Sharp Free-Form Display to free up display designs

Jun 18, 2014 by Nancy Owano weblog

Sharp announced Wednesday that it has developed the Free-Form Display, which can free up new display designs for varied applications. Sharp released an illustration with its announcement showing an in-vehicle instrument panel that combines a speedometer and other monitors. The announcement said other display possibilities include wearable devices with elliptical displays, digital signage and other large monitors. Sharp has been providing manufacturers with displays that carry features in demand: slim profiles, light weight and thin bezels. Continuing on a wave of newer innovations," the Free-Form Display can advance a wider range of shapes. Sharp's two keys to this technology are the incorporation of IGZO technology (IGZO stands for indium gallium zinc oxide), a semiconducting material, and proprietary circuit design methods. IGZO is a compound semiconductor.

According to Sharp "With electron mobility 20 to 50 times faster than that of amorphous silicon, what to date was impossible is now a reality in the form of revolutionary possibilities." As for battery life Sharp said IGZO contributes to the dramatic leap in the energy efficiency of digital devices, resulting in substantially longer battery life for mobile users. When displaying still images, it achieves significant power savings by pausing the driving signals to maintain the same image.

The Free-Form Display announcement was received Wednesday as noteworthy for what it might mean to the electronics industry and mobile device marketplace, from in-vehicle instrumentation to big screens to wearables. The Verge said the screen could "radically change" the shape of our future electronics, as well as making it easier to come up with far more unique designs than was possible. Similarly, The Next Web said the Free Form Display could help lift consumer technology devices out of "the rigid convention of using rectangular and square shaped screens."

The company announcement discussed why the Free-Form development changes options: "Conventional displays are rectangular because they require a minimal width for the bezel in order to accommodate the drive circuit, called the gate driver, around the perimeter of the screen's display area. With the Free-Form Display, the gate driver's function is dispersed throughout the pixels on the display area. This allows the bezel to be shrunk considerably, and it gives the freedom to design the LCD to match whatever shape the display area of the screen needs to be."

Sharp Free-Form Display to free up display designs
Free-Form Display (Prototype)

Sharp said it plans to enter the mass-production stage for the Free-Form Display "at the earliest possible date."

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5 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2014
Conventional displays are rectangular because the data they present exists in a logically rectangular string of computer memory.

Programming with non-rectangular arrays is a real pain in the ass because there is no nice and simple addressing scheme that would map e.g. a circular monitor into memory.

5 / 5 (1) Jun 19, 2014
Ever since flexible screen techs were first mooted, i've looked forwad to the day i can just buy a roll of the stuff, cut it to whatever desired shape and connect it to a PC... My main motivation is for a motorcycle screen that simply fits over the inside surface of an existing windscreen - connected to a micro or nano-ATX (or similar form factor) PC running a solid-state drive. This would be brilliant - you could have a HUD, decent navigation, plus on-bike entertainment, all neatly integrated. However the miniature screens currently available aren't really practical for such permanent mountings...

Hopefully this tech will translate into real products in the near future, and i can finally have my own 'Streethawk'...