TECH TALK: DISPLAY (LCD) PRODUCT LIFE
by Shaun Detmer, Director of Marketing
I have a project coming up that needs a touch display. We know it will use a custom capacitive sensor, and we know the project will need to be in production for 5-7 years, with 3-5 year replacements and repairs. What’s troubling for us though is how do we know our display will be around for that long? Since you guys design touch display solutions, how do you deal with this? – Inquisitive Engineer
I believe the phrase goes something like “the only thing you have to fear, is fear itself.” Display end-of-life (EOL) is a concern for every display project out there, whether people are conscious about it or not. The good thing is, you’re thinking about this now as opposed to 3 years into production, or even worse, when you find out you can no longer order the displays. Now, some manufacturers are great about notifying you about the projected life of a product, and even send a nice EOL letter up to a year ahead of time. This usually only applies to those customers that buy direct from the manufacturer. If you’re going through distribution, the chances that EOL notification is going to filter its way to you decrease greatly.
It may sound overly simple, but the key to ensuring long display life is really just finding the right display from the right manufacturer. I know, not much help right? Let me elaborate. I’ll be careful not to name any names, as I don’t want to ruffle feathers, but let’s just say some manufacturers have a better at display lifespan than others. For example, if you’re picking a display from a manufacturer that produces mostly consumer grade products – you’re taking a risk. Consumer grade displays have their own issues in the industrial space, and we’ll get to that, but the manufacturers of these displays tend to play by a different set of rules. EOL can come within 6 months of a product released, for no other reason than a left field higher up decision. When you play in the consumer products game, you are at the mercy of consumer product manufacturers. Because of immense volumes, consumer device manufacturers have the buying power to heavily influence display manufacturers product lines. It’s a two way street as well, the display manufacturer will look at trends and customer information, and might just decide that 7-inch display you just ordered in the exact resolution you wanted, isn’t the resolution their giant consumer products customer wants, so they cull the herd and replace it accordingly. If you have the volumes to influence this kind of behavior, more power to you. For most industrial and specialty applications, this is simply not the case.
Now as far as the display itself, avoid consumer grade products at all cost. Consumer LCD’s are developed to be thinner, lighter, and cheaper. Thinner and lighter can sound great, but don’t take the bait so fast. Sometimes these displays can lead to engineering nightmares, quickly diminishing any profits you could have gained from choosing the lower cost display. Some displays have thin plastic bezels, others are taped together. This is not always indicated on drawings, and is often missed by misguided customers seeking clarity in all things LCD.
Bottom line, unless you’re knee deep in the consumer products market, avoid consumer grade displays. Industrial applications require industrial components. In some cases, we are able to find a better performing industrial LCD for a lower cost than the consumer grade LCD the customer originally planned on. Here at Touch International, we can source and enhance almost any size or brand panel. Our experience has given us preferred brands, competitive pricing, and we certainly have our sweet spots like anyone else. We only source A-Grade panels manufacturer direct or from qualified distributors. If you want to design your product right the first time, you must define the right display.