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Device Applications Drive Innovations in Display Technology

Originally Published July 2000

INDUSTRY NEWS


Device Applications Drive Innovations in Display Technology

Medical instruments are making increasing use of information displays, and display manufacturers are taking notice. Several exhibitors at the Society for Information Display's conference and exhibition, held May 14–19 in Long Beach, CA, demonstrated new technologies tailored to their device-related applications.

According to John Cramer, marketing manager for Optrex America Inc. (Plymouth, MI), this trend is in part being driven by the growth of portable instruments. To meet the needs of portable applications, Optrex introduced displays that can be easily read in all lighting conditions—including bright sunlight.

Lumitex's fiber-optic backlighting panels provide the brightness of electroluminescence as well as long life.

The company's cholesteric LCD products feature high-resolution images of blue, green, or yellow pixels. "This technology is realized without the use of polarizers or reflectors and results in a bright, high-contrast image with a fraction of the power consumption of traditional LCDs," says Cramer. The displays also allow an unlimited viewing angle—a must for medical applications. Cramer notes that 80% of the displays sold by his company are custom made, enabling the company to meet the individual needs of medical device manufacturers. The device industry's move away from CRTs is also fueling demand for displays, according to James Rising Jr., sales manager for Endicott Research Group Inc. (Endicott, NY). Endicott is a manufacturer of power supplies for display backlighting. Like Optrex America, Endicott custom makes many of its products. Their fully encapsulated inverters are suited for medical applications because encapsulation increases reliability by protecting against contaminants and shock.

The company introduced its 8MD series of closed-loop dc-to-ac inverters at the show. These are low-profile (8-mm-high) inverters that provide efficient and reliable alternatives for powering up to four cold cathode fluorescent tubes (CCFTs) in large, backlit LCDs where conventional inverters would not fit. Also featured was the Model MC inverter platform, which has been developed for display engineers who need to provide reliable and efficient power to large LCDs backlit by multiple CCFTs.

Lumitex Inc. (Strongsville, OH) builds backlights that are powered by the inverters made by companies like Endicott. Lumitex has focused on developing lighting technologies that provide more output with less power, a boon for portable medical instruments that must rely on battery power.

The company exhibited its MicroLens molded backlighting technology. "MicroLens technology enables display designers to achieve higher brightness using fewer LEDs than conventional backlighting technologies like light pipes or electroluminescense," says Peter Broer, president and CEO of Lumitex.

Also featured at the booth were fiber-optic backlighting panels. Woven from plastic optical fibers, these thin panels provide the brightness of electroluminescense without the degradation. They emit no heat, have a long life, and require very little power.

If you are interested in learning more about information displays, contact the Society for Information Display at 203/853-7069. In future issues of MPMN, we will feature more of the products offered by the show's 240 exhibitors.—Karim Marouf

Rexam Restructures, Invests in New Equipment

Rexam Medical Packaging (Mundelein, IL) recently announced plans to reorganize its North American manufacturing operations. The company-wide initiative, known as Project Focus, includes an investment of more than $25 million in new equipment over the next two years. The company plans to install tandem coextrusion coating and laminating equipment, additional blown film coextrusion capacity, and custom-designed bag- and pouch-forming equipment. The project also includes an investment in a coating and laminating pilot line to test the viability of new resin structures and facilitate rapid product development. The capital improvement will allow manufacturing centers to focus on specific products and technologies, which should enhance service, quality, and process efficiency, according to project director Todd Hurd.

This five-layer blown film coextrusion unit is representative of Rexam's investments in manufacturing equipment.

As part of the restructuring, the Mundelein, IL, plant will produce film rollstock, film bags, and pouches; the Madison, WI, facility will manufacture coated and laminated rollstock; the Ashland, MA, unit will focus on die-cut lids, labels, and short-run printed rollstock; and the Guadalajara, Mexico, site will produce hospital pouches and paper bags. The realignment reportedly will eliminate redundant manufacturing operations and streamline production.

Operations of the company's facility in Mt. Holly, NJ, will gradually be scaled back over the next two years, and the plant will be permanently closed by the summer of 2002. During the interim period, products currently manufactured at Mt. Holly will be validated on new or transferred equipment at other sites.

Project Focus represents another milestone in the implementation of Rexam's long-term strategy that has been under way for the past five years, according to Hurd. Previous steps have included centralizing customer service and creating cross-functional business teams. The initiative may seem daunting in its scale, but Hurd comments that "high-performance packaging at a low cost requires ongoing investments in equipment and people." —Jodi Triplett

Magnetic Technology Promises to Increase Switch Longevity

A new technology holds promise for the development of switches that will last for the life of the product in which they are used. Instead of the metal membranes typically used in standard flat-panel switches—which fail under repetitive stress—the technology developed by DuraSwitch (Mesa, AZ) uses magnetics to make circuit connections. The company plans to license its technology to switch manufacturers to speed its introduction to the marketplace.

A sample of flat-panel displays using the magnetic click technology.

"The PushGate and Rotor products are design alternatives for OEMs," says Terry Dunlap, cofounder and CEO of DuraSwitch. "We have demonstrated that the technology would adapt to traditional switch manufacturers established processes and give them a competitive advantage as a simple extension of their product line. We knew the time had arrived to begin offering licenses to the key players in various industries."

DuraSwitch hopes that licensing agreements will allow its technology to penetrate the market quickly. One company that has signed up is Xymox Technologies (Milwaukee). "We have customer interest in virtually every product market segment," says Peter Sognefest, Xymox chairman and CEO. "We anticipate shipping volume production in the next fiscal quarter in response to the market interest in our new DuraSwitch product offering."

Instead of using shorter-lived metal membranes, Duraswitch switches use magnetics to make circuit connections. The parts, in order from top to bottom: Knob; Mounting bracket; Detent layer; Magnet; Membrane; Gold balls.

Involved in the development of this switch technology were DuraSwitch's cofounders Terry Dunlap and Tony Van Zeeland. Dunlap is known for developing the dual-deck VCR system, while Van Zeeland is a physicist and materials scientist who's been determined to overcome the inherent design flaws in standard membrane switches.

"Our opportunity in the industry was hastened by the paradigm shift from bulky electrical controls to flat-panel low-amperage switches," Dunlap says. "Design engineers prefer thinner, more reliable tactile controls for electronic products. Cost reductions and small-space requirements have made the traditional electro mechanical switches and wires unfeasible."

Dunlap believes that flat-panel membrane switches and PCBs are the future for design technology. He explains that the need for these types of switches will increase as more and more devices shift from an analog to a digital format. The switches must last as long as all other components in the instrument, he adds, and standard dome switches rarely stand up to the demands placed on them.—Karim Marouf

Irradiation Facility Opens in Mexico

Ion Beam Applications (San Jose) and MDS Nordion (Kanata, ON, Canada) have opened a joint venture irradiation facility in Tepeji, Mexico, under the name NGS Enterprises. The facility offers product separation and processing capabilities to the medical device and other industries.

"NGS enhances our commitment in Mexico and joins our EtO sterilization operation in Mexico City," says Dave Meyer, president of IBA's North American operations. "We are committed to offering our customers true sterilization management solutions and providing them with high-quality processing and services. The NGS facility allows us to meet customer requirements, keeping them competitive in the global marketplace."

Craig Hunter, vice president of business development at MDS Nordion, adds, "The facility combines the gamma-technology prowess of MDS Nordion with the high-quality customer service that is the hallmark of IBA. This is an excellent example of how gamma technology can combine effectiveness and flexibility to economically handle a range of products."

IBA provides worldwide sterilization and ionization services, radiotherapy, and radioisotopes. MDS Nordion designs and builds commercial radiation processing systems and is a supplier of cobalt 60. The company specializes in radioisotopes, radiation, and related technologies used to diagnose, prevent, and treat disease.—Karim Marouf

In Brief

Tyco Electronics Corp. (Harrisburg, PA) will acquire Laser Diode Inc. Laser Diode, which provides opto-electronic products, will become part of Tyco Electronics' Fiber Optic Division....MedSource Technologies Inc. (Minneapolis) announced its merger with Thermat Precision Technology Inc. (Corry, PA). Thermat, which offers precision metal injection manufacturing, will merge into MedSource, expanding its services to medical device OEM customers....GLS Corp. (McHenry, IL) has begun construction on a second major plant expansion that will double its manufacturing space....Sharp (Conshohocken, PA) recently expanded its pouch services with the addition of a new affixing line in its West Caldwell, NJ, facility. The affixing line attaches pouch packages to preprinted card stock and pamphlets....The parent company for Aero-Electric Connector Inc., J-Tech, and EMP Connectors Inc. has been named Conesys Inc. The companies will operate as one corporation with a new name and logo while maintaining the distinct manufacturing capabilities of the individual companies....Rofin-Sinar Technologies Inc. (Plymouth, MI), through its subsidiary Rofin-Sinar Laser GmbH (Hamburg, Germany), will acquire a controlling interest in Carl Baasel Lasertechnik GmbH and its worldwide subsidiaries from Mannesmann Demag Krauss-Maffei AG. The acquisition will make Rofin-Sinar one of the world's largest producers of industrial lasers and laser-based manufacturing systems....St. Jude Medical will become a member of the Global Health Care Exchange, an independent on-line organization that facilitates selling, purchase, and distribution of medical equipment devices and healthcare products....Designing with Plastics seminars are scheduled to take place September 21 in Toronto, Canada; October 3 in Portland, OR; October 5 in San Jose; and October 26 in Boston. The seminars were developed to provide an understanding of plastic design, assembly, and decorating technology. For additional information, including seminar registration forms, go to www.designwithplastics.com. —Jodi Triplett

Internet Update: ".Coms"

Precision measurement site launched

Sony Precision Technology America Inc. has launched an Internet site offering current information on instrumentation and machine tool measurement equipment. Located at http://www.sonypt.com/, the site provides viewers with updated news and industry links, and information related to product technologies and applications for precision measurement and positioning tools. Users can submit requests for product specifications, contact information, and current trade show schedules. A range of test and measurement issues are addressed on the Web site, which company president Larry Sato describes as a forum for "educating the industry about leading-edge technologies."

TPE updates available on the Internet

Advanced Elastomer Systems L.P. (Akron, OH) recently added a free e-mail subscription option to its Web site, which is located at http://www.aestpe.com. Users subscribe via the company's site by clicking on "Keep Me Informed." Subscribers select the type of information they want to receive, which includes up-to-date articles on thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) market trends, design innovations, and processing tips. Users are notified by e-mail when new information has been posted. A hyperlink in the message directs users to the information they selected.

New site links international biomaterials community

The Biomaterials Network, located at http://www.biomat.net, provides a collection of international Internet links relevant to the biomaterials and related fields. Links are organized by category, so users can easily locate on-line resources, organizations, academic institutions, journals, and industry- and science-related sites. The site, originally sponsored by the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Porto, Portugal, also lists the top five sites from each of the categories. Members can access the site's directory of researchers, a database that includes scientists, researchers, and members of the business community, government, and academia. —Linda Nugent

What's New at Your Company?


Tell us, and we'll spread the word to more than 100,000 MPMN readers! Contact managing editor Karim Marouf at 310/445-4267.

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