The graphical LCD display business is not like the traditional passive and IC components business that most embedded designers are familiar with. First, the lead times can be very long — up to 14 weeks — depending on many unpredictable factors. Second, due to the cost of running an LCD production line, most inexpensive LCD displays start out as custom designs for a single high-volume customer. Think of the Palm Pilot, a portable DVD player, the Garmin GPS, and so forth. This customer dictates every detail — the screen size, interface connector type, pinout, and location, mounting holes, and so forth.
The LCD company might then decide to try to market this panel to other customers to get more business. At this stage, a datasheet is created and sent out.
At some point, the original LCD customer makes a design change and stops ordering the original display. The LCD manufacturer, having lost its bread-and-butter client, will generally stop making that particular LCD, even if there are existing customers, because the run rate is too low. Unfortunately, the panel end-of-life notification is not always forthcoming or timely.
If you’ve already designed this LCD into your product, you have a problem: You can’t get them anymore. You likely face the prospect of having to make changes in your system. You have to replace the LCD display, the touch control, the cabling, the mechanical mounting, and perhaps other aspects of your system. This is a very expensive proposition, but it happens all the time, because of the nature of the LCD industry. Even when a panel doesn’t go obsolete, if its original buyer has a surge in demand, your lead time can go from a few weeks to several months. How can you protect your business from this unpredictable supply issue?
One possibility: Use an LCD specifically designed for the embedded market. These are long-lifetime designs from NEC, Kyocera, and others, and price these screens accordingly. The other possibility is to use a display module supplier such as Reach that supplies the total solution and understands the LCD module business.
When you buy your LCD products from Reach Technology, supply problems are significantly reduced. Here’s why: When Reach develops an LCD controller/display module, it uses LCD form factors that are “de-facto” standards. Reach has direct, long term relationships with LCD suppliers, so it is the first to know about end-of-life or specification change issues. If an LCD becomes obsolete, a substitute is offered that has the same mechanical mounting to avoid packaging redesign. There are no changes or adjustments you need to make. Reach also aggregates LCD demand for low-volume customers so they won’t be stuck with sales-killing lead time increases.
When you start the design process and happen to choose an LCD panel that might not have interoperability options, we’ll let you know in advance, so you don’t inadvertently select components that will adversely affect product availability and flexibility.
We’ve been guiding customers through changes such as these for 20 years. With your cooperation, we will help you ensure a steady and uninterrupted supply for your clients.
LCD maintenance issues arise because of changes in the supply. When you use Reach products, we make any called for adjustments before you receive the equipment. Therefore, you have no maintenance issues.
Reach Technology has combined experience in LCD technology and associated markets of some 20 years. Our embedded engineers are always willing to discuss your concerns and to share their LCD experience with you.