From Conception to Production: Embedding Display Engines

The OEM wants a form factor variation, but power efficiency and slim design considerations must be met: Now what?

Our company, which makes ultra-miniature projection display and sensing solutions, recently received an order for a small form factor display engine from an electronics device manufacturer. The OEM’s order told us demand existed for small form factor display engines with a power efficiency track record. But the order also presented a challenge—the smartphones in which this OEM wanted to embed our projection display engine required an electronics board layout that varied from the standard form of our PSE-0403-101 display engine (Figure 1).

 Figure 1: MicroVison’s in-depth understanding of form factor and power management issues made it possible to successfully meet a smartphone OEM’s request for electronics board layout that varied from the standard form of our PSE-0403-101 display engine (shown here). (Courtesy MicroVision)

Figure 1: MicroVison’s in-depth understanding of form factor and power management issues made it possible to successfully meet a smartphone OEM’s request for electronics board layout that varied from the standard form of our PSE-0403-101 display engine (shown here). (Courtesy MicroVision)

We had to move quickly from conception to production, a task made easier by resources we had in place and, just as important, by an approach to the challenge informed by our experience.

A Library of Ideas
Thanks to the number of years we’ve spent exploring designs and display engine use cases, we have built up a library of ideas, and thus were prepared for the smartphone OEM’s variation from standard layout request. This library of ideas let us quickly visualize the OEM’s needs and present a range of solutions, offer information to the OEM regarding successful integration measures, and ultimately provide a solution to fit the OEM’s needs.

MicroVision’s engineers are vigilant about keeping up with what’s here now and what’s on the horizon for relevant technologies and markets. They have a strong background in how high tech replication technology works and consistently invest in new techniques.

Extensive preparation means the company can get to the product design stage quickly, turning around ideas to partners in less than a month that can be in production within six months.

To successfully launch a product with a partner that requires customization to your component the key is having a clear vision, knowing where there can be compromises, and having a firm understanding of the capabilities of suppliers and manufacturers. Make sure the processes are well defined with quality parameters firmly set so that performance is not sacrificed for design. This recipe should produce a win for all.

There’s no empirical answer to the question of what size, weight, and power considerations should be made when embedding a module in a phone.  Rather, it’s about the trade-offs. The size of the engine needs to be within a range that will not add discernible bulk to the smartphone’s form factor, as the design principles emphasize slimness. The PSE-0403-101 display engine is lightweight at less than 20g and typically not a point of concern for OEMs that have evaluated it.

MicroVision was able to quickly design a form factor that met the requirements of the OEM and could be manufactured by MicroVision’s supply chain partner. This module, PSE-0403-103, uses the same optical module and application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) components as the standard MicroVision PSE-0403-101 engine with an electronics module configuration that works within the design of the OEM’s product. The resulting custom scanning engine’s outline is 60.9 x 63.2 x 6.0 mm. The module has the same power specifications as the standard PSE-0403: 2.0W at 27% video image and 4.0W at full white image101 operating at 25 degrees Celsius (Table 1).

Table 1

Table 1

MicroVision’s 6 mm thick design offers a module that allows the phone to maintain its profile—even the addition of our embedded display engine doesn’t cause any increase in profile, thus meeting the slimness design principle. Module length and width are also important vis-à-vis how much space inside the phone the module takes up. The ideal size is relative to the design and layout inside the smartphone. Some of the hero devices from the flagship companies for smartphones have moved toward a slightly larger form factor for the standard model and an option for an even larger phone. A module the size of the PSE-0403-101, which is about half the size of a business card at less than 1.5 inches wide and just an eighth of an inch over two inches long, can easily be accommodated in either the standard or larger form factor.

Smartphone power consumption is a high-priority consideration, so MicroVision worked to achieve power consumption in the 2.0W to 4.0W range of operation for the PSE-0403 engine. Aiding power efficiency during operation is MicroVision’s laser beam scanning (LBS) technology: Only the lasers needed to generate specific colors turn on, while all the lasers are off to generate black. To optimize battery life, given the module’s compactness, an OEM wanting more battery life could opt to put it in a larger form factor phone and then increase the battery size. On the other side, an OEM that prioritizes smaller, sleeker devices could embed the same engine module with a slightly smaller battery, knowing that it will have less run time before needing to charge.

The use cases, e.g., watching long form video, watching short bursts of video, doing presentations, can be drivers in deciding which battery size and phone design trade-offs to pursue.

Proven Supply Chain for Fast Response
MicroVision has developed a supply chain that can quickly respond to a new partner’s unique module design needs. With a proven component supplier, cost and quality are known and scheduling/timing is much easier. Suppliers who have worked on an optic previously are a natural go-to for the next iteration to ensure bringing the right skills to the design challenge.

Process Mapping
Control of the process is crucial, so we make it a point to own every part of the process map and do not just hand over designs. Our map describes the recipes for a build and helps us quickly determine the contract manufacturer’s (CM) capabilities and leverage those capabilities for a successful build.

The process is the secret sauce—there’s no reinvention of the wheel. The company has strict requirements that cannot be changed, though it is possible within the process to accommodate an existing CM process or machine. Therefore, most of what is needed to construct a new design exists within MicroVision in some capacity. It can be adapted for a new project, allowing for a rapid timeline. With a production line and processes in place, launching iterative products is easier.

Quality Control
Throughout the entire process sourcing and quality are key for moving from product development to sourcing. MicroVision’s quality team is engaged from the start of relationships. The quality team evaluates and monitors all processes in accordance with known guidelines.

Start to Finish
Summing up the formula for success, which we believe was key to winning the OEM order discussed here:

  1. Stay current—keep researching and developing designs even if the ask is not there yet.
  2. Form factor—be prepared to creatively solve problems for partners without sacrificing performance.
  3. Know your supplier—proven success and experience is a must for ensuring quality and expediting processes.
  4. Own your process—having a build recipe that can be followed each time ensures success.
  5. Quality control—always ensure there’s a body to make sure the entire project is going as planned.

Tom Byeman, Director of Product Development and Advanced Manufacturing Operations, joined MicroVision in 2007 with an extensive background in opto-mechanical engineering. Byeman has significant experience with MicroVision technology and products, having supported multiple LBS engine projects as lead mechanical engineer, serving as system engineer and/or program manager for various customer projects, and leading the micro-electrical mechanical systems (MEMS) assembly and test team. Byeman currently oversees both the product development and manufacturing of the PSE-0403 line of scanning engines for MicroVision.

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