Focus Displays offers a wide range of standard full color TFT displays. 64 million unique colors, high brightness, sharp contrast, -30C operating temperature, and fast response time are all good descriptions of a TFT Display. This is why TFT technology is one of the most popular choices for a new product.
Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display technology can be seen in products such as laptop computers, cell phones, tablets, digital cameras, and many other products that require color. TFT’s are active matrix displays which offers exceptional viewing experiences especially when compared to other passive matrix technologies. The clarity on TFT displays is outstanding; and they possess a longer half-life than some types of OLEDs and range in sizes from less than an inch to over 15 inches.
There are two common TFT backlighting options: LED backlight and CCFL backlight.
Cold-Cathode Fluorescent Lamp (CCFL) is an AC driven backlight that requires an inverter to convert DC to AC. The AC signal and inverter may generate EMI (Electromagnetic interference) and arcing; Arcing must be eliminated for Intrinsically Safe products.
CCFL’s are still available, but are becoming a legacy (obsolete) component. TFT displays equipped with a CCFL require higher MOQs (Minimum Order Quantities) than displays with LED backlights.
If this is a new design, it is recommended to select LED as your backlight option.
LED backlights are DC driven and are the most common backlight technology for TFTs. There are two different LED backlight options: RGB and White.
Red, Green and Blue (RGB) backlights are built with either a single LED that produces red, green and blue colors or with three separate Red, Green or Blue LEDs.
RGB backlights require a controller to regulate the different intensities of each color. The controller’s function is to combine unique levels of Red, Green and Blue to produce any of 64M different colors.
A white LED is actually a blue LED with yellow phosphor to give the impression of white light.
Backlight brightness (Luminance) is measured in nits. A nit being the amount of light that one candle delivers in a 1 square meter box. The intensity of the LED backlight can be critical when operating in low light or in direct sun light and is usually controlled by adjusting the DC voltage. In many applications this is accomplished through pulse-width modulation (PWM)
A higher nit count can be accomplished for a slightly higher cost and an increase in power consumption.
The majority of TFT displays contain a touch panel, or touch screen. The touch panel is a touch-sensitive transparent overlay mounted on the front of the display glass. Allowing for interaction between the user and the LCD display.
Some touch panels require an independent driver IC; which can be included in the TFT Display Module or placed on the customer’s Printed Circuit Board (PCB). Touch screens make use of coordinate systems to locate where the user touched the screen.
There are two primary types of touch panels: Resistive and Capacitive.
Resistive Touch Panel
Resistive touch panels are the lowest cost option and are standard equipment on many TFT modules. They are more common on smaller TFT displays, but can still be incorporated on larger modules.
Resistive touch panels are constructed using flexible materials with an air gap between and are coated with a resistive layer. When an object applies pressure to the top layer, it makes contact with microdots located on the bottom layer. This allows the touch screen to find the location of the touch using X and Y coordinates.
Custom resistive touch screens are an option if the customer requires a seal or gasket to be in contact with the glass and not in contact with the touch panel.
Resistive touch panels allow a single touch, although advances in new resistive technology will allow multi-touch operation in the near future. One main advantage of a resistive touch screen is the ability to be activated by the touch of any material. This includes a range of items from a bare finger, to a pencil, to even the edge of a credit card; regardless of its composition.
They also have the added advantage of operating in a wide temperature range and environments, including anything from the arctic cold of Alaska to the extreme heat of Death Valley.
Capacitive Touch Panel
Capacitive touch panels have become popular with such software as Windows 8®, Android® and Apple®. Additionally it is used in products such as cell phones and tablets, where multi-touch and zoom capabilities are important.
The cost of capacitive technology is higher than resistive but allows for additional functionality such as zoom and scrolling.
Current capacitive touch technology is limited to a conductive stylus such as a finger. The touch screen operates on capacitive sensing, based on capacitive coupling. A capacitive touch screen detects any material that is conductive or has a different dielectric then the air around it.
Development of new technology in capacitive touch panels promises to allow panels to recognize other types of material.
A customized capacitive touch screen is an option. It is possible to pay for tooling and customize it.
Contrast ratio, or static contrast ratio, is one way to measure the sharpness of the TFT LCD display. This ratio is the difference between the darkest black and the brightest white the display is able to produce. The higher the number on the left, the sharper the image. A typical contrast ratio for TFT may be 300:1. This number ratio means that the white is 300 times brighter than the black.
TFT displays can be interfaced through a variety of bus types including:
Many controller drivers allow two or more different types of interfaces on the same TFT.
TFT LCD displays are measured in inches; this is the measurement of the diagonal distance across the glass. Common TFT sizes include: 1.77”, 2.4”, 2.8”, 3”, 4.3”, 5”, 5.7”, 5.8”, 7”, 10.2”, 12.1 and 15”.
As a general rule, the larger the size of the glass the higher the cost of the display, but there are exceptions to this rule. A larger display may be less expensive than a smaller display if the manufacture produces higher quantities of the larger displays. When selecting your color display, be sure to ask what the cost is for one size smaller and one size larger. It may be worth modifying your design requirements.
TFT resolution is the number of dots or pixels the display contains. It is measured by the number of dots along the horizontal (X axis) and the dots along the vertical (Y axis).
The higher the resolution, the more dots per square inch (DPI), the sharper the display will look. A higher resolution results in a higher cost. One reason for the increase in cost is that more driver chips are necessary to drive each segment.
Certain combinations of width and height are standardized and typically given a name and a letter representation that is descriptive of its dimensions. Popular names given to the TFT LCD displays resolution include:
TFT Displays are available with either a Transmissive or Transflective polarizer.
TFT modules may require three independent ICs. An IC is a combination of a controller and/or a driver.
Drivers update and refresh the pixels (Picture Elements) of a display. Each driver is assigned a set number of pixels. If there are more pixels than a single driver can handle, then an additional drivers are added.
A primary job of the driver is to refresh each pixel. In passive TFT displays, the pixel is refreshed and then allowed to slowly fade (aka decay) until refreshed again. The higher the refresh frequency, the sharper the displays contrast.
In active displays, each pixel is tied to a capacitor that holds a charge and eliminates any fade.
The controller does just what its name suggest. It controls the drivers. There is only one controller per display no matter how many drivers. A complex graphic display with several thousand pixels will contain one controller and several drivers.
The TFT display (minus touch screen/backlight) alone will contain one controller/driver combination. These are built into the display so the design engineer does not need to locate the correct hardware.
The TFTs LED backlight may also contain a separate controller. This too will be supplied with the display module.
The TFTs touch panel may contain a separate controller.
Response Time is the measurement of time it takes for a pixel/segment to change from black (OFF state) to white (ON state) and then back to black again. In other words, how fast the picture can be changed. A slow response time can result in the blurring of the picture in games, movies and even cad type programs.
If you do not see a Thin Film Transistor (TFT) Display module that meets your specifications, or you need a replacement TFT, we can build a custom TFT displays to meet your requirements. Custom TFTs require a one-time tooling fee and may require higher MOQs.
Ready to order samples for your TFT design? Contact one of our US-based technical support people today concerning your design requirements. Note: We can provide smaller quantities for samples and prototyping.
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