Monday, June 4, 2012

P-CAP LCD Integration and Alternate Transparent Conductors

Two great seminars today were given by Bob Mackey of Synaptics and Geoff Walker of Walker Mobile. While we all know projected-capacitive touch technology, commonly called "P-CAP" is taking off in handheld and mobile applications, I don't think I realized just how complex the options were for implementation and integration with LCD and OLED panels. A great deal of investment has been made to explore ways of integrating the technology directly into the LCD cell and combining it with the LCD manufacturing process. Some say this is the future; some, like Geoff, think this is a long shot because of all the existing business infrastructure around LCD module integrators, an estimated $8 billion or so. These are the companies that combine the LCDs and the P-CAP touch panels into modules for the device manufacturers. I guess we'll see how it all turns out.

I also learned that there has been some real innovation and progress in the area of alternative transparent conductors - essentially options for ITO replacement. Silver nanowires, carbon nanotubes, blackened copper mesh, and various other technologies are not yet ready for wholesale deployment but they are gaining traction. ID magazine recently covered the development by Cambrios of wet-processed silver nanowires and since then Cambrios has seen the launch of the "Cricket" smart phone by Samsung, which used its silver nanowire material for the touchscreen, along with Synaptics electronics. Still, as Bob Mackey pointed out, the perceived shortage of Indium is not nearly as bad as people have been saying, and the economic motivation for these alternative materials may not be as severe as we think. – Steve Atwood, Executive Editor, ID magazine

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