The University Record, May 10, 1993

New R&D center will develop technology for high-definition flat-screen TV, electronics

By Sally Pobojewski
News and Information Services

The University, in partnership with the state of Michigan, will establish a Center for High-Definition Display Technologies at the College of Engineering, Gov. John Engler and President James J. Duderstadt announced last Monday.

Research at the Center will help improve existing flat panel display technology, currently used in laptop computers and on military and commercial aircraft. U-M scientists and engineers also will develop new technology for use in consumer electronics products—such as high-definition television sets so thin they can hang on a wall, automobile navigation systems and miniature computers and VCRs.

Funding for the Center is part of an approximately $120 million investment package that combines federal, state and private resources to establish a new research and manufacturing facility for flat panel displays in Michigan.

The new manufacturing facility will be built by OIS Optical Imaging Systems Inc., which is the only U.S. manufacturer of active matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCDs). OIS is a publicly traded affiliate of Michigan-based Guardian Industries Corp. The $100 million plant will employ about 300 people, who will produce AMLCDs primarily for avionics and military applications.

OIS has been selected by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the Department of Defense to negotiate a contract under which this new facility will demonstrate manufacturing technology for AMLCDs. ARPA has indicated publicly that it expects a final contract award in July under its two-year, $50 million,

AMLCD manufacturing technology program.

“In supporting this new Center, Michigan will lead the nation,” Engler said. “My administration is committed to preparing Michigan workers for the jobs and opportunities of the 21st century. We are seeing the birth of an exciting new industry that is critically important not only to Michigan, but to the country. It’s made possible by combining our traditional expertise in manufacturing with our outstanding knowledge infrastructure.”

Duderstadt noted that “flat panel display technology has the potential to be a multi-billion-dollar industry by the mid-1990s.” U-M researchers can help solve the technological problems that currently limit its potential. Working together with private industry, the University can help ensure that the United States and the state of Michigan reap the benefits of this exciting new technology.”

Research at the Center will initially focus on AMLCDs, the area of flat panel technology that most industry experts believe shows the greatest potential for the consumer electronics industry. Much of the new technology developed at the Center will be tested at the OIS facility. U-M and OIS engineers will work together to select areas for research and develop commercial applications as quickly as possible.

College of Engineering Dean Peter M. Banks noted that “the Center will be a national prototype and an example of how university research—combined with federal, state and industry resources—can contribute to the development of technology vital to our nation’s economic competitiveness.”

The Center for High-Definition Display Technologies will have four components:

—Research—Initial research will focus on short-term improvements in AMLCD technology, as well as manufacturing process issues. Long-term research will cover all aspects of high definition display technology. The Center will bring visiting scientists from other universities to Ann Arbor to collaborate with College of Engineering researchers, as well as physicists and chemists in LS&A. Center researchers also will work closely with scientists conducting related research at other institutions.

—Technology Transfer—The College of Engineering’s Office of Technology Transfer will develop an economic development program to support existing Michigan businesses and attract new companies that can supply components and technical expertise for the flat panel display industry.

—Professional Engineering Education—To provide skilled engineers, scientists and managers for the flat panel display industry, the Center will develop specialized master of engineering (M.Eng) and master of business administration (M.B.A.) degree programs. Students in these programs will work closely with engineers at the OIS plant as part of their training.

—Worker Training—The Center will assist educators at Washtenaw, Oakland and Henry Ford community colleges who will develop and implement an AMLCD worker training program for OIS plant employees. This program will be funded with a $1 million grant from the state of Michigan Training Fund. The University will provide temporary laboratory and clean-room space for the worker training program until the permanent facility, which will be located at the Environmental Research Institute of Michigan, is ready for use.