Just this year, we have seen a virtual explosion of touch panel growth fueled by the world’s seemingly insatiable appetite for touch-enabled devices. It is hard to say whether this growth will be tempered or continue amidst the promise of even greater adoption of mobility devices and invention of new “must have” products. In either case, touch technology is now a permanent member of the flat panel display family.
I marvel at how the industry has evolved over the past few years. Three years ago, I had the opportunity to take a position as Head of our Web Products Group in Germany (the group that makes our roll-to-roll vacuum deposition tools). At that time we strengthened our focus on Flexible Electronics, looking at opportunities in flexible solar, displays, printed circuit boards and several different transparent conductor-based applications including touch screen elements. Ironically, the team had already been addressing this market for years, with sales of roll-to-roll sputtering tools for indium tin oxide (ITO) since the early 1980s, but it had remained relatively small and stable due to modest annual growth in resistive touch technology.
Dow Jones recently reported on the future of tablet and smartphone displays. As the leading equipment supplier to the display industry, Applied Materials was called on to lend comment to the trends and technologies that will be driving the industry in the coming years.
Earlier this week I gave the keynote speech at the Emerging Display Technologies Conference in San Jose, Calif. and discussed the five waves of demand for the display industry and where we’ll be headed in the near future.