Auto free-form display ups and downs

The automotive market presents one of the greatest opportunities for free-form displays, allowing panel and automotive designers to use much more than square corners and straight lines. In the past, the ability to only produce rectangular panels imposed significant creative limitations. Now, with new advanced manufacturing solutions available to detect, test and repair defects, designers can create displays for vehicles in any shape and with greater complexity and features.

With smarter and increasingly more autonomous vehicles becoming a reality over the next decade, the automotive market is forecasted to grow significantly. New vehicles will include more free-form displays in number and type, including interactive mirrors, heads-up displays, dashboards or instrument panels and in-vehicle entertainment displays. Every manufacturer and every model will have different designs, increasing the complexities for manufacturing.

The advent of free-form displays means automotive designers can include display geometries in any shape, including along its outer perimeter or throughout the display plane. As a result, features like cameras and sensors in the display plane that would have been impractical to manufacture previously are now possible. Displays can now be offered in more shapes and sizes to accommodate the increasing need for electronics within vehicles, now and in the future.

Trends in Display Design

Trends in automotive display design include larger sizes, free-form and multi-curve designs, high brightness, fast response time, increased viewing angles, and reduced power consumption. LCD displays limit the adoption of these automotive display trends and we can see that many panel makers are moving toward new display technologies like OLED and microLED.

The application areas within smart and autonomous vehicles include center stack displays, instrument clusters, driver information displays and camera information displays (pictured below). The designs for these new and increasing applications will require many or all of the following attributes:

  • Free-form display shapes in a growing number of positions within a vehicle
  • Ultra-slim bezels to maximize the usable area of each display
  • High durability and reliability due to extreme temperatures and safety-critical needs
  • Display high macro quality for uniformity and minimizing shading defects
  • Emerging display technologies like OLED and microLED that provide better image quality and are highly luminous

Automotive designers can be assured there are new and forthcoming technology solutions that will enable manufacturers to produce high-quality displays with these increasingly important attributes.



orbotech free form good auto display

Clockwise starting from top left: Center stack display, instrument cluster, heads-up display, driver information display, camera information display, rear seat entertainment

Free-form shapes and ultra-slim bezels

The quality and reliability of the safety-critical displays used in automotive applications are often impacted by defects formed during production processes. The free-form shapes and/or slim bezels can exacerbate this problem. Two process control technologies that enable quality control to preserve the defect-free requirements in automotive and enable free-form shapes and ultra-slim bezels are automated optical inspection (AOI) and electrical testing.

AOI solutions can use smart algorithms that provide defect detection and classification on constantly varying design geometries (area, shape, form or pattern) of the main display and peripheral areas. Traditional rectangular designs have simple and repeated patterns of thin film transistor-backplane (TFT-backplane), while free-form and ultra-slim bezel designs have complex and non-repeated TFT-backplane patterns. Some inspection solutions also include dedicated detection algorithms for holes inside the active area of a design. Time to production can be reduced significantly by using panel design data so manufacturers can achieve a mature setup from first glass – with full immunity to process variation and adaptive detection sensitivity, which has the potential to identify even the slightest process variation in multiple layers.

orbotech peripheral detection good
Peripheral detection of a free form display (round glass)