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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

June - 2010 - issue > Tech Tracker

Now, it’s the War of Displays: Glass or Plastic?

Eureka Bharali
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Eureka Bharali
Tablets, PCs, Netbooks, Notebooks or Smartphones, talk of any of the devices and the primary requisite becomes the display. Considering the importance, displays cost companies one third of the entire manufacturing cost. And to think about these displays, it’s the fragile glass screens that adorn all of these computing devices. This story of glass and the computing machines will soon come to an end.

"In 10 years, glass will be as much a memory of displays as cathode ray tubes (CRTs) are today. It will be all about plastics, which will also reduce the cost by 10 times," said Carl Taussig, Head of HP Labs' Information Surfaces Lab. The competition from companies like Apple, Dell and Acer going big, it’s a no-brainer that HP has to figure out methods to reduce costs in making the parts for their laptops and other devices. So, the dive towards, plastic is well-explained. The great advantage is plastic substrates--and their manufacturing process--are cheaper than the glass substrates currently used to make your laptop display or monitor. The thin films of plastic are 40 times lighter than glass. HP has already set up a company, called Phicot, to make plastic displays using E-Ink. Phicot is collaboration with PowerFilm Solar, a spin-off of 3M that has spent 18 years developing the technology to print solar cells on to plastic.

So Taussig and his team are working on a process that uses superthin plastic 50 microns thick, which is half the thickness of a piece of paper. Because plastic is flexible, it can be put on spools and put into a machine that etches resistors--the electronics that help render an image onto a display--in a process that almost resembles the way a newspaper is printed, called "roll to roll." With the success of the project, the entire computing ecosystem is expected to turn out to be ‘H’ighly ‘P’roductive. If we see the trend, scientists from Stanford University has also come up with plastic touch screen coated with silver and gold nanowires, which has more flexibility and durability than the glass touch screen. Soon, we will see a plastic revolution.

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