Use a system integrator to meet display needs efficiently, economically

OEMs and plant managers require information displays for applications of all types. That application could be a system for controlling semiconductor fabrication machinery, a monitoring and control system for a nuclear power plant, a patient monitor in a hospital, a human-machine interface in a process control application, or an information transfer system for aircraft carriers. Choosing the right display solution is a complex task.


A robot within an LCD fabricating machine is controlled through this 17-in. diagonal LCD monitor. The monitor provides a wide viewing angle for easy readability and has been attached to the machine with a custom-designed ergonomic arm that swivels into position. The keyboard features a joystick to control the robot, and the entire display assembly folds away when not in use. (Courtesy Brillian Corp.)

OEMs and plant managers require information displays for applications of all types. That application could be a system for controlling semiconductor fabrication machinery, a monitoring and control system for a nuclear power plant, a patient monitor in a hospital, a human-machine interface in a process control application, or an information transfer system for aircraft carriers.


Choosing the right display solution is a complex task. There's more involved than the display itself. The CRT or LCD must be properly packaged—mounted in racks or panels, encased in an enclosure to withstand rugged or harsh environments, outfitted with the right electrical inter-face and cabling, and customized with the manufacturer’s name and/or logo. Beyond the packaging, many OEMs seek an upgrade—migrating from a CRT to a flat panel LCD, for example—but do not want to endure a system redesign.


Most projects have special requirements, plus a corresponding list of options from which a designer can choose. An LCD panel is one example. Generally, LCDs are available in multiple models with varying specifications and life expectancies. Graphics boards and single board computers drive the LCD panels (which can be subject to frequent changes in processor chips, configuration, etc.), and the differing mounting board options that are available for those boards.


Most applications must also address configuration control. Display technologies change quickly. A specified panel may be obsolete next year, necessitating a display specification change and even a system redesign.


Finally, costs must be considered. Large volumes of the same panel may often be secured at a competitive per-unit price. But for those buying in smaller volumes or in many panel variations for a specialized, non-consumer application, prices may not be as attractive.


What to expect


Traditionally, the route for both the OEM and the end user has been to ''do it yourself.'' This time-consuming and expensive process involved sourcing multiple display components—LCDs from Japan, touch screens from Taiwan, bezels from Chicago, SBCs from California, cabling from New York, keyboards from Kentucky, etc.—and ensuring that all components are tested, meet specifications and work properly, both individually and together. Next, prototypes would be built in-house or onshore and finally, an EMS (electronic manufacturing services) company would need to be identified so that the display manufacturing could be transitioned offshore when the volume grew.


Because the options can be daunting, it is often worthwhile to ask a display integrator to assist in making the right choices. A good integrator can design and integrate displays for customers who require special engineering for a particular application. They source the optimal display from a variety of designs and configurations, and provide engineering design services for custom display products, including packaging, touch screen selection and integration, rack or panel mounts, pedestals and mounting arms, ruggedization (including NEMA certifications), electrical interfaces, custom colors, suitable power inputs, etc.


A good system integrator can generally do all of this more economically than an OEM or end user can do it himself. Risks are lower because integrators provide this core competency every day for multiple customers. For example, an experienced display system integrator maintains on-going relationships with flat panel display manufacturers, so they know the outlook for each model—the life cycle, new panel launch schedules, when the panel will be modified or eliminated from production. An integrator customizes the display to an OEM’s application. He can ensure the compatibility of the system’s electrical interface and maintain the user’s own colors, logos, display panel cutouts, etc. to properly reflect a brand image.


A good system integrator can meet the need for specialized display systems. This 10.4-in. diagonal TFT touchscreen display features a special bezel and ergonomically optimal positioning on the side of a machine that fabricates LCDs for microdisplays. The display, in a clean-room environment, must be aesthetically appealing and impervious to dust, moisture, and cleaning fluids. (Courtesy Brillian Corp.)


Step-by-step procedures


Often, a customer provides a drawing and preliminary specifications of the system they want. The application environment is studied to determine which variables—dust, heat, humidity, moisture, vibration EMI, etc.—may affect the system’s performance. A detailed specification is created. Display assembly drawings are included. All parties review and agree on the submissions. A design engineer then reviews the detailed specification with the customer’s engineering staff. When the detailed specification is agreed upon, a prototype is built and tested. After the customer approves the prototype, pilot units are built and beta tested by the customer, typically at one of his own facilities. Changes are made based on field feedback before the unit moves to full production.


If the display integrator owns factories in Asia, low-cost, high-volume products can be made without the customer needing to be concerned about intellectual property protection, third-party vendor interaction, etc. Integrators with EMS capability can assemble full systems—including the display, custom boards, plastic enclosures, and keyboards—package them, and even drop ship them to the customer.


Regardless of the type of customer application, a display integrator can deliver a product fully assembled and to specification, completely tested and on schedule. Whether it's a nuclear power company whose display units must withstand 9.9 on the Richter scale, an industrial control application with a need for rack-mount LCDs in a limited space, or a hard-to-find, quick-turnaround display configuration for an aircraft carrier headed overseas, a good display system integrator can meet multiple needs, solve myriad problems, and save time and money for its customers.


Information for this article was provided by Sriram Peruvemba, Three-Five Systems, Inc . (TFS), Advanced Video Technologies Group , Tempe, AZ. Sriram Peruvemba is Product Line Manager for TFS, 1600 North Desert Drive, Tempe, AZ 85281. Contact him by email at or by phone at 602-389-8819.


—Jeanine Katzel, senior editor, Control Engineering,


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