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Touchscreens, LED backlight major trends in TFT-LCD modules

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TFT LCD module (3-inch to 6-inch)

The model CT043DTHF-01-01 from Shenzhen Sunson features a 4in LED-backlit panel.

Manufacturers are also employing in-place switching and developing larger modules.

Touchscreens, LED backlighting and in-plane switching are defining the product development roadmap in China’s TFT-LCD module industry. Makers are adopting these as part of efforts to strengthen the line further, leveraging the technologies’ wide penetration in key segments smartphones, tablet PCs and LCD TVs. Capacitive touchscreens, in particular, witnessed explosive growth driven by the iPhone, and they are expected to replace resistive alternatives in mainstream TFT-LCD modules in the years ahead.

LED backlighting is increasingly utilized to provide vivid colors and high contrast. The solid-state lighting technology likewise enables manufacturers to design superthin and environment-friendly models with a longer operating life yet lower power consumption. Most companies are now capable of producing TFT-LCD modules with LED backlight.

In-plane switching, meanwhile, yields a wider viewing angle, greater contrast ratio and definition, and brighter shades. While currently widespread among foreign players, local enterprises are expected to integrate the technology in their modules within the next two years. Many are even watching the updated version, the S-IPS, which promises a wider viewing angle of 170 degrees and a shorter response period of 5ms.

Larger and upscale TFT-LCD modules are also on the R&D agenda of China suppliers. Limited by capital and technology constraints, a number of companies have been concentrating on variants smaller than 10in. These are mainly for use in mobile phones, tablet PCs, personal navigation devices and in-car monitors, sectors that have been growing steadily in the past three years.

To evade tightening price competition in these lines, some businesses are gradually migrating to large modules, spurred by the strong TV, laptop and monitor lines. Worldwide demand for TFT-LCD panels for TVs, monitors and notebook PCs is predicted by WitsView to rise 16 percent in 2012. Companies offering small and medium TFT-LCD modules will continue to target PNDs, smartphones, tablet PCs and other portable devices. As with other enterprises, they plan to improve further the product’s viewing angle, color, contrast and power dissipation while lowering costs.

Portable electronics key drivers

TFT LCD module (3-inch to 6-inch)

Haier Group Qingdao's T070ZN067F model has a 7in panel with 800x480-pixel resolution and 16 million colors.

Mobile phones, computer monitors, laptops and flat-panel TVs will continue to be the main growth catalysts in this segment.

Beginning 2009, in-car monitors, smartphones and tablet PCs started to be key drivers as well.

Projections from iSuppli indicate continued upturn for the global market of the last two categories this year, albeit at a slower rate than in previous years.

Statistics from the research firm place 2010 worldwide shipments in these sectors rose by 36 and 787, respectively, over the previous year.

In the flat-panel TV industry, meanwhile, 10 to 15 percent growth in demand is forecast in 2011-12, according to WitsView.

Some makers such as Shenzhen Sunson Electronic Technology Co. Ltd specialize in medical and industrial equipment to expand reach. The supplier sees these applications yielding 10 percent sales uptick this year.

As a means to strengthen the industry further, several companies, in particular larger operations, have started undertaking local panel manufacture. This is aimed to address the dependence of many small and midsize operations on foreign providers of key materials and components.

Supported by the local and central governments, makers such as BOE and Shenzhen China Star have embarked on large TFT-LCD panel production. Their 8.5G lines will yield units for LCD TV applications.

Some foreign companies have also built 8G or 8.5G lines in the country. These could provide additional sources to local TFT-LCD module manufacturers.

Smaller modules lead

TFT LCD module (3-inch to 6-inch)

The model WST022QVAA2-10014 TFT-LCD module from W Display has a 33.48x44.64mm active area.

The mainstream supply in China is dominated by 1.4, 1.77, 1.8, 2, 2.2, 3.5, 4, 5.7 and 7in TFT-LCD modules designed for mobile phones, medical equipment, PNDs and industrial devices. Only a few tier 1 enterprises offer models larger than 10in for computer monitors, notebook and tablet PCs, and LCD TVs.

Most mainland China makers produce other types of LCD modules, including TN, STN and CSTN. TFT-LCD models generally account for 20 to 70 percent of their total output.

The LCD panel, driver, ITO glass, polarizer and backlight are the key materials for module manufacture. The first two are sourced from local and Taiwan providers such as Chunghwa Picture Tubes and Tianma. Imported materials are usually for high-end products.

Companies tend to procure materials from foreign-owned makers with local factories.

Except for capacitive touch panels, enterprises said there is sufficient stock of most components. With more manufacturers investing in capacitive touchpanels, supply will likely rise in the next 24 months.

Prices of TFT-LCD modules dropped by 5 to 10 percent last year due to stiff competition.

Makers see quotes stabilizing, although some plan to implement a less than 5 percent cut in the next 12 months in order to boost sales.

Taiwan: LED-equipped modules rising

TFT LCD module (3-inch to 6-inch)

Palm Technology's PT0434827-A407/A408 model delivers 500cd/sqm brightness.

LED-backlit models are breaching Taiwan’s mainstream supply of TFT-LCD modules as makers phase out versions based on CCFL. The trend is fueled by the growing adoption of the former technology in terminal devices. Market Intelligence & Consulting Institute or MIC predicts all notebook PCs released this year will employ LED backlight. The global penetration rate in LCD monitors and TVs will hit 68 and 44 percent, respectively, and will exceed 80 percent in 2013.

Adoption of 3D panels remains slow at 11 percent in 2011, but MIC predicts this will climb to 16 percent by end-2012 with TV applications as the major driver. Active shutter and passive polarized technologies are increasingly utilized as well.

Taiwan makers offer various sizes of TFT-LCD modules ranging from 2 to 65in. These are suitable for consumer electronics and industrial use. Touch panels are gaining traction, especially among large enterprises with vertically integrated processes such as CMI, AU Optronics Corp., Chunghwa Picture Tubes, HannStar and Wintek. These touch models are for smartphones, and tablet and industrial computers. For the last, 10.4 to 12in are widely adopted in ATMs, kiosks and ordering machines.

Makers are likewise exploring new applications to increase profit. AU Optronics, for instance, has introduced a panel for smartphones based on Hyper LCD manufacturing technology. The 4.29in qHD is aimed to replace low-temperature polysilicon varieties and promises high resolution and brightness, narrower borders and lower power consumption.

Besides silicon-based panels, the maker has released an a-Si 4.46in display with a 1mm slim border, 330 pixels per inch and enhanced brightness. It has also developed an energy-saving 4.46in model that uses 53 percent less power than similar displays.

AU Optronics offers car displays as well. Its 12.3in panel adopts free-form cutting to fit most dashboards. The unit has a safety design with a wide viewing angle, 2,000:1 contrast ratio, anti-reflection and fast response time. The company’s model T706DB01 3D LED panel measures 71in and supports 2560x1080 pixels, more than 1 billion colors and 240Hz frequency.

Despite robust product development efforts, enterprises have conservative output targets in view of the oversupply situation in 2011.

Related reports:
Dot-matrix LCD modules: Streamlined types key R&D trend
Graphics LCD modules: Makers explore burgeoning TFT-LCD line

Product gallery

TFT LCD module (3-inch to 6-inch)

CDtech(HK) Electronics Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: LQ035NC111
Description: 3.5in; transmissive; 320x240 pixels; 300cd/sqm brightness; 24-bit RGB interface; driver ICs, flexible PCB

TFT LCD module (3-inch to 6-inch)

DLC Display Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: DLC0350BMG-1
Description: 3.5in; transflective; a-Si TFT; 240x320 pixels; LED backlight; 18-bit RGB+SPI interface; 53.64x71.52mm active area; 64x85x2.93mm outline dimensions

TFT LCD module (3-inch to 6-inch)

Hangzhou Tsingtek Display Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: HGF07061-LWH-U
Description: 7in; 800x480 pixels; 165x104.5mm outline dimensions

TFT LCD module (3-inch to 6-inch)

Shenzhen Bosid Liquid Crystal Display Co. Ltd
(mainland China)

Model: F350HV3N45-SO1
Description: 3.5in; transmissive; a-Si TFT, positive; 320x480 pixels; white LED backlight; 45-pin, 8080 data bus; 48.96x73.44mm active area; 55.26x84.69x2.2mm outline dimensions; ODM, OEM orders accepted

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Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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