10 Undeniable Reasons Engineers Love TFT Displays

I love the smell of rain, and I love the sound of the ocean waves.

-Amy Purdy (not sure who she was, but I doubt she lived in Arizona)

I love a bright, color TFT with sharp contrast, a fast interface and what the heck, throw in a touchscreen to make it really shine.

-OEM Design Engineer

TFTs remain the most popular color displays for OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) products because engineers love them — well, maybe love is a bit strong, but they reallllly like TFT (Thin Film Transistor) display technology and prefer it for new designs because of the benefits they offer.  

And what are those benefits you ask?

Stop any OEM design engineer on their way to the coffee maker and ask them why they reallllly like TFTs. I think they would offer the list below.

1. TFTS can display video

A TFT, with a fast interface, can display videos, high resolution images and any size text. They are features not possible on segment, character and many monochrome graphic displays. 

2. Make more money with 64K and 64M unique colors

If it sounds capitalistic . . . well it is. It comes down to perceived value. The sharper your product looks,(compared to your competitor) the higher your sales and your profits. TFTs are your ticket to increased profits because they produce between 64,000(64K) and 64,000,000(64M) unique colors. 

The more colors, the sharper the contrast to grab and hold your customer’s attention which means more money for coffee and covered parking.

 3. Life is better with multitude of interfaces

The more interface options available to the engineer, the easier to design in and program the display. Each interface provides different advantages. Need quick and easy to program? SPI (Serial Peripheral Interface)Need an budget friendly display? RGB Need a mature interface with several open source resources? Parallel

And then there’s the new up and coming HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) interface that combines all power, signal and control onto one easy to plug in cable. HDMI displays can be warm booted and are active from when first plugged in. 

4. I need my samples like yesterday

Frustration can be defined as ordering LCD samples for your new design and then waiting several weeks for delivery. Not the case with standard TFTS. Our warehouse in Chandler, Arizona overflows with samples that can ship the same day.

In stock also means short lead times for beta and low volume production runs, which not only reduces development delays but lowers price. 

5. The world is a better place without high MOQs

Standard TFTS require low or no MOQs (Minimum Order Quantity), allowing companies to affordably launch their new products.

Few . . . no wait, let me rephrase that, very few product launches start out in the thousands. Most OEMs launch their new products in small production runs of 50 or 100 units. Then, after the technical bugs have been corrected and marketing gives the green light, purchasing orders higher volumes.

Many Focus Display customers purchase between 1K and 20K LCD modules a year and can be shipped monthly or even weekly according to their demand. For lower quantities, we partner with distributors to hold inventory. 

6. Standardized sizes

OEM manufactures need the same display today, tomorrow, next week, next year etc.

TFTS are available in standardized sizes that have been in production for over twenty years, making them the choice for new designs. Standard sizes mean your display remains in production for several years. (no one wants to hear the dreaded ‘discontinued’ word).

Here is a list of standard, in stock TFT sizes located in Chandler Arizona: 1.4”, 1.8”, 2.0”, 2.4”, 3.5”, 4.3”, 5.0”, 7.0”, 8.0”, 9.0”, 10”.

7. Everyone loves a touch panel

Since cell phones first incorporated touch screens, people have wanted a touch panel on everything from refrigerators to heart monitors. So why not just include the touch panel with the display itself?

The majority of standard TFTs contain a built-in touch panel, thereby avoiding delays or tooling fees to add a touch screen later in the design cycle. The built-in touch panel adds little to the price.

Resistive touch panels (RTP) are still king of the touch screen world thanks to their long-life, inexpensiveness and ease of programming. They can be triggered by anything from a gloved finger, to a pencil eraser or the tip of a credit card.

RTPs are rugged, ideal for control, test & measurement and other industries that operate outdoors.

Most RTPs are limited to one touch at a time.

Capacitive touch panels are growing in popularity because of their ability for multi-touch, pinch, zoom etc. They require more programing and processing power to operate. Most CTPs require a bare finger/skin or stylus (or something with an inductive load).

Believe it or not, some companies don’t need a touch panel, but only a TFT module that displays information with no interaction from the end-user.

All TFTs, regardless of the touch screen option, are in stock and ready to ship the same day.

Note: Focus Displays can add a touch panel to any type of LCD including character, graphic and even segment. There may be a one-time tooling (NRE) fee.

8. TFTS can really shine.

The future’s so bright, I need to wear shades.

TFTs are great. I would even go as far as to say they are wonderful and maybe someday they’ll eliminate world hunger and global warming – maybe. Until that day, they suffer one major drawback over monochrome displays. TFTS are difficult to read in direct sunlight. (Try to read your cell phone or tablet in direct sunlight.)

There are two solutions. Order a more expensive transflective TFT or make the standard TFT (built with a transmissive polarizer) brighter.

As a rule, transmissive displays must be 700 Nits or brighter for readable in direct sunlight. Our engineers can modify your display module to produce a brighter light.

Note: A Nit equals the amount of light generated from one candle, unlike a nit which is the egg of some parasitic insect. We don’t include those with our TFTS.

A display’s brightness can be increased by the end user for readability in bright environments or darkened for nighttime/ low light ambient conditions (common for medical, automotive and aviation).

Note: The brighter the TFT, the more power required. Not always a good solution for battery powered products. For products with a low power budget, think about switching to a transflective, monochrome display.

9. TFTs will be here tomorrow and next week and next year and …

TFTs are less prone to be discontinued — not a pretty word to purchasing and engineers.

When discontinued (aka End-of-life), purchasing may be forced to buy several years’ worth of display inventory and engineers will be pulled away from new product design to find another LCD for the current project.

TFTs tend to stay in production for several years. It’s not uncommon for the displays controller to be discontinued and replaced with an equivalent. When this happens, the customer may need to modify their firmware, but the display will still be available.

10. Do you have any short cuts to reduce development time?

Even the most experienced engineers need a clue to integrate the LCD into their project. Documentation is golden and should include schematics, source code, sample circuits, maps to the local coffee shop, etc.

Focus not only invests large sums of money in coffee, but in the documentation necessary to help design engineers quickly integrate an LCD into their new product.

Reduced development time releases new products to market sooner (before your competition), leaving time for the engineer to enjoy coffee.