Choose the correct display for your next product
Your customer’s perception of your product relies heavily on the display technology you choose.
The three key elements to success in real estate are: location, location, location.
The same holds true for your next product release. The three elements to catch your customer’s attention are: perception, perception, perception.
And one of the first things that creates your customer’s perception is the display you choose.
Think about it. When Apple or Samsung release a new phone, one of the first things their customer looks at is the display. Is it brighter, sharper, and easier to read at a distance? The same holds true for your product whether it is a microwave oven or medical device. Your customer’s perception of your product relies heavily on the display technology you choose.
VATN Displays: The Newest LCD Technology to Hit the Market
In the last twenty years, there have been several advances in LCD technology including TFTs (Thin Film Transistor) and OLEDs (organic light-emitting diode), but recently, a new player has emerged: VATNs (Vertical Aligned Twisted Nematic) and they are quickly gaining in popularity.
What makes VATN stand out?
VATN displays grab your customer’s attention because they are a negative mode display.
Negative mode is where the background is a dark black color, while the characters and icons are a brighter color. The light of a negative mode display is the first thing seen in a dark room and is readable from a distance in a lighted room.
How do VATNs work?
LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Displays and is constructed by inserting a nematic liquid between two pieces of glass. The fluid is composed of cylinder shaped molecules.
When the molecules are parallel to the two layers of glass, light is blocked and the screen is black. When power is applied to the glass, the fluid is rotated slightly, allowing some of the light to pass through and generate the characters and icons your end-customer sees.
The fluid used in older LCD technology could only rotate a few degrees, blocking a percentage of the light seen by the end user.
VATN technology is unique in that its molecules are perfectly perpendicular to the glass when the power is off. When power is applied, the molecules rotate, allowing all light to pass through, producing brighter colored characters and icons.
The ability of the VATNs fluid to rotate further than older technology produces a display that can be 10% to 20% brighter than older displays.
Another key advantage of VATN technology over older technology is its wider viewing angle. The viewing angle is how far you can rotate the display and still read it. The wider the viewing angle, the easier it is for your customers to view the display no matter where they are located with respect to your product.
In the past, viewing angles of 90˚ to 110˚ were considered excellent. VATN displays can be rotated up to 140˚ and still be readable.
An example of poor viewing angle can be seen with older digital watches that use a TN (Twisted Nematic) fluid with its limited viewing angle. Tilting your wrist by a few degrees and the display fades, making the information become unreadable altogether.
Additional advantages of VATN Technology
VATN technology offers OEMs several benefits over older LCD technology including:
Display brightness last longer: The amount of time a display holds its original brightness is called its half-life. Half-life is the amount of time, in hours, before the display is half as bright as when it was first turned on.
Half-life for VATNs run between 50,000 hours to 70,000 hours compared to older EL (Electroluminescence) displays with a half-life of 3,000 hours.
VATN displays are brighter: VATNs are brighter than older TN (twisted nematic) technology.
If the display needs to operate in sunlight, it is possible to add additional LEDs to increase the brightness of the display. As a general rule, sunlight readable displays should have a NIT count of 800 or higher. (Note: A NIT is the amount of light that is generated by one candle.)
VATNS offer an even flow of light: One common problem with negative mode displays is their tendency to produce hot spots where the backlight creates a stark pool of light, or conversely, a cold spot does the opposite and creates dull spots that make the reading of the LCD more difficult. These spots can make your product seem like they’re of poor quality, which in reality, is untrue.
VATNS have greatly reduced this lighting inconsistency and produce an even flow of light across the entire glass.
Affordability: VATN displays offer added benefits with no additional expense than older TN technology.
Quick delivery: OEMS can expect delivery in seven to nine weeks for prototype samples and production quantities.
Available in smaller quantities: The majority of VATNS are custom-built to match the needs of the customer. Minimum order quantities (MOQs) can be as low as 500 displays, far less than that of custom OLEDs with a MOQ of five to ten thousand and custom TFTs with an MOQ of more than 20,000.
The larger the size of the VATN display, the lower the MOQ.
Ability to operate in cold temperatures: VATN fluid can operate down to -30C (-22F) without the need of a heater. For colder requirements, a heater can be added to the display.
Touch panel: Both resistive and capacitive touch panels can be added to the VATN display, allowing for customer interaction and removing the need for external buttons.
Choice character colors: The backlight sets the color of the characters and icons. Available backlight colors include white, blue, green, red and RGB (Red/Green/Blue). RGB backlights can be modulated to generate any color.
Interface: Engineers can choose from a variety of interfaces including: SPI, I2C, Parallel and multiplex.
Fully customizable: VATN modules are customizable, meaning the display is designed to meet the customer’s size, voltage, color and temperature requirements. The customization process can be started with a simple drawing showing the overall size of the display and the characters and icons needed.
One-time tooling cost for a fully custom VATN runs between $3,000 to $5,000 compared to the $30,000 tooling cost for a custom OLED and the $250,000 tooling cost for a custom TFT.
Applications that use VATN
There are a variety of applications now using Vertical Alignment Twisted Nematic technology, such as the medical, industrial, marine, home appliance, and entertainment industries. For instance, an all-digital expresso machine is a perfect product for VATN technology, especially for early-morning use, such as when it’s dark out in the wintertime. (Few things are more important than locating your coffee maker first thing in the morning.)
The pure black background allows for better viewing at all angles. In automobiles, having a black background in instrument clusters is much easier on a driver’s eyes, particularly at night; and for those applications where it needs to be readable in sunlight, VATN is an excellent choice for better viewing without needing to squint or cover the sides to see the device, such as with the OLEDs and TFTS used in mobile phones.
Other applications, for which VATN technology is not only useful but preferable is in the medical industry. Ensuring strong light for medical equipment is essential in the field, particularly in operating rooms and in patients’ rooms, to allow easier nighttime reading of equipment.
The marine industry also benefits from using this technology, allowing for easier viewing of instruments and equipment aboard boats and ships, where nighttime sailing or cruising is oftentimes the rule and not the exception.
Design considerations of the VATN
Is your product battery powered?
VATN, OLEDs and TFTs must have the backlight turned on to be readable and may not be the best option for a battery powered product.
Backlights may draw as little as 15mA for small displays and up to 150mA+ for larger size modules. In this case, it may be best to go with an older TN display in positive mode where the display is readable without the backlight on.
Which touch panel is best?
The two most common types of touch panels are resistive and capacitive. We recommend using a resistive touch panel on VATNs due to their durability in harsh environments and lower cost.
Who owns the rights to the custom VATN?
The customer that pays the one-time tooling cost owns the rights to the display.
Obsolesce: Do VATNs displays go End Of Life (EOL)?
As a general rule, the only component of a VATN to go EOL is the controller/driver chip. When this occurs, equivalent chips are available. In a small number of cases, the customer’s firmware may need to be modified for the new chip but the display is still the same size.
VATN technology allows OEMS to integrate a long lasting display that make their product stand out and at no additional cost. Its ability to be fully customizable means you can design the look and feel of a unique display to enhance the value of your product at a fraction of the cost of older technologies.