Lack of local manufacturing and R&D pushes buyers to import

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In the display industry, liquid crystal display (LCD) or thin film transis­tor liquid crystal display (TFT-LCD) has gradually replaced the cathode ray tube (CRT) to become a mainstream product due to its excellent proper­ties of low radiation and low power consumption. Today, LCD display systems are used in a wide variety of commercial applications like computer monitors, television screens, medical equipment, aircraft cockpit displays, mobile screens, video players, gaming devices, clocks, watches, calculators, telephones, digital cameras, camcord­ers, automotive entertainment and navigation displays.

By Himanshu Yadav

Monday, November 17, 2009: Its applications

LCD is a thin, flat panel used for elec­tronic display such as text, images and moving pictures. It is an electronically modulated optical device made up of numerous pixels filled with liquid crys­tals and arrayed in front of a lightsource (backlight) or reflector to produce im­ages in colour or monochrome.

Industrial, consumer, automobile and defence—each segment has its own specific LCD applications. In the industry, the chief areas that demand LCD display are telecommunications, energy meters, medical instruments and various instrumentations. There is also a huge demand for LCD display systems in railways and medical sector. According to Nilesh Dedhia, director, Lappteck Marketing, telecommunica­tions have the maximum demand for LCD modules. “Medical and industrial automation are the biggest consumers for LCD display systems,” he says.

This component has gained great footing in recent times and has sur­passed the CRT display technology to a considerable extent. “LCD is a product which is showing its presence in almost all devices and applications. From factory automation to home ap­plications, industrial machinery and manufacturing equipment to office applications, it is required almost eve­rywhere,” says Mehul Desai, product manager-display, Evolute Solutions.

This improved display technol­ogy offers wider screens, brighter colours and sharper contrast allowing consumers to have access to latest models. The factors contributing to its popularity are its lightweight construction, flexibility and ability to be produced in much larger sizes as compared to the CRT display technol­ogy. Also, its low electrical power con­sumption makes it suitable for battery powered electronic equipment.

Types available in the market

Three types of LCD display devices are available in the market currently— monochrome LCD, colour LCD and thin film transistor (TFT). In Indian industrial domain, most popular LCDs are monochrome character and graphic displays. But colour and TFT LCDs are also gaining popularity. “Users have started moving from monochrome LCDs to colour and TFT LCDs as these have become affordable and competi­tive in pricing. Full colour LED based TFT panels are more in demand as they have very low power consumption and compact structure,” says Desai. The same has been echoed by Ram­akrishna, general manager, Hitachi.

“As of now, TFT has the maxi­mum demand due to factors like visibility, colour contrast, precision and is widely used in industrial and automotive applications. But at the same time TFT is expensive than the other two types and hence, goes into high end applications.”

Dedhia, however, differs. “Among all the three types of LCDs mono­chrome has the maximum demand,” he says. As colour and TFT are very expensive they cannot be used in bulk, whereas monochrome can be used in any instrument. Even a sim­ple telephone booth is using mono­chrome,” he adds.

Farheen, director, Oriole Electron­ics, explains, “TFT LCDs and touch screen are gaining popularity, and aesthetics are playing a major role in buyer’s decision making process. Buy­ers of LCD components prefer sleeker screens in place of bulky CRT.”

Competition leading tobetter options

With the ever increasing demand and competition faced by heavy imports, it becomes imperative for companies to offer the best to the consumers. Apart from effective pricing and right technical support, companies are also offering custom made solutions as per the demand of the consumers.

“Evolute has been in LCD display business in India for more than six years now. Our solution based ap­proach and competitive pricing makes us different from others. We provide solutions right from monochrome character display to high end TFT LCDs and our USP lies in our knowl­edge, technical support and versatile product range,” says Desai.

Hitachi also provides small to medium TFT, STN, FSTN and CSTN displays for long product cycles with competitive pricing. The company provides displays with extended tem­perature ranges, high brightness for outdoor readability, long life LED backlights for lower power and ‘green’ sensitive applications. “We provide flexible interface and display solutions for the resource limited buyers who cannot spare critical project resources for interfacing their application to a specific display,” says Ramakrishna.

Lack off R&D forcing buyers to import

Though buyers are increasingly de­manding LCD display systems, there is not enough local production and majority is catered through imports. Moreover, despite a huge demand for new technology, very less is happening in the R&D sector of LCD display systems. Buyers, therefore, do not have much choice but to go in for the im­ported ones. “As LCD displays are a key component for mobile phones, digital cameras, etc, makers of these consumer electronics face problem in getting the component,” points out Desai.

According to Dedhia, mono­chrome, which has the maximum demand, is further divided into two categories—graphic LCD and character LCD. In India, while character LCD is manufactured in certain amount, col-our or TFT have negligible presence.

Manufacturing LCD modules is a tough job in India as there are no manufacturers of LCD glass. LCD modules is a product made of many parts and one of the important parts is LCD glass panel. The product requires immense technical knowledge and considering the present R&D scenario in India, manufacturers are borrowing the technology from other countries.

“It is really strenuous to manu­facture LCD display systems in India. There is lack of support in terms of both infrastructure, administrative policies, good R&D, etc,” says D Malakar, managing director, Deep­akshi Display Devices. “We are forc­ing Indian buyers to import to meet their needs,” he adds.

Malakar adds, Indian LCD display components face stiff competition from the imported ones, especially those from China, where the industry is like a cottage industry with more than 400 manufacturers. Whereas in India most of the players are assem­bling the products by importing major components like LCD glass panels and PCB circuits. “This, however, is being faced as a challenge by the Indian manufacturers who are wak­ing up to the competition given by the imported components and to the ever increasing needs of the buyers. We are making our efforts to improve technology and offer the latests to the consumers,” he adds.

A few manufacturers like Wintek, one of the biggest manufacturers of LCD modules for mobile phones, has started manufacturing in India for Nokia. The company’s products range from small to medium sized LCD displays and modules including TN, STN, CSTN and TFT. So, buyers can hope to source some components from such companies who are setting up their manufacturing units in India.

Competitive pricing

Speaking on the pricing factor, Dedhia explains, “The price of LCD display systems is determined as per the applica­tion. Price range for monochrome is Rs 150-4,000, for colour it’sRs2,000-6,000, andTFThasarangeofRs2,000-15,000.”

“We are striving to bring the price down by 1-5 per cent. In the next three years, the price of LCDs will go down even further. Currently, an LCD TV in China costs approximately US$ 275 (Rs 13,000-15,000). In India, the same TV is sold at Rs 25,000. Once the Indian manufacturers start manufacturing these devices on a larger scale, prices will dees­calate in India as well,” says Malakar.

Buying tips

Factors like application, quality of the product, after sales support, technical expertise should be important consid­erations while purchasing LCD display components. “Price should not be the governing factor, instead reliability and quality of the product should be given utmost priority,” says Dedhia.

Malakar shares, “First priority should be given to quality of the prod­uct, then delivery period, after sales service support, future expansion and upgradation, technical expertise and credibility offered by the brand.” While buying, the most important criteria is to consider the application, as Desai explains, “Some of the impor­tant factors are LCD size, resolution, backlight, application, price, long-term availability and support. These are very important factors in case of industrial LCDs, interfacing support, etc.”

Farheen believes that to have a clear picture of what is to be displayed, is very essential while purchasing the product. A display should be chosen according to factors like environmental condition of the end product and ap­plication instead of price.

Electronics Bazaar, South Asia’s No.1 Electronics B2B magazine

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