3M Invests in Pixel Qi

Posted by Charbax – September 12, 2011

3M (NYSE: $54 Billion current valuation) just announced together with Pixel Qi that they have invested in Pixel Qi Corp.

3M is the leading developer of innovative optical films for LCDs, probably the world’s largest. Together with Pixel Qi, they are capable of many interesting things. This should accelerate the availability of this screen technology to the mass market. First generation Pixel Qi screens are in over 3 million OLPC laptops being used by kids in the developing world, and Pixel Qi is ramping up deliveries of some of their latest screens to Chinese companies such as ShiZhu Technology and we should be seeing much more of that, hopefully also soon reaching the European and the US mass consumer market.

ST. PAUL, Minn. & SAN BRUNO, Calif. & TAIPEI, Taiwan, Sep 12, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- 3M, through its 3M New Ventures organization, has invested in Pixel Qi Corp., a developer of next generation LCD panels with operations in Taiwan and California. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Founded by LCD pioneer, Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen in 2008, Pixel Qi designs unique, innovative LCD screens that solve problems not addressed by conventional screens. Its first products are sunlight-readable, low-power LCD panels aimed for mobile device applications.

As consumers increasingly rely on connected, mobile devices in their daily lives, there is a growing, unmet requirement for display devices that offer portability, connectivity, long battery life and excellent indoor/outdoor readability in one device. Current displays are not able to solve all of these challenges simultaneously. Pixel Qi's unique technology platform eliminates the need for trade-offs and enables high quality, outdoor or sunlight viewing with excellent battery life and portability in one device. The combination of its technologies with those of 3M will create excellent new opportunities for both companies.

"Pixel Qi's full-function color screen technology, for the first time, gives consumers an outdoor-readable video display with exceptional battery life, usable anywhere, anytime. It's a first in the industry. In our collaboration with 3M, we have the ability to accelerate this into mass adoption," said Mary Lou Jepsen, co-founder and CEO of Pixel Qi.

The funding led by 3M New Ventures will play a key role in enabling Pixel Qi to develop its product offerings into volume consumer markets as well as digital signage and touch applications. The investment, which successfully concludes Pixel Qi's second (series "B") investment round, will also allow Pixel Qi to build and to strengthen its engineering and sales capabilities.

Stefan Gabriel, president of 3M New Ventures said, "Pixel Qi's technology enables displays of such lower power and high usability that the vision of ubiquitous displays comes much closer to realization. In combining Pixel Qi's disruptive display technology with our technology platforms, we can create new business opportunities in the consumer and commercial markets for 3M."

3M's Optical Systems Division is a world leader in the specialized films used inside liquid crystal displays to optimize the light throughput. Pixel Qi's innovative LCD designs use such film technologies, and other advances, to create novel displays and enable the best outdoor readable, power efficient displays available on the market. "By addressing the energy consumption and sunlight readability challenges in one package, Pixel Qi provides a ground-breaking solution for the next generation of displays," said Jim Bauman, vice president, 3M Optical Systems Division. "The combination of Pixel Qi's low energy, reflective display technology with 3M's innovative technologies will create exciting products for the mobile, handheld, tablet and other display markets."

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/3m-invests-in-pixel-qi-corp-2011-09-12

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  • Maventwo

    Pixel Qi displays still can´t be thinner than 1mm and unbreakable substrate as Amoled displays can be made on.
    Pixel Qi displays can´t be made on flexible substrate.
    Pixel Qi will be compeeted with Mirasoldisplay from Qualcomm, Mirasol displays is an IMOD tech made in a mems process
    which makes the Mirasol displays extreme power efficient and have full color gamut and also thin.

    Pixel Qi will have competition from Qualdomm Mirasol display,Pixtronix which is also made in a mems tech,
    Liquavista spin-off company from Philips in Eindhoven and in january 2011 sold to Samsung,Gamma Dynamics which is a similar electrowetting tech
    like Liquavista.
    E-ink will also came in full color gamut.
    And maybe Orthocone

    So, Pixel Qi will have a lot of competeers in thin, extremt power efficient and full color gamut displays forthcoming years.

    More about Mirasoldisplays:
    Gamma Dynamics:
    Orthocone, a spin-off från Chalmers technical University in Gothenburg Sweden:

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  • Sure, but LCD is the overwhelming safest bet for any of these technologies to be mass manufactured and to provide full video support.

    Mirasol probably can’t be mass manufactured no matter how many billions Qualcomm puts into it. AMOLED is hard to manufacture and costs 10x more than LCD to manufacture at the moment, not pointing towards this changing. And AMOLED is not readable indoors nor outdoors.

    I dunno about Liquavista, Samsung may just be experimenting with lots of different stuff because they can afford it. Samsung can also just licence and start using Pixel Qi with their Super Clear LCD manufacturing process tomorrow, who knows, maybe they are already working with Pixel Qi on it..

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  • Maventwo

    Amoleds are much better in direct sunlight, this video from Youtube shows that in a comparison between a Smartphone with a LCD vs a phone with an Amoled display.
    Oleds and Amoleds have fewer processing steps than color LCD displays.

  • Anonymous

    * Qualcom is still building new factories so they could be able to produce Mirasol displays. Pixel Qi is already in mass production
    * Amoled displays are a lot more expensive than Pixel Qi displays
    * Unlike Amoled Pixel Qi screns are not only readable in direct sunlight but also power efficient.
    * Why exactly do we need flexible displays?
    * You listed a lot of screen manufacturers. Do any of them have products already available to consumers? I guess by the time some of them will release their product, Pixel Qi will be a lot more advanced than it’s now. * E-ink can not show videos and their displays still have horrible lag when browsing the web or doing similar stuff and we are still waiting for e-readers with color e-ink technology to hit the market. 

  • Maventwo

    Qualcomm Mirasoldisplay as an IMOD display tech will be made especially for the e-reader market because they know that it will be difficult to compete with Liquavista and Amoleds, forthcoming years.

    Amoleds will be much cheaper to massproduce when Amoleds are made of some makers.
    Amoleds are made in fewer producing steps than LCD and because of that they will be cheaper some years ahead than LCDs.

    Black in Amoleds have no current to the subpixels that makes Amoleds more power efficient than any LCD tech. 

    Why flexible displays?
    Smartphones with flexible display can have a much larger display inside a phones that you can open and use with the larger display
    or you can use a flexible display thinner than 1mm in all types of gadgets.

    Smartphones will be thinner and thiner because of the possibility to make Amoleds thinner than 1mm.

    A Korean researcher have developed a graphene speaker that is transparent.
    Together with Amoleds we will se some years ahead Amoleds together with transparent speakers so the Smartphones can be even thinner.

    Samsung acqired Liquavista in January and if you search for how many billions Samsung now invest in Amoled production facilities
    it is easy to understand that Samsung will invest billion even in Liquavista display making.

    Pixel Qi is cheaper to make than Amoleds only because it is an LCD tech, it can then be implemented in an existing producing facilty.

  • Yeah but that’s not a Pixel Qi type LCD screen, which is basically as readable as E Ink outdoors, something AMOLED can by design never compete with. Reading is an important feature.

  • LCD can be made cheaper, more durable using plastics instead of glass also, they are working on that.

    Samsung can invest billions in all kinds of things all the time because they can afford it, last year Samsung made $200 Billion in revenues, they are supposed to invest in all kinds of things. That does not mean Samsung plans to replace their LCD with AMOLED, Samsung is one of the world leaders in LCD production and technology. Big companies like Samsung are compelled to invest all kinds of big sums of money in all kinds of alternatives not just to have them as backups but also because the world is so big, each of these technologies can always be used somehow for something. AMOLEDs for example right now are helping Samsung produce upwards 50 million high-margin high-end differentiated smartphones for the market, and later those screens may have uses still. That doesn’t mean Samsung doesn’t know and believe that LCD will continue to be by far the biggest screen technology for many years, also for smartphones as soon as those are middle-margin middle-range today and the low-margin high-end of tomorrow.

  • Maventwo

    Samsung and LG are not the only ones in investing billions in Amoled production facilities even Taiwanese companies AUO och Chimei Innolux and Chinese Irico in the next two years.
    This link above have a lot of information about Taiwanese and Chinese companies and the Displaysearch predictions about Amoled vs LCD.

    LCD makers have tighter and tighter marginals in their incomes for their production of LCD displays.

    Smaller displays will change from LCD to Amoled forthcoming 2-3 years and LCD making will be forced
    to change for larger displays as for TV.

  • Well I think it’s the opposite. In 2-3 years the AMOLED experiment at Samsung and smaller at few others will close down and all screens will remain LCD. The only reason they can make those is because they make so large profit margins on smartphones today so they don’t care to spend extra $30 or $40 per screen, but those profits are logically going away.

  • Anonymous

    Things like production costs for AMOLED is dropping, Super-AMOLED price premium is now down to around 20% when compared to a Super LCD screen with the same size and resolution and making them more economical.  While people want not only readability but better screen quality and brighter colors.  So who knows where the technology will be in 2-3 years and how consumer demand may shape what ultimately prevails on most devices.

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