Displays are everywhere in the 21st century military — from the one-inch-square displays on soldiers’ helmets, to four-inch displays on crowded control panels, to 20-inch panels in tactical operations centers.
The industries such as manufacturers, military, and others are using rugged displays for the monitoring of their operations and other contents. Displays must process information quickly, be sleek and compact in its design, offer a high-resolution image, and remain simple in operation. The rugged displays are primarily known for their toughness as they are not easily breakable or too delicate to handle in the challenging environment involved in the industrial, commercial, or military industry. The rugged displays are getting increasingly popular in the different industry verticals for their properties such as glass improved durability & impact resistance, dust resistance, waterproof, and scratch proof, advanced lamination, sunlight readability, reducing reflection, brightness and contrast
Rugged military displays must perform similarly but in incredibly harsh environmental conditions such as high resistance property to resist the dust penetration, scratches due to the environmental factor. “Most of the people out in a combat environment – they’re a gaming generation,” says Mike McCormack, president and CEO of CP Tech (San Diego, California). “They’re used to multiple inputs coming into them rapidly and processing that information more rapidly than previous generations.”
“Imagine that you have your display in front of you at your desk,” McCormack says. “Now imagine that I’m going to take you out to the Syrian desert, in the direct sunlight, there’s blowing sand, it’s going to be really cold on some nights, but in the afternoon it may get up to 120 degrees, but I want you to sit here and do the work on these displays. And there’s the possibility of live fire going on around you. You know as well as I do that your equipment is not going to survive.”
Display technology trends
Previously most of the screens were LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays), though they were a huge step up from cathode-ray displays; they had some setbacks compared to OLED displays.
An LCD consists of thin-film transistors (TFTs), which determine the resolution of the display. LCDs are cheap products built in giant fabs. Today, the largest LCD glass size being built is based on a Gen 10.5 technology. OLED is a next-generation display technology that is replacing LCD displays in several markets, such as small displays for mobile applications, TVs and microdisplays.
Although LCDs and rapidly maturing OLED displays have been the high-end electronic display of choice, they are power hungry and do not offer high level of brightness; therefore, the manufacturers’ war for innovation supremacy continues. The next-generation, self-emissive display technology will be more energy efficient, while the smart lighting components will better control lighting, intensity, color, direction, shape by integrating pixelated, non-organic LEDs.
HDR (High Dynamic Range) is a standard for Ultra HD televisions with the potential to vastly improve the viewing experience. The goal is to maintain as much of the original image quality as possible, all the way through to the living room. Content is delivered either from an HDR-compatible source component, such as an Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray player, or streamed over the Internet from providers of HDR content.
8K TV has a screen with 7,680 horizontal and 4,320 vertical pixels for a total of approximately 33 million pixels. 8K TV is the highest resolution TV that has been released among UHD (ultra-high-definition) TVs. Such TVs show a sharper and more detailed picture quality.
Dual-Cell LCD technology, also known as ULED XD, takes two LCD panels and bonds them together. A processor splits the image into color gray scale information. The rear panel handles only luminance information, while the front panel handles color. The technology is meant to act as a cheaper alternative to OLED displays, with a significantly higher contrast ratio and competitive black levels.
MicroLED has the potential for the same perfect black levels as OLEDs but with no danger of burn-in. It can deliver higher brightness than any current display technology, wide-gamut excellent color and doesn’t suffer the viewing angle and uniformity issues of LDC.
Military users demand displays that are inexpensive yet tough enough to stand up to conditions like wrench-drop and boot-kick tests. At the same time, however, they have to be more than physically tough; displays must meet demanding military standards, shield against emissions of electromagnetic radiation, protect power-supply lines, manage thermal emissions, pare weight down, and keep power efficiency up.
“When we think rugged, we think it must survive environmental requirements, and it must be supportable over the life cycle of a military program,” says Jason Wade, president of ZMicro (San Diego, California). “All of this while using an LCD that was initially designed for a commercial application.” A rugged display must meet the customer requirements through various modifications to the LCD and the electronics, but also sustain a five- to 15-year program. Faced with such tough demands, system integrators tend to buy commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) displays, and then design ruggedized enclosures to meet the military specifications.
Once they have done all that, displays must boast top performance in a huge variety of conditions. Displays designed to operate outdoors must be visible by day but nearly invisible at night; displays that individual soldiers carry must be lightweight and flexible; and displays for command-and-control rooms must have great size and resolution.
One of the toughest requirements is designing displays for use with night-vision goggles (NVGs), says Chris Chance, manager of business development for vetronic systems at General Dynamics Canada. Even though a soldier wearing the goggles would never look directly at a screen, the light-amplifying lenses would blind him if he even glanced at it by mistake. So the latest displays must offer great dimming capability.
A typical commercial display offers a 6:1 ratio between its brightest and dimmest radiance, Chance says. But a military LCD must offer at least 1,000:1, so it can handle the range of conditions from full sunlight to the shade of an enclosed tank hull to nighttime operations. Blackout switches and color filters are other techniques for making LCD displays safe for use in an NVG environment.
“We need to make it work with low visual emission and high contrast; you can’t emit any stray ambient light or else you’re a target,” says Dan Dyring, program manager for drivers vision enhancer programs at Raytheon’s offices in Dallas. “That’s a big contrast to fighter aircraft where sunlight brightness is the challenge.” And yet it cannot be too bright; soldiers in the vehicle often wear light-amplifying night vision goggles, which boost available light hundreds of times. “If you look at an LCD panel, you’ll get a huge input of ambient light that just blows you away,” he says.
Another customer demand is size. A perennial challenge for display designers is how to give customers large viewing areas, while conserving space so soldiers can maneuver in a cramped cockpit. One solution is to combine displays with computers. “Aside from having displays just to look at, customers want displays to be smart, too,” Chance says. That also lets designers combine different types of displays, so one user could see a video feed from an external sensor as well as sophisticated graphics.
Such combined solutions are also helpful in meeting the most stringent electromagnetic interference (EMI) shielding requirements. For instance, displays running classified data often need Tempest shielding to prevent spies with radio transceivers from eavesdropping on their signal emissions. Fewer displays means fewer enclosures to shield.
“The need for size, weight, and power (SWaP) and even customization,” says Ross Hudman, sales and marketing manager at Digital Systems Engineering (Scottsdale, Arizona). “That always seems to be a driving force for us, especially in the ground mobile market. Customers are really looking for something that does more in a smaller package.”
To cut down on computer and display sprawl, one solution may be dumb displays. “A dumb display is going to be smaller; it’s going to take up less room, and it’s going to be cost effective,” Kothari says. “What Systel does is create an all-in-one line-replaceable unit (LRU) mission computer that handles all the sensor ingest, all the networking, and then connects to a variety of displays onboard the vehicle. And because you’re doing all the computing in a single box, your displays can then be dumb displays.”
Military-use displays must be smaller, but they also must be more powerful. While consumer-technology capabilities are being adopted and implemented in the display’s design, those concepts need to be adjusted for the sheer amount of data that these displays take in and the intelligence being transmitted.
But users want more intelligence than that; they want a display to do more than simply show data. “People want more than one way to communicate with the screen,” Thomas says. “So we give them programmable keys, touch screens, pointing devices, voice-command, and speaking.” Building touch-screen displays for battlefield use is difficult because the environment is so dirty. Designers must build a screen that resists accidental triggers from dirt, crawling insects, bumps and nudges, water hose wash down, and electrical noise, he says
The U.S. Army’s Land Warrior program supplies soldiers with networked helmets so they and their commanders will have unprecedented awareness of the battlefield. Soldiers see that data on a helmet-mounted display that must be small, lightweight, power-efficient, and survivable in warfighting conditions like parachuting and nighttime use. “It gives soldiers a new capability of situational awareness, and a means of communicating other than waving your arms and shouting,” says Jim Melzer, product manager for helmet-mounted displays at Kaiser Electro-Optics.
Another challenge is perfect balance of luminance that the display must strike so it is bright enough to use in the dark, yet lets a soldier use his night-vision goggles, and does not give away his position by shining a bright light in his face. And it must be highly efficient. “To save energy consumption, we’re sniffing around for a tenth of a watt here, and a tenth of a watt there,” Melzer says. That means the OLED must work in freezing cold weather without drawing extra power.
Finally, the screen has to handle input from sources like weapons sensors and wireless feeds, in addition to the soldier’s own wearable computer. In return, soldiers see a dynamic map, with moving icons on it to represent friends, foes, and targets.
“Being able to provide a lot of data simultaneously is essential to the user,” McCormack says. “And whether you’re using it on a ground control station flying a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle], or in a weapons platform on a Navy ship, you’re going to have multiple inputs that you’re going to need to display simultaneously so that you can react faster. So it’s more information, faster reaction times, and the ability to manage multiple applications simultaneously.”
Rollable, foldable, and wearable displays are also expected to hit the military market in the near future. These capabilities will drastically aid in launching the design of rugged displays to eventually support virtual and augmented reality. “The future does continue to evolve toward that flexible, wearable display,” Motter says. “In addition, the idea of virtual reality where the operator is wearing the display in an immersive environment is a huge area of development and investment in the display industry.”
Then comes the advent of artificial intelligence that – while admittedly farther down the line than most technological advancements for displays – will result in higher pixel densities to pull more data out of a video stream. The goal is simply to maximize the amount of information that customers can get from these displays; in due time, these capabilities will be just a touch away.
Standards and regulations
Military technology moves at a very slow pace in comparison to that of the commercial world and is built to last longer. Military equipment faces many standards and regulations, training periods, cost restrictions, and extensive deployment times that just aren’t a factor in the development of commercial products.
While modifications are often made to rugged displays to meet the unique needs of the operator, there are a specific set of regulations and military standards that these products must meet. These rugged display design requirements differ between the specifications of the user.
“If you’re in an aircraft, you have much more sensitive electronics so electromagnetic interference (EMI) becomes critical to shield your system for that,” Kothari says. “On the naval side, depending on what the platform is, you’d have to consider salt spray, submersion, acoustic noise … if you’re on a helicopter you have to consider shock and vibration.”
Understanding those user groups’ requirements from an environmental and rugged design perspective is critical. This is where military standards come into play, MIL-STD-810G being the most prevalent. MIL-STD-810G is a test plan that subjects military gear, including rugged displays, to conditions that it will experience throughout its time in a military program. This could include shock, sand and dust exposure, gunfire vibration, and more.
Other military standards that rugged displays often have to meet are MIL-STD-461, which details EMI requirements, and MIL-S-901D that simulates explosions in the water near ships and submarines. These standards are not limiting to the design of a rugged display, however, because they are simply vital to the display’s lifespan.
Military Rugged Display Market
Military Rugged Display Market was valued at US$ 1,537.21 million in 2019 and is projected to reach US$ 2,647.30 million by 2027; it is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.4% from 2020 to 2027.
During the forecast period from 2020 to 2027, the growth outlook of military rugged display in all the major geographic regions is estimated to be quite positive. However, the market growth is likely to slow down during 2020–2021 due to disruptions in global businesses caused by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak; to contain the spread of the virus, all major countries in Europe, APAC, and North America are imposing strict restrictions on business activities and the movement of goods and people. These factors are adversely affecting both supply and demand for various components and parts design ed for military applications.
The defense manufacturing industry is heavily dependent on manual labor, and it is experiencing a lack of labors in respective manufacturing facilities due to the lockdown regulations in many countries across the world. Major defense spenders allocate close to or over 2% of their GDP, a significant amount, to defense. However, several governments are deprioritizing defense spending owing to the emergence of pandemic. Also, governments of many countries are investing in the activities that may help control the spread of the virus. This factor is restricting the production of various defense equipment, thereby hindering the growth of military rugged display market.
Global Rugged Display Market: Regional outlook
The global Rugged Display market is divided into seven regions as North America, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Asia Pacific excluding Japan, Japan, and the Middle East and Africa.
Among the given regions, North America region leading the global market for Rugged Display due to the dense presence of end users from commercial, manufacturing, and others using Rugged Display. The market growth in this region is majorly driven by the growing implementation of advanced military rugged display and extensive government investments in the US defense sector. In addition, the presence of major market players such as Aydin Displays, Curtiss-Wright Corp, and General Micro Systems Inc., and reduction in the total cost of ownership (TCO) are among other factors supporting the market growth in North America. The growth is majorly driven by increasing defense budgets and mounting military aircraft modernization efforts.
The growth of the Rugged Display market in Western Europe, Eastern Europe follows the North America market due to the adaptation of the Rugged Display technologies in different industry verticals such as oil & gas and transportation industry. The developing regions such as APEJ and Japan are predicted to grow at the highest CAGR owing to the increased investments from governments in the improvising the defense sector and other manufacturing industry. Rugged Display market in MEA region is expected to grow at moderate CAGR.
Global Rugged Display Market: Market Segmentation
Global Rugged Display Market can be divided into three segments, based on display size, product type, and end users of the Rugged Displays.
The major segments in Rugged Display market is performed as per the sizes of the displays used in the instruments including 1 inch to 10 inches, 10 inches to 20 inches, and more than 20 inches. These sizes vary as per the industry and their requirements. For example, less than 10 inches are primarily used in the smartphones and handheld instruments.
The major segments of the Rugged Display market on the basis of the product type is performed by considering the consumer requirement and industry which are deploying the Rugged Display as per type of product available. The segmentation includes the handheld displays, laptops and notebooks, military displays, notebooks and others. These product types are based on the industry-specific requirement of the rugged display. For example, the military displays are used for the monitoring of the military operations and they are preferred due to their rough nature.
Based on function, the global rugged display market has been bifurcated into two types that are single function rugged display and multi-function rugged display. Majority of the multifunction rugged displays are used in military and defense end use product. This is mainly due to rugged displays are allowed military and defense system operators access to critical data in harsh environment where normal displays could not operate.
The major segments of the Rugged Display market on the basis of the end user is performed by considering the industry verticals which are deploying the Rugged Display for carrying out their industry-specific operations. The segmentation includes the Defence and Aerospace, Transportation, healthcare, and others. These product types are based on the industry-specific requirement of the rugged display. For example, the transportation industry is using the rugged displays for vehicle-mounted displays. The rugged displays are used due to their high resistance to the dirt and less wear and tear.
Rising demand for human machine interferences (HMI) and internet of things (IoT) in various end use industries is expected to trigger the usage of rugged display. This in turn is anticipated to act as a driver of global rugged display market during the forecast period. Across the globe, various rugged display manufactures are now focusing on increasing their production due to growing adoption of rugged displays in the industrial sector for enhanced customer experience. On the flip side, increasing raw materials cost which is used for rugged display and high initial cost required for rugged display devices is hindering the growth of this product market in future years.
Global Rugged Display Competitive Landscape
The key vendors are constantly focused on developing new displays and enhancements in their application to improvise the industrial usage. For example, Esterline Technologies Corporation, a one of the leading specialty manufacturer for the aerospace and defense rugged displays, launched the new version of its Thin eXtreme Display series. The newly launched products include TX series/2 display is offered as TX-126/2 of a 10-inch diagonal and TX-340, 15-inch diagonal. These displays are used with the full HD sensors interface.
Some of the key vendors in manufacturing the Rugged Display are such as Bluestone Technologies, Getac Technology Corporation, Panasonic Corporation, General Dynamics Corporation, General Micro Systems, Esterline Technologies Corporation, Sparton Corp., Milcots LLC, Curtis Wright, and Mildef AB.
Some other vendors include Advanced Embedded Solutions Ltd, Assured Systems Ltd, Aydin Displays, Crystal Group, Inc., General Digital Corporation, Hatteland Technology AS, Neuro Logic Systems, Inc., Winmate Inc., ZMicro, Inc., and CP Technologies LLC
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