Flexible 125-inch plasma display coming in 2009

A Japanese display start-up is well on the way to commercializing a 3-meter wide flexible plasma display

A Japanese display start-up is well on the way to commercializing a 3-meter wide flexible plasma display and expects the first models to appear next year.

The 125-inch display is made using a proprietary plasma array technology developed by the company, Shinoda Plasma, with the first screens aimed at public display applications. A prototype on show at the FPD International exhibition that opened in Japan on Wednesday and is attracting crowds of mostly display-industry insider attendees.

"Basically this display is based on the plasma display technology but it's a very unique technology," said Manabu Ishimoto [cq], chief financial officer of the company in an interview.

Rather than make the screen on large sheets of inflexible glass the plasma array screen uses thin glass tubes with walls that are just 0.1 millimeters thick. Inside the tubes the construction is similar to that of conventional plasma display panels but the use of the tubes means the screen is not only thin -- the 3 meter by 1 meter prototype is only a millimeter thick -- but also flexible.

As an indication of how closely the company is guarding the technology, it has hired guards at the display exhibition who are stopping visitors getting too close to the screen and making sure that no one but journalists are taking photos of it.

In addition to its size and flexibility the panel is light, weighing about 1.4 kilograms. It also uses a maximum of 600 watts of power, which is less than half that of a display array made with conventional plasma display panels, said Ishimoto.

Samples of the screen are already with manufacturing companies and commercial versions are expected in April or May next year.

But don't go hoping for it on your living-room wall just yet. The prototype has a relatively low resolution of 960 pixels by 360 pixels, which is fine for public information displays but is well below that for even standard definition television.

Shinoda Plasma was spun-off from Fujitsu when it decided to halt development of plasma display panels. Fujitsu doesn't own a stake in the company but the two are close, with Fujitsu serving as a distribution channel. The company is based in Kobe in west Japan.

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