factor is the user interface and how you intend to drive the display. Until recently, the standards have been parallel RGB (red-green-blue), which is used mainly for small displays in handheld applications, and serial LVDS (low-voltage differential signalling) for larger display panels and industrial touch panels.

There are now a new generation of display interfaces, which are starting to make their way into panel PCs and HMIs (human-machine interfaces): eDP (embedded DisplayPort); MIPI (mobile industry processor interface); and DSI (display serial interface). These have been designed to be cost-effective and provide higher data bandwidth and scalability of large and small displays.

Sometimes, it’s very easy to look at the price and specification of a product and decide it is the correct solution for your design, but then overlook the supply chain behind that product. Choosing a true industrial display with the aforementioned benefits will result in a future-proof design, potentially saving costs in the long run and avoiding the need for expensive re-designs.

The benefits of working with a true industrial supplier include access to the widest product spectrum in the industry, the biggest range of target markets, the broadest range of technologies, comprehensive product roadmaps and qualified support teams.

An ever-increasing portfolio of PCAP (projected capacitive) touchscreen options and the transition from TN (twisted nematic, the oldest LCD technology) to SFT (super-fine TFT) IPS (in-plane switching) technologies (for ultra-wide viewing angle and higher contrast) has resulted in superb quality display solutions. Exciting new developments in round displays, 1.8” to 3.4”, and square displays, 4.1”, give customers a design flexibility previously unavailable.

Custom solutions can also be designed when a standard off-the-shelf product does not fit the requirements, offering either full or semi-customisation of a display, touchscreen, driver board or cover glass.

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For example, if the connector or FPC (flexible printed cable) on a display requires changing in length, or the pin out needs to be changed to match a current design, this is an easy task. Backlight brightness can be improved, and bezel dimensions can all be customised.

The customisation of the cover glass and touch sensor can really help give the end product a unique look: branding or customer logos can be printed on the glass with different colours; and cover glass size can be extended, with the addition of capacitive touch sensors behind, to give a really modern and aesthetic design to a product.

Saving lives during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic

This is where choosing the right display for the right situation can help save lives. A group of British companies came together during the coronavirus crisis, in what was to become the Ventilator Challenge UK Consortium, in order to produce 20,000 urgently required ventilators. A sub-assembly was required with medical device accreditation ISO 13485.

RDS had been working with a UK ventilator manufacturer for many years, supplying TFT displays and touchscreen sub-assemblies. The groundwork had therefore already been done. Using a TFT display that was guaranteed for long term production and readily available ensured that critical supply was achieved, and delivery lead times were reduced from 18 weeks to 8 weeks. All deadlines were met. The total number of units built equated to 14,000 in approximately 10 weeks: that’s 14,000 touch screens bonded to panels, 112,000 gasket strips fitted, 84,000 screws/nuts fitted, and 14,000 boxes and bags packaged and shipped.

In summary, it’s not always about just the cost (although, of course, cost is still very important). When the end product is required to be available for a long period of time, when product failures need to be eliminated, and when support (logistical and technical) is also required on demand, then a true industrial display and a true industrial display solutions provider is imperative.

Review Display Systems Ltd, together with their display partner, Tianma, has been supplying TFT display and touchscreen sub-assemblies to the UK medical market for more than 30 years.


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