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Sarnoff technology cuts LCD costs

Sarnoff, an inventor of the liquid crystal display, said today that its technology can eliminate almost a third of the manufacturing costs.

One of the companies that invented the liquid crystal display said today that its technology can eliminate almost a third of the steep manufacturing costs, a problem which has plagued makers of high-quality LCDs for decades.

Sarnoff, founded in 1942 as RCA Laboratories and one of the inventors of the liquid crystal display (LCD) back in 1968, said today that it has developed an improved technique, called SASID, for Self-scanned Amorphous Silicon Display, which simplifies the wiring of these screens, reducing manufacturing cost as much as 30 percent.

The technology involves the electronics that drive active-matrix LCDs.

Thomson Multimedia, in cooperation with Sarnoff, is now licensing SASID to display manufacturers, the company said. Production of SASID screens are now underway in Europe and Taiwan. Notably, however, neither Japanese nor Korean makers, the largest LCD makers in the world, are cited as users of the technology.

This announcement comes as LCD makers are hiking prices due to supply constraints of active-matrix screens.

"The most costly part of a laptop computer is its screen, and the cost of the screen is limited by the expensive [electronics] interface at the edge," said Roger Stewart, head of Solid State Displays at Sarnoff, in a statement.

Importantly, the SASID technology can be implemented on standard active-matrix LCD production lines without new equipment or facilities, Sarnoff said.

The technology allows manufacturers to reduce the number of wiring connections around the edge of the LCD screen by up to 95 percent according to Stewart. Typically, the number of connections required for an SVGA (800 by 600 resolution) display was 3,000. But this dropped to only 202 with SASID.

One the gotchas of making active-matrix LCDs is the number of potential failure points as there are hundreds of thousands of active picture elements in each screen, in addition to the connection points on the edge of the screen. "Fewer connections mean lower labor and material costs during manufacturing. In addition, products with fewer potential failure points produce higher manufacturing yields," said Stewart.

"Typically, active-matrix LCDs have a 2-percent return rate from field failures," he added. "The return rate should be more on the order of 0.2 percent. That makes a huge difference in the cost of supporting the products."