Wondering what we might expect to see in flat-panel 4K Ultra HDTVs in 2017? Here’s a hint from Corning – thin is in.

Yes, we know that it’s still the dog days of August and brand new premium 4K Ultra HDTVs with high dynamic range (HDR) continue to show promise this year as must-have technologies for AV entertainment enthusiasts.

But as we begin to slowly turn our attention toward CES 2017, some recent announcements are hinting strongly that more and more 4K Ultra LED LCD TV models next year could be both thinner and brighter than some of the models we are seeing now.

One of the driving factors in these new designs comes from Corning which introduced its Iris Glass in 2015 as a new light guide plate (LGP) technology for edge-lit LED LCD TVs.

The LGP is a transparent sheet which is installed as a substrate in an LCD to direct light sources (like LEDs) from the sides of the display across the screen. When electricity is turned on, the sheet (which can be of glass or acrylic composition) will emit a bright uniform soft light.

Iris Glass has only been used by a couple of TV brands so far, but the technology enables making edge-lit LED LCD TVs that are less than 10 millimeters thick and require almost no bezel border. Further, the technology passes a greater percentage of pure light than conventional glasses and enables making color-stable large screens that are equal to or brighter than TVs using plastic-based LGPs today.

According to a Corning statement: “Optically, Iris Glass delivers the bright, realistic color quality consumers demand by delivering high optical transmission and negligible color shift, resulting in several other prominent electronics manufacturers having designed Iris Glass into their edge-lit LCD TVs over the past year.”

In an effort to keep step with the growing popularity of thin-panel OLED displays, Corning said it expects to see both more manufacturers and models using Iris LGP technology in 2017. In addition, Corning said to expect LED LCD TVs with glass LGPs ranging in screen sizes from 50 inches all the way up to 75 inches next year. That compares to only a handful of models available mostly in China today in screen sizes of 60 to 70 inches.

Read more on the prospects for ultra-thin LED LCD TVs in 2017 after the jump:

Corning declined to name the additional manufacturers planning to offer Iris Glass LGP TVs next year, but LeEco, formerly known as LeTV, announced in 2015 that it would market the first smart TV with a glass light-guide plate in its Super 4 Max70 curved-screen TV, which it sells in China.

Corning said at least one other brand is currently marketing televisions with Iris Glass LGP today, but prefers to let those TV manufacturers announce the use of the technology if and when they choose to.

LeEco, which recently announced the acquisition of Vizio, is employing a disruptive TV marketing practice in which it plans to sell high-performance, highly-styled TV models at prices close or below cost. It will make profits by selling streaming internet services and targeted advertising channeled through the televisions it sells. It is expected to announce a dual-brand TV marketing strategy for the U.S. next month.

In addition to making edge-lit LED LCD TVs brighter and thinner, the rigidity of glass LGP substrates enables making LCD TVs that don’t require bezels.

Traditionally, TVs have used plastic light-guide plates (LGP) due to their low cost and high optical transmissivity. Plastic LGPs have transmissivity properties exceeding 90 percent, compared to most glass with only 50 to 60 percent transmissivity due to the presence of light-blocking impurities.

But plastic substrates aren’t rigid and require extra structural components to support the display, adding cost and thickness. In addition, plastic expands and contracts with temperature and humidity requiring edge-lit LCD TVs to use wider bezels to compensate for the shifts. Corning said Iris Glass is 36 times more rigid than plastic, and offers 90 percent lower thermal expansion.

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Iris Glass is available in sizes up to 75 inches today, and because it leverages  Corning’s fusion forming process, screen sizes could be made even larger, depending on market demand and supply chain capability, the company said.

In addition, Iris can be used to produced curved-screen edge-lit LED LCDs. The company explained that “curved LCD TVs already incorporate two thin pieces of glass—those in the display panel itself—and those glass components meet the expectations of manufacturers and end-users for performance and reliability. Likewise, thin Iris Glass can be used as the light-guide plate in curved TVs, and will provide the same advantageous dimensional stability and optical performance as expected in a flat set.”

Iris Glass is more expensive than plastic LGPs, which explains why it has been used primarily in large-screen models to date. But pricing is expected to decline as volumes increase, enabling its use in more mid-size products.

Corning said its LGP technology works well with quantum dot technology and “there is no limitation in using Iris with either film-based or tube-based quantum dot solutions.”

In addition, Corning said it could be possible to use Iris Glass technology to encase quantum dot nanocrystals in place of the plastic film or tubes, used today. “It is certainly a possibility with a glass light-guide plate. This is a perfect example of how Iris Glass could be used in a way that traditional materials simply cannot. While this particular integration with quantum dots is not currently used in any commercialized product—this is exactly the type of challenge that we enjoy working to solve along with our customers,” a Corning spokesperson told HD Guru.

As for the future uses and capabilities of Iris Glass, Corning said: “We are working on adding light management functionality to Iris Glass light guide plates. This includes novel approaches to light extraction, tailoring the LGP to allow for 1D dimming to meet the UHD premium standard, and approaches to replace the remaining plastic films in the stack with glass analogs, or even building such functionality directly into the Iris Glass LGP.”

By Greg Tarr


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