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special report


Next-Generation Products
Going Display-Centric
With the advent of low-temperature polysilicon, display technology
will integrate ancillary chips—and eventually the entire computer—
directly on the glass.
David Morrison (LTPS) will undoubtedly be the enabling play technology is its ability to integrate technology to move functions onto the row and column driver circuitry right
COMPONENTS EDITOR display. Today, this manufacturing tech- on the glass substrate, eliminating the
nology is being applied to active-matrix, need for separate driver devices. Its high
Steve Grossman thin-film-transistor (TFT) LCDs, as well carrier mobility, which ranges some- as organic-light-emitting-diode (OLED) where between 100 and 300 cm2/Vs,
displays just now starting to trickle into makes this possible.
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR products delivered to the market place. By comparison, the carrier mobility
“We see the growing adoption of LTPS of amorphous silicon, today’s predomi-
hen it comes to the notion of as a natural evolution of the amorphous- nant display fabrication technology, is a

W “embedded,” the microproces-

sor may have to renounce its
sovereignty and share its scepter with the
silicon version of the active-matrix TFT
LCD,” says Vincent F. Sollitto Jr., Photon
Dynamics’ CEO and president. The
paltry two orders of magnitude lower—
from 0.5 to 1 cm2/Vs. Because of their
far higher carrier mobility, LTPS circuits
flat-panel display. The reason is simply company provides yield-management are much faster. So unlike amorphous-
that embedded may soon connote dis- solutions for flat-panel displays, pc- silicon circuits, they can handle high-
plays as well as microprocessors. When a board assembly, and semiconductor definition images.
product contains a display, which is the packaging. Sollitto points out that virtu- With LTPS, while you’re fabricating
case in more applications, designers will ally every major display manufacturer the transistors for the display, you
be pushing to embed as many functions has some research going on in LTPS. might as well print the circuitry for the
as possible onto the display substrate The distinction in quality between row and column drivers. But why stop
itself, assuming that the volumes war- LTPS and amorphous silicon is like there? Adding the multiplexers, the
rant nonrecurring engineering costs. night and day with respect to mobility shift registers, and more is a simple, log-
So, which functions will migrate to and the ability to fabricate good cir- ical step. “Now you’re moving toward
the display next? Some display drivers, cuits, with LTPS winning hands down. the computer-on-glass, or system-on-
phase-locked loops (PLLs), and analog- The most appealing benefit of LTPS dis- glass,” notes Sollitto.
to-digital converters (ADCs) Systems-on-glass could be
have already been integrated. Programming LCD module Programming LCD module
mobile, like an electronic book,
It’s likely that many functions interface interface viewer, DVD, car navigation,
of a product may eventually wireless telecommunications,
wind up on the display—be it or fully integrated LCDs on an
a cell phone, a PDA, or an Power Power Power entire “sheet” computer with a


entire computer. 32-bit CPU and 64-Mbyte

Putting a computer on a dis- memory. But fabricating an
play, however, probably is an MCU TCON MCU entire computer on glass
application for the distant Scaler means overcoming the major
future. But it does seem like a Scaler hurdle of mixing different
natural progression in an inte- DVI
Data & TCON geometries on a glass plate.
gration sequence, following Processor circuitry and dis-
closely in the footsteps of the But
ton play circuitry have quite differ-
CPU, which migrated all of the s But ent resolution requirements.
attendant functions onto a sin- (a) Conventional (b) SmartPanel Today’s processor geometries
gle chip and took the name are down to nearly 0.1 µm,
“microprocessor.” 1. Distinct from a conventional configuration (a), a SmartPanel (b) whereas design rules for dis-
Whatever migrates, though, migrates the entire set of control and drive functions onto the display plays are approximately 1 µm.
low-temperature polysilicon substrate. (courtesy of Three-Five Systems) This large discrepancy is impor-
44 ELECTRONIC DESIGN • December 17, 2001

tant because maintaining uniformity processor for refresh and control and age pitch to 130 pixels/in. (PPI), moving
and particulation across a display panel putting the display to sleep,” says Chuck the drivers onto glass enables pixel pitch-
is extremely difficult due to a panel’s McLaughlin, president of the McLaugh- es up to 300 PPI. That makes possible
huge size relative to that of a chip. lin Consulting Group, a market-research high resolution, sometimes defined as
Integrating just the display’s periph- organization specializing in displays. PPIs of 113 and above.
eral circuits offers great benefits. Con- “Instead, these smart functions are mov-
sider the interconnection burden for a ing into the controller that’s already on Higher Resolution Is On the Way
super video graphics array (SVGA) of every LCD, but had been basically a It’s well known that the highest-
800 by 600 pixels made with TFT LCD dumb controller in the past,” he adds. bandwidth-delivery system to the
technology. With drivers off the glass, Cell phones already have a smart con- human brain is through the eye. So if
amorphous silicon requires some 4000 troller, thereby off-loading the micro- you want the benefits of broad band-
connections to the row and column processor and the DSP chips. width—whether it’s for the Internet,
matrix on the display. With drivers on A lot of the inexpensive, passive- television, computer output, and so
the glass, the interconnection count matrix LCDs that wind up in cell on—the medium must ultimately be
plummets to just 200—and that’s for a phones today have all kinds of smarts display-centric. Clearly, displays will be
slightly higher-resolution display, such built into their control chip to unbur- at the heart of many computing, com-
as an extended graphics array (XGA) of den the microprocessor and reduce the munications, and entertainment prod-
1024 by 768 pixels. What’s more, no power drain. Also, techniques to reduce ucts during the next 10 years.
tape-automated-bonding/chip-on-glass power in the standby mode are being “The area of greatest dynamic change
(TAB/COG) ICs are required. Yields rise incorporated into the display module will be in the market sectors comprising
too because of fewer rejects due to few- itself. This task was formerly assigned to PDAs, cell phones, and Internet appli-
er interconnections. the microprocessor. ances,” says McLaughlin. “And it’s the
“Make no mistake about it, everything According to McLaughlin, leading place where all of the tough and nasty
we think is coming in the brave, new display companies using LTPS to inte- design issues converge—power reduc-
world will become display-centric,” says grate row and column drivers right on tion, pixel counts, color, panel weight,
Sollitto. “And five years from now, if the glass include Toshiba, Sanyo, and and daylight viewability.”
you’re not a player in the display busi- Sony. There are reports that LTPS fab But as he points out, in going to 150 or
ness, you won’t be a player in the elec- lines are in some state of preproduction 200 PPI on a flat panel, you’re moving to
tronic equipment business either development or full production. Toshi- resolutions that are difficult, if not
because there will be fewer and fewer ba is making LTPS LCDs in the 8- to 10- impossible, for CRTs to achieve cost-
products that don’t employ a display.” in. range, and Sanyo is manufacturing effectively. Only with the yet-to-be-
small video panels for camcorders and achieved active-matrix LTPS LCD will
Unburdening The Microprocessor TV sets, as well as the 2- to 3-in. Nation- costs fall enough to avoid a huge
SmartPanel is another way of describ- al Television Standards Committee increase in display price.
ing the integration—and here we’re talk- (NTSC) monitors found on camcorders As Sollitto of Photon Dynamics sees
ing about moving entire chips, rather and digital still cameras. it, the higher resolutions will start in
than circuits (Fig. 1). “A distinct benefit As for high resolution, whereas amor- Asia where there are vertically integrat-
is lifting the burden on the system phous silicon circuitry limits TAB pack- ed manufacturers building both dis-

10 10 2-stage 10 10 LCD columns
DB (0-9) DAC VID0 driver
From Panel
projector interface Timing
CLK 10 2-stage 10 controller
Channel DAC VID1 electronics (TTL or Even
STSQ/CS latch board LVDS/ 10 columns
selector LCD
XFR MDS Rx) driver
10 2-stage 10 6 6
R/L 3 LCD panel
A (0:2) Column selector
10 2-stage 10 DAC VID3
STBY latch
10 2-stage 10 selector

10 2-stage 10 DAC VID5

VREFHI Scaling Vcom
VREFLO controller buffer
Panel module
(a) LCD driver chip (b) Display system

2. The Analog Devices AD8380 LCD driver chip (a) is intended for projector applications with resolutions of XGA or higher. It comprises a 10-bit
latched digital input that drives six high-voltage drive outputs. Two are aggregated to drive an XGA display system (b). The flexible digital input
format enables adding AD8380s for even higher-resolution displays.
46 ELECTRONIC DESIGN • December 17, 2001

plays and systems. “It won’t begin with

the major domestic computer OEMs
because they don’t make displays. Need More Information?
What’s more, they have difficulties Analog Devices Sharp Microelectronics
securing committed supplies for such (800) 262-5643 CIRCLE 454 of the Americas
displays,” he notes. (360) 834-8926
To assist designers developing prod- CIRCLE 452 Photon Dynamics
ucts at higher resolutions, Analog (408) 226-9900 CIRCLE 457
Devices has introduced a device that’s Genesis Microchip www.photondynamics.
said to be the world’s first analog LCD (408) 262-6599 com Texas Instruments
www.genesismicrochip. CIRCLE 455 (972) 644-5580
interface to break the 200-MHz barrier.
It’s aimed at providing superior image CIRCLE 453 Sage Inc. CIRCLE 458
quality in UXGA (1600- by 1200-pixel) (408) 519-6943
LCD monitors and projectors. McLaughlin Consulting Three-Five Systems
The AD9888 is a complete monolithic Group CIRCLE 456 (602) 389-8800
analog interface for capturing RGB (650) 323-7155
graphics signals from PCs and worksta- CIRCLE 459
tions. Its 205-MHz encode rate, com-
bined with a full-power bandwidth of Both the 15-in. XGA version A number of other controller chips
500 MHz, will support resolutions of up (LQ150X1MG51) and the 16-in. SXGA have hit the market as well (see the table).
to UXGA, as well as high-definition tele- version (LQ160E1MG11) of the All-in- For example,
vision (HDTV) and digital-TV formats. One display include the same high-den- Texas Instruments To view the table, go to
This device fully integrates three 8-bit, sity analog connectors (15-pin sub-D (TI) has intro-
205-Msample/s ADCs, an on-chip PLL type) used on most monitors. Also pro- duced a high- and click on “Exam-
to generate a pixel clock from HSYNC vided is a standard 24-pin, digital video speed LCD chip ples Of New Controller
and COAST inputs, mid-scale clamping input (DVI-D) connector. set, the TFP74x3 Chips For High-Resolu-
for HDTV and digital-TV (YUV) signals, The built-in controller has provisions LCD timing con- tion Displays.”
plus programmable gain, offset, and for adjusting display brightness and con- troller and the
clamp controls. trast, as well as for selecting image for- TMS57538 LCD source driver. The chips
A second entry from Analog Devices, mat and language shown. Graphics and offer the advantages of high resolution
the AD8380 LCD driver chip, is aimed at text can be displayed on a 1024- by 3- by and savings in both board space and
reducing the power and cost of driving 768-dot panel for the 15-in. version, and cost for flat-panel display resolutions
small LCDs in projector systems (Fig. 2). on a 1280- by 3- by 1024-dot panel for ranging from XGA (1024 by 768 pixels)
It provides high accuracy and low set- the 16-in. version. to QXGA (2048 by 1536 pixels).
tling time, and accommodates full, Sharp has also introduced a higher- TI uses a new process to manufacture
dynamic-range imaging signals with no performance technology version of the the chips for lower power consumption
need for external amplifiers or calibra- All-in-One that includes the company’s compared to its prior-generation mini-
tion cycles. The chip also features laser- ASV technology. ASV provides a wide LVDS devices, the TFP7401 LCD timing
trimmed output accuracy. This means viewing angle of up to 170° (horizon- controller and the TMS57534 LCD
that if additional AD8380s are added to tal) by 170° (vertical) and 80- to 150- source driver. Developed by TI in con-
accommodate still higher resolutions, all ms response times. Future improve- junction with IBM, the mini-LVDS cuts
of the devices will maintain color- ments should include faster response the number of signal traces by 60%.
matched, high-quality display signals speed and improved color accuracy.
without calibration. Besides newer displays, display con- Is There Any Hope For Standardization?
trollers continue to evolve. Genesis A successful effort to establish stan-
A Plug-And-Play Display Microchip has introduced the fourth in dards for display panels could help to
On the road toward migrating com- its series of dual-interface LCD con- drive up volumes and drive down costs.
ponents onto the display is an integrated trollers, targeting the new “SmartPanel” But of course, it requires both mechani-
TFT display panel introduced by Sharp market sector. The gm5115 system-on-a- cal and electrical standards. Yet is it real-
Microelectronics last summer. The com- chip (SoC) contains most of the control istic to expect that a flat-panel display
pany calls it the “All-in-One,” because it functions required by an LCD monitor, will one day plug into a standard socket
provides a single-component solution including a programmable timing con- just as a light bulb has for over 70 years?
that has been optimized by incorporat- troller. As a result, the chip eliminates an The answer depends on whether or
ing interface circuitry. It’s intended to entire pc board of circuitry from the LCD not display technology ever reaches a
reduce total cost and development time monitor, reducing costs and increasing point where the technology and size
in PCs and industrial monitors. the end product’s reliability. become sufficiently stable to warrant the
Packed into the All-in-One are the The on-chip panel-timing controller herculean efforts to standardize. Unfor-
TFT-LCD panel, video decoder, graphic connects directly to the display’s row- tunately, display technology is still rela-
engine, controller, and an inverter to and column-driver chips. This fully pro- tively young and is still developing
power the backlight. A designer only grammable device is compatible with a rapidly. This is why bringing OEMs and
has to hook the display up to a power wide range of LCD panels from many display manufacturers together with the
supply, devise an enclosure, and pro- different manufacturers. The gm5115 hope of agreement on standards appears
vide an input signal. also includes a triple-ADC and PLL. to be nowhere near at hand.
48 ELECTRONIC DESIGN • December 17, 2001