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ITRI Showcases Latest Display, Touch Technologies at Touch Taiwan 2013

Nov 18, 2013 | By Quincy Liang

The Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Taiwan's most important industrial technology innovation hub, is using its technological strengths and integrated resources to pioneer new fields that can create more business opportunities for local private companies. Early in the third quarter of this year, for example, ITRI showcased the results of 20 interdisciplinary display technology R&D projects under the theme of "Smart Living, Touch the Future" at the Touch Taiwan 2013 trade show held in Taipei on Aug. 28-30.

Flex Up, Flex Down

Statistics compiled by ITRI's Industrial Economics & Knowledge Center (IEK) indicate that the global touch panel industry will chalk up an estimated US$25.4 billion in revenues this year, a 39.8% increase from 2012. Dr. Chen Jang-lin, general director of ITRI's Display Technology Center (DTC), points out that the inevitable global trend is toward thinner and lighter mobile devices, and that flexible displays will help designers and manufacturers develop ever-better products.

After years of development, ITRI has succeeded in developing Flexible Universal Panel (FlexUp) display technology, which lays a flexible silicon-based transistor array (with a thickness of only 0.01 to 0.02mm) onto a flexible transparent polyimide substrate and can fabricate any flexible thin-film device.

FlexUp technology increases the efficiency of the de-bonding procedure that separates the backplane from the production carrier substrate, enabling ITRI to develop flexible active matrix organic light-emit diode (AMOLED) and flexible active-matrix electrophoretic display (AMEPD) products and to integrate flexible touch into its flexible displays. Flexible displays incorporating FlexUp technology can be applied to all kinds of mobile devices.

Innovative Printing Technology for Touch Panels

Light and slim bezels have become a mainstream feature of smart portable devices; and ITRI, in partnership with a Japanese partner, announced the joint development of non-lithography roll-to-roll fine-line printing technology at the 2013 Touch Taiwan exhibition.

This leading technology for under-20μm direct printing can be used to fabricate touch panels with very slim bezels and will replace expensive manufacturing processes that require deposition, photolithography, and etching. It is poised to become a critical process equipment technology for next-generation touch panels and is expected to be introduced into mass production in 2014, ITRI says. This new breakthrough in the printing process for flexible electronics will first be phased into touch panel production lines and will have an impact on other applications as well.

At present, most touch panel makers still rely on the photolithography manufacturing process, which is both complicated and costly. The innovative roll-to-roll equipment and conveyance technology developed by ITRI introduces high-precision, fine-line printing technology into the touch panel manufacturing process, enabling direct printing on ultra-thin substrates. This can replace the photolithography process, and one machine can replace the seven traditionally used for patterned sputtering, coating, printing, and etching. This boosts the material utilization rate for conductive ink from 5% to 95%, making the four-to-five-layer touch panel manufacturing process more efficient, environmentally friendly, and economical.

Dr. C.T. Liu, general director of ITRI's Electronics and Optoelectronics Research Laboratories, notes that this innovative printing technology can be applied to touch panels immediately, and to OLED lighting, high-speed circuit boards, displays, and solar panels in the near future.

Air Touch Technology

Another innovation showcased by ITRI was Air Touch Technology, which enables “air-touch input” or virtual input for computers such as the emerging wearable computer. More generally, Air-Touch technology is an advanced user interface that allows users to interact with floating images.

The virtual input device can be a virtual keyboard or touch screen that appears to be floating in the air, developed as a new input method for computers to simulate any physical input device such as a keypad, keyboard, mouse, or touch panel.

According to ITRI, Air Touch technology is based on the "You touch what you see" concept. An optical head-mounted display (OHMD) device situated about 40cm from your eyes shows a 10-inch virtual screen, and you can access all kinds of functions on your PC, such as photo viewing, Internet browsing, and on-line messaging, just by touching the virtual screen with your finger.

Others

Other innovative and advanced display technologies showcased by ITRI at Touch Taiwan 2013 included a full-screen resolution 3D display module for the naked eye, a device that combines naked-eye 3D display technology with 3D conversion software. The resulting high-quality stereoscopic 3D video enhances the reality of movie content. Also among other innovations on show were a flexible digital X-ray (radiation detector) for dental applications, silver nanowire conductive material, flexible and transparent packaging materials, optical testing technologies for flexible displays, automatic touch-panel testing equipment, short-circuit testing modules for displays, and advanced coating equipment for narrow gaps.

ITRI is a nonprofit R&D organization engaging in applied research and technical services. Founded in 1973, the institute has played a vital role in transforming Taiwan's economy from labor-intensive to high-tech industry. Numerous well-known high-tech companies in Taiwan, such as semiconductor industry leaders TSMC and UMC, can trace their origins to ITRI.


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