As the name suggests, microdisplays are small-sized displays of less than 2 inches in size. These are commonly utilized for rear-projection television, head-mounted displays, and in digital cameras. The increasing trend of smartwatches have taken advantage of high-resolution and low power consumption characteristics of these displays.
The growing trend of innovative technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality is further offering strong prospects for the microdisplays market to proliferate at present and in the future. The presence of near-eye displays also known as wearable displays is one such example, where high-resolution microdisplays are being used. Hence, creating small, portable, and personal viewing experiences for the consumers. These devices are categorized into two types namely, immersive and see-through devices. Immersive segment comprises virtual reality and cinema glasses. While, the see-through segment comprises augmented reality and smart glasses. The immersive near-eye displays block a user’s real-world view and creates a large field of view image. For cinema glasses, it is 30-60 degrees, and for virtual reality, the field of view is more than 90 degrees.
The products, thus, perform as the consumer’s personal cinema or offers a personal gaming experience. See-through, on the other hand, leave the user’s view of real-world open and develops either a transparent image or a tiny opaque image blocking only a small portion of the outer vision. The augmented reality products have a field of view of 20 to 60 degrees overlaying graphics and information on the top of the user’s real-world view. Smart glasses, similar to Google glasses have a smaller field of view and a display at which a user peeps occasionally through the display rather than looking continuously.
Applications of Near-Eye Display: Industrial and Consumer
The advancements in technology have resulted in the development of high definition and ultrahigh definition microdisplays, further offering an improved consumer viewing experience. This is possible due to the R&D initiatives leading to product launches by the manufacturers. Such technological advancements are contributing to strengthening the microdisplays market growth. In 2019, Kopin Corporation launched the high-performance reflective liquid crystal on silicon (LCOS) device, 2K x 2K. The device is utilized as a microdisplay and the format is considered to be ideal for sophisticated near to eye applications that include surgical microscopes and electronic viewers for medical imaging. Additionally, the imager is set to find huge applications in the field of 3D optical metrology and 3D augmented reality. In 2018, Sony declared the upcoming launch of OLED microdisplay that features 1600 x 1200 resolution which is considered as the highest in class for a 0.5-type. The product is the smallest pixel pitch of around 6.3 μm in the world. Taking advantage of the Sony’s OLED display and miniaturization technologies, it enables a resolution that is 1.6 times more than the previous model.
Furthermore, in 2019, Compound Photonics in the United States launched a series of LCOS microdisplays, CP2K234 for the development of advanced augmented and mixed reality smart glasses and head-mounted or head-up displays. The company is a manufacturer of compact and high-specification microdisplay solutions.
Joint Initiatives for the Development of Microdisplays Are Further Fuelling the Market Growth
In 2017, Microoled and Fraunhofer FEP received the Franco-German Business award for best practices in New Technologies and Industry 4.0 categories. The two organizations were working together for many years in several European funded projects in the area of microdisplays, design and technology. The two organizations started a collaboration, since 2015, for the development of a novel microdisplay type having an ultra-low power consumption that is around 100 times lower. Today, the microdisplay is in production phase.
In 2019, eMagin Corporation, a pioneer in the designing, development, and manufacturing of the active matrix OLED microdisplays for high-resolution near-eye imaging commodities announced a deal of around USD5.6 million for manufacturing displays for a major defense contractor. The deal further bolsters the strategic partnership reflecting a long-term relationship for varied military and commercial programs.
Apart From Advantages, There Are Certain Risks Related to the Microdisplay Industry
The microdisplay systems business is highly competitive. This is further characterized by the fast-technological change, rapid changes in market requirements, and competition arising from other vendors and OEM customers. Such an intense competition in the industry may result in pricing pressures, lowering of sales, reduced profit margins, and a low market share. Hence, manufacturers are constantly working on tackling these issues through the following factors. Designing, manufacturing, and delivering expected novel products on time, in addition to the implementation of new technologies, enhancing the ability to address the needs of the customers along with the enhancement of the quality of customer services. Expansion of the manufacturing facilities, increasing the ability to manufacture and increasing the efficiency of production coupled with shipping products on time.
In order to strengthen leadership position worldwide and gain a greater market share, companies adopt certain strategies for attaining these objectives. Through constant investments in research and development, in addition to the protection of their intellectual properties, companies are bolstering their technology leadership. In order to decrease the production costs by increasing manufacturing yields and lowering of fixed costs through reduction in cycle time, the companies are optimizing microdisplay manufacturing efficiencies and protecting proprietary processes. Other strategies include building and maintaining strong in-house design capabilities where by maintaining robust design capabilities supplemented by outsourced design services results in the reduction of engineering costs, escalates the design process, and increases the design accuracy to respond to customers’ needs as new markets develop. Additionally, contracting third-party design support in order to fulfill the demand and for specialized skills also remain a part of the overall long-term strategy. Furthermore, leveraging strategic relationships with other suppliers, government organizations, equipment vendors, contract research groups, external design companies and many more are also adopted in the form of strategy.