INSIGHT: Big screen opportunities in Las Vegas

09 January 2008 17:15  [Source: ICIS news]

By Nigel Davis

GM Cadillac Provoq at CES 2008LONDON (ICIS news)--The world’s biggest electronic gadgets fest held annually in Las Vegas regularly points the way in the fast growing technology world.

Past exhibitors at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) have showcased among other novelties the videocassette recorder, the compact disc player and the high definition TV.

This year is likely to be no exception. From CES 2008 so far it is clear that flat screen TVs are just going to get bigger and that electronics, and the materials that support them, are going to make still further inroads into the home and into transport.

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates in his valedictory keynote address to the show – he steps down from his main Microsoft role later this year – talked of an up-coming “user-centric” decade in which connectivity becomes increasingly important. Consumers will connect with each other as will their in-home and in-car gadgets.

And as electronic goods and systems become ever more embedded in everyday life the opportunities for raw material suppliers increase. Technology and the market run hand-in-hand.

It was no coincidence that Bayer MaterialScience said this week that its scientists had succeeded in producing a high-purity grade of the polycarbonate Makrolon which makes possible the manufacture of flat-screen televisions in unprecedented sizes.

New materials are needed to feed the demand for larger screen sizes to maintain liquid crystal display (LCD) brightness and clarity.

LCD display diffuser sheets made out of conventional plastics used to date have a tendency to warp, causing picture distortion, Bayer MaterialScience says.

Its scientists are still trying to optimise light scatter but work has already started on the next generation of LCD display diffusers.

The chemicals and materials supplier’s role is changing in an increasingly high tech world. Bayer MaterialScience is one company to acknowledge that and push the envelope in terms of the way it tries to develop new opportunities and business partnerships. Other companies are doing the same.

Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris, for instance, says he wants Dow to mimic a company like GE which looks methodically for discontinuities and new needs based on technology and markets that it can serve.

Liveris says Dow will focus on four platforms for growth in its specialties businesses: human health (food, nutrition, wellness), energy (alternative energy solutions, energy efficiency solutions), infrastructure & transportation (construction, water treatment, transportation), and electronics & communication (advanced materials).

This is now a world of networks and alliances that can help materials suppliers become more firmly embedded in fast-growing market segments.

Companies seek not just growth areas in tried and tested consumer markets but the sort of break-out opportunities that will provide them with exceptional growth.

Not too long a go it might have taken decades for a new chemical technology to become firmly embedded and find the right market niche. The liquid crystals used in displays are a case in point.

But world markets are moving much faster. The advances expected in the next digital decade may prove to be unprecedented.

The Las Vegas show is all about gadgets, attracts some 100,000 visitors and has laid claim to be the world’s largest trade show. It demonstrates the fact that the markets behind the electronics revolution are huge and shifting.

And CES attracts a variety of firms, not just the gadget makers and big name IT suppliers.

Amongst the products debuting at the 2008 show has been LG.Philips new high resolution 14.3 inch colour E-paper display.

The glass and plastic substrate LCD display is approximately the size of a sheet of A 4 paper and is flexible enough to be rolled up.

And General Motors’ CEO Rick Wagoner has been in town to promote the Cadillac Provoq a concept vehicle with electronics powered by a roof-mounted solar panel, a hydrogen fuel cell and a lithium-ion battery.

The Provoq will also be shown at the Detroit Motor Show on 14 Jan.

The chemical companies’ role as molecules and materials suppliers to the auto industry may be well known but is changing.

There are new opportunities to supply not just the materials to help make automobiles more fuel efficient but to alter the concept of the car itself. 

Before fully electronic vehicles make a stronger presence on the world stage, chemical firms will play a role in helping develop cleaner, smarter vehicles and indeed fuels.

CES 2008 is a showcase for a world of opportunity and a world of changed material requirements. The clever chemical companies are those that can tap in most effectively to the profit streams that consumer electronics and other growth sectors of the economy help develop.

By: Nigel Davis
+44 20 8652 3214

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