Choosing the Best Display Technology for Your Rugged Application

Rugged Applications Blog_Featured (1)

From oil and gas to forestry, land survey to utility location, many of today’s most rugged industries require products with display screens to accurately monitor and maintain operations. While users still need easy and reliable access to their information, these products must also offer a higher level of toughness and protection, as well as optimized battery lives.

Designers developing products geared toward outdoor or extreme use cases must take extra care in ensuring that their display technology is the best fit for these rugged environments. Key features such as temperature range and cover lens bonding can be a make-or-break purchasing decision for potential customers. Below are the top considerations when choosing a display technology to be used in rugged applications.

  1. Sunlight readability

Many rugged applications take place in outdoor environments, where ambient lighting cannot be controlled. A display that is hard to read in direct sunlight can result in errors in readings from glare or low contrast, making a device more difficult to use and resulting in less accurate data.

Display technologies are often designed and tested using pitch-black environments, which differs greatly from the realities of real-world use cases. For example, displays with a contrast ratio of 2000:1 in a dark room can have as low as 157:1 CR in an office environment and 9:1 on a sunny day.  Savvy product designers will consider ambient contrast ratio and flexible technologies that provide consistent CR in all lighting conditions, like LCD 2.0, to improve display readability and preserve battery life.

  1. Battery Life

The performance of many traditional display technologies declines when ambient lighting is less than ideal, forcing the display to work harder to fight competing light sources and draining more from the battery. This can cause problems during deployment of products in rugged or remote settings; if a battery dies in an extreme environment, users must charge up or change out batteries in less than ideal conditions.

Short battery life can also force customers to buy additional units or extra swappable batteries to ensure continuous coverage, which can be a problem for smaller companies operating on tight budgets. Additionally, a more optimized battery means designers can either offer more product features or reduce the footprint of the battery itself. A smaller battery cuts down on the amount of rare earth minerals required, supporting your RoHS and REACH compliance efforts.

Technologies like LCD 2.0 not only work with ambient lighting to lighten the load on your battery, but also employ fewer materials, since it only uses a single LED to light entire screen in low-light or no light conditions. LCD 2.0 consumes 1/10th the power of traditional LCD back lighting systems and provides a consistent contrast ratio across all lighting conditions.

  1. Temperature Range

A key spec to consider when choosing your display technology is the temperature range at which your display can accurately operate. Some lower-power, reflective display options like e-paper struggle at temperature ranges below zero or above 50o C , limiting the potential customers who may consider your product for use in their rugged applications. Choosing a display technology that operates well within a wide range of temperatures ensures the most reliable and consistent experience for your end customer.

  1. Ruggedness

Whether it’s dust, mud, snow, or water, the product components designers select must be as tough and secure as possible. For example, air gaps can cause problems with data entry and leave room for water ingress and moisture collection. The good news is that new cover lens bonding technologies are increasing the ruggedness of LCD displays, allowing designers to increase product reliability without sacrificing display features and readability. Displays can be bonded securely to protective elements like Gorilla Glass, offering the best possible protection and longevity for the product.

  1. Safety

Some rugged or extreme applications must also face heightened safety requirements, such as being qualified as “intrinsically safe.” This designation means a product is incapable of producing enough heat or spark to ignite an explosive atmosphere, even if the device has been damaged or deteriorated. Customers needing to meet this requirement take it very seriously, so ensuring your product – including your display technology – meets this standard is key.

6. Connectivity

In an increasingly connected world, new networking options are being opened up daily, and rugged applications are no exception. Today’s users working in extreme settings can now utilize the Internet of Things (IoT) as a way to maintain and increase longevity of their systems. Unlike segmented displays that are fixed and cannot evolve, technologies like LCD 2.0 are adaptable, allowing display features to be altered vis software update after deployment. This potential is especially helpful for devices set up in remote locations, or those in use for long periods of time.

LCD 2.0 as the Choice for the Future

LCD 2.0 is a term used to describe the newest LCD technology that incorporates front-lighting with reflective LCDs as opposed to the traditional backlit-only options. These displays involve a lightguide film that bonds to the front of the display, below the cover lens, using a single LED light bar to mix light evenly throughout a screen. LCD 2.0 technology is intrinsically safe, extremely thin, uses power at a 90% lower rate than backlit LCDs, and is certified for industrial and medical uses. In the age of LCD 2.0, devices with reflective LCDs can go more places, last longer, do more, and fit where they previously couldn’t.

Read more about the science behind LCD 2.0. >>

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