IBM updates flat-panel technology

IBM has announced a new manufacturing technique that it says will lead to higher-quality flat-panel displays and bring those devices to market faster.

IBM on Thursday announced a new manufacturing technique that it says will lead to higher-quality flat-panel displays and bring those devices to market faster.

The new method is designed to improve efficiencies in the production of screen displays and help cut the cost of desktops and portable computers. It uses electrically charged atoms to position liquid crystal used in flat-panel monitors.

Flat-panel monitors using LCDs (liquid crystal displays) are poised to move into mainstream use, replacing CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors. Prices are dropping, and sales are surging. Apple Computer, for example, is preparing to phase out CRTs in favor of the sleeker LCD devices.

IBM's newly announced manufacturing method improves on a nearly century-old technique--similar to applying paint with a roller--that has been used for building devices with LCDs for about 20 years, IBM said. The new technique involves depositing a thin layer of diamond-like carbon, then shooting atoms with an ion gun at an angle to push aside the surface carbon atoms, forming atomic-scale rows on which liquid crystals are aligned.

Controlled by electronic signals from a computer, crystals that are properly aligned turn pixels on and off when they twist and rotate.

IBM is testing a manufacturing line using the new technique and expects production to begin by the end of the year.

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