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  • XSense Colorado Fab Tour & Video  30 comments
    Dec 2, 2013 9:15 AM | about stocks: ATML

    The Gazette

    Serving Colorado Springs & the Pikes Peak region since 1872

    Monday, December 2, 2013

    Atmel in Colorado Springs devotes part of plant to touchscreen technology

    "Taiwanese computer manufacturer ASUS became the first this year to incorporate XSense into a product, its 7-inch MeMO Pad tablet computer. Hewlett-Packard introduced a 10-inch Omni tablet that uses XSense last week and Atmel told stock analysts last month that it will soon begin generating sales from products made by other manufacturers that it did not identify."

    "XSense is being used in a smartphone with a 3.2-inch screen and tablet computers with 6-, 7- and 10-inch screens and that it could be used in a laptop computer with a screen of up to 15.6 inches."

    Price: "$2 to $25 for each unit, depending on the size of the screen on the device where it will be installed."

    "XSense offers thinner, lighter, faster and cheaper. We have cutting-edge technology that can be used in a flexible form (can be folded or bent) and high performance. This technology totally revolutionizes the way we go forward. If companies don't adopt the new technology, they will be left behind."

    The process

    "The rest of the manufacturing process includes sending the film through a bath of chemicals for conditioning, adding a protective layer and then testing each sensor before it is shipped to the mobile device manufacturer."

    Analysts Take

    "Craig Hettenbach, a technology analyst for Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC, estimated in October that Atmel could capture as much as 25 percent of the market for sensors in touchscreens 9 inches and larger within three years, representing $250 million in annual sales."

    Pictures

    (click to enlarge)Clean Room

    Plating line?

    (click to enlarge)

    The Visual Tester

    This is a standard vial tester by Northfield Automation Systems. This is probably done after the film has been printed and before the film is metalized.

    Also electrical test will be required after metalization.

    (click to enlarge)

    This pic didn't had a description - I think is just another visual test station.

    (click to enlarge)

    The Finisher (I think this step ads a protective film for shipping. "Adding a protective layer" )

    The Video

    YouTube: Atmel - A behind-the-scenes look at the XSEnse fab tour in Colorado Spings

    (click to enlarge)

    Plating Line

    (click to enlarge)

    (click to enlarge)

    Photo-Engraver (Opto-something...)

    (click to enlarge)

    Chemical bath? This section is an ad-on to the plating line.

    (click to enlarge)

    Here you can see the electrical test points of the sensor. These test point will be cut off during die cutting.

    (click to enlarge)

    Here you can see the electrical test. The tester clamps on the test points for the test.

    (click to enlarge)

    Disclosure: I am long ATML.

    Themes: UNXL Stocks: ATML
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Comments (30)
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  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
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    The optical? tester is from Northfield Automation Systems: http://bit.ly/IB8MQm see this image: http://bit.ly/IB8Ob1
    2 Dec 2013, 12:25 PM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    Not sure how the indicated pricing translates to price per sq ft, and/or whether it is just the sensor or whether it includes the controller.
    2 Dec 2013, 12:27 PM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    I believe the portion of the video between 0:55 and 1:01 shows the electrical testing, but uncertain of the model/manufacturer.
    2 Dec 2013, 03:09 PM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » So there is an optical and a electrical tester?
    The optical comes after photo-litho and the electrical after plating.
    2 Dec 2013, 03:44 PM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » The plating line is a Metalijet 6000 from CIT
    http://bit.ly/18iSSAC
    3 Dec 2013, 02:09 AM Reply Like
  • LindonT
    , contributor
    Comments (207) | Send Message
     
    Some may have missed Shahin Sharifzadeh demonstrating the XSense film in a video from The Gazette. All very well them saying its in smartphone & 6, 7 & 10 inch tablets but I can't say I'm particularly excited by a smartphone with only a 3.2 inch screen... hope they're not referring to the pre-validation Indian one!! Also the 7 inch tablet. the Asus trial? I understand HP have now confirmed XSense is in the 10 Omni so that probably accounts for the 10 inch tablet reference.... that leaves the 6inch tablet reference which at the moment distinctly underwhelmed! Atmel are presenting in London tomorrow ( 4/12) starts at 2.15 pm GMT. (Link for webcast below) Hoping we get more than same old, same old, but I've never seen any presentation yet that's any different!.

     

    Demo link: http://bit.ly/18kanRg

     

    webcast link: http://bit.ly/18kanRi
    3 Dec 2013, 02:20 PM Reply Like
  • LindonT
    , contributor
    Comments (207) | Send Message
     
    I'm not overly impressed either by their assertion that XSense COULD be used in laptops up to 15.6 inches. Not only does that seem to rule out any PO for a laptop at the moment but my impressions were that they could go larger than that. They have emphasised over & over again that the larger screen sizes are where they see the main differential for Xsense. OK... 15.6 is probably the most popular laptop size overall but ITO does the job for TS up to 13/14 inches, no problem. If 15.6 is all they can go to & taking silver solutions into account as well... its XSense that's gonna have a problem.

     

    Not sure what to make of the module assembly being done by ELK. Samsung are actually an investor in ELK. As Richard has quite rightly pointed out ELK, have also developed their own silver solution. There are of course many reports of the ODM's & others developing metal mesh solutions all boasting about the specs... 2 microns... sub microns etc. etc. but dont hear about anything about validation, trials, yeilds etc. There are now supposedly 189 other competitors!!! Maybe UNXL will make it a round 190!!! :) But ELK IS a strange one for Atmel to jump into bed with.
    3 Dec 2013, 03:13 PM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    LindonT: All the less-than-honest makers of ITO replacement films and sensors claim that the larger screen sizes are where they see their main differentiation. They argue that the price per inch (and per sq ft) is higher there and that ITO's supposedly high resistance limits its application there. However, the fact is that unit volumes for those larger size factors are minuscule in comparison to phone and tablet volumes. For example, the touch modules shipments of sizes 17 and larger will be less than 5 million this year - compare to about 1.2 billion of phone and about 200 million tablet touch modules shipped this year. The fact is, ITO accounts for over 90% of large-sized touch screens (3M, I believe has demoed even a 42 inch one!), the rest is IR and camera based, and only a few thousand units with silver nanowires from Cambrios and metal mesh from MNTech, Zytronic, and Visual Planet.
    3 Dec 2013, 03:42 PM Reply Like
  • LindonT
    , contributor
    Comments (207) | Send Message
     
    Richard... yes I know the larger screen arena is minuscule compared with mobiles & tablets, but I'm not really concerned about the size of the market XSense is going into. Millions, billions... it makes no real difference at the moment. Just taking one OEM... Asus for instance, are setting a 2014 shipping goal of 20 million notebooks. Notebooks, convertibles etc. are still a huge market. ITO has over 90% of total market but TS has been the preserve of small screens until very recently, the larger screens are only just starting to become touch... thanks mainly to Microsoft's insistence that it will only license win8 in devices with touch screens. The market size issue is probably more of a concern to Ivan simply because Atmel are a multi billion dollar company & need large orders for the revenue to make a real difference in their sp. I'm a Carclo investor, a VERY tiny company... i invest in them for their other attributes not just cit... but any half way decent sensor order will be transformational for Carclo. I don't have much faith in any company 'speak' they're all as bad as each other IMO but there is no doubt at all in my mind that Atmel need to much better than they have. The 10 year preferentail agreement set some pretty demanding targets for Atmel & there are a lot of serious UK investors who are not happy with Atmel & are raising questions about the wording of the preferentail side of the contract... hyping they are in 3.2 inch smartphones which sell for peanuts are not part of the deal... nor is probably one of the lowest volume 10 inch tablets on the planet... a 20 million notebook order from Asus might be :) Atmel need to start walking all the talk they are so good at doing!

     

    Richard, I would be interested to know what you make of ELK doing the assembly work for the Omni. I'm really puzzled on that one... It just seems to make no sense. I thought more likley a Chineese or Taiwanese back ender. Why would a Korean ODM with their own supposedly superior mesh agree to do that?
    3 Dec 2013, 05:34 PM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    LindonT: Asus will not ship 20 million touch enabled notebooks in 2014, that is a 100% certainty. The reason is simple - touch makes no sense on notebooks (for reason such as poor ergonomics aka "gorilla arm" and the hit on display brightess/battery life, not just extra cost). This year there will be about 20 million touch notebooks shipped, in total, of which Asus' share will be 3 million or so, at best. Touch penetration in notebooks has already stagnated, and notebook units in general are declining. That is not a huge market - for example, just Atmel's $100 million projected capacity in 2014 is equivalent to about 7 million notebook units, or about 1/3 of the market in 2014 (note that the majority of touch-enabled notebooks shipped are concentrated in the smaller, 10-13 inch sizes).

     

    As I mentioned before, ELK had its own silver metal mesh development program, and had expectations for products on shelf in Q3 this year - it apparently failed and it is now trying to salvage whatever is left of that program. So it seems that IncTek/MNtech have won the metal mesh market, whatever is left of it now, and even LG's latest entry is probably not going to change that.
    3 Dec 2013, 06:16 PM Reply Like
  • LindonT
    , contributor
    Comments (207) | Send Message
     
    Richard... Thanks for your thoughts regarding ELK. Here's a link to a resolution of 'gorrila arm' when using large screens & also a link to a digitimes report about Asus expectations for next year,

     

    http://bit.ly/1cXiplx

     

    http://bit.ly/1cXiqGd
    3 Dec 2013, 06:54 PM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    LindonT: Yes, I consider the thin keyboard an obvious admission of failure of Atmel/Carclo in the touch screen business. A thin keyboard is nothing more than a non-transparent touchpad - that is, it can be manufactured with existing technology by many vendors (equivalent to the silver bezel traces on ITO touch modules which are printed with a screen-printing process).

     

    The Digitimes article talks about Asus' 2014 goal for all its notebooks, not just touch-enabled notebooks. On average, only about 10% of notebooks will be touch enabled this year (although that % may be a bit higher for Asus). Based on what happened in the past six months, I doubt that the percentage will be much higher next year, and demand for notebooks, in general, is declining.
    3 Dec 2013, 08:31 PM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Richard

     

    I agree, laptops are laptops and tablets are tablets. There is no much need for touch in laptops but I see hybrid and bigger tablets coming to the market. The key is to bring costs down.

     

    Touch in laptops could become a staple if it becomes cheap enough. Like something that you don't need but you want to have.
    4 Dec 2013, 04:43 AM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » I think the reason that CRS selected CIT for the paperthin keyboard is because it happens that both companies are based in Cambridge U.K. and it was easier for CRS to deal with CIT for its printed lectronics needs.

     

    I don't think this is an admision but it is merely an example of the versatility of XSense being used in many different areas of the industry.
    4 Dec 2013, 10:12 AM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » I did some up-dates on the blog. The CIT plating line has an ad-on that I think it is the film conditioner/cleaner. I think that the film cleaning and plating is done rool-to-rool in one step.
    4 Dec 2013, 04:35 AM Reply Like
  • LindonT
    , contributor
    Comments (207) | Send Message
     
    Ivan... yes laptops are laptops... & desktops are desktops... but one way of bringing down those costs very substantially are to do away with a mechanical keyboard & touch pad. A flat paper thin touch sensor which faithfully replicates all the usual touch, zoom, pinch, slide options etc. would be an enormous saving... also on shipping weight & packaging etc. The possibilities are are endless. One could imagine that in the future ALL pc type devices being glorified tablets whatever the size of screen!
    4 Dec 2013, 08:37 AM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » You forget replacing all the buttoms and volume rocker with XSense could bring about greater cost savings.
    I'm very interested on that finger print technology that the Atmel CFO talked about during the last conference.
    I'm also very interested in wearable technology.
    Not only XSense but Atmel has also very power efficient micro-controllers and RF transcivers to engage this new market.
    Keyboards... I don't think the physical keyboard will ever go away because it gives you tactil feedback and orientation.
    A paper thin key board is interesting but the magic of XSense is transparency and you don't need tranparency in a keyboard.
    4 Dec 2013, 09:43 AM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    Ivan: Alps Electric has had a thin and transparent capacitive fingerprint sensor for almost 10 years.
    4 Dec 2013, 10:14 AM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Cool!
    My point is that instead of using multiple parts a single XSense could do it all.
    4 Dec 2013, 11:07 AM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    Ivan: I don't think a fingerprint sensor can be combined with a touch screen easily (the required electrode pattern and length are different). It is possible however to print or etch both the touch sensor and the fingerprint sensor on one substrate sheet (the fingerprint sensor on the bottom, for example), which I guess may save costs. But I don't see why it can't be done with ITO.
    4 Dec 2013, 11:24 AM Reply Like
  • LindonT
    , contributor
    Comments (207) | Send Message
     
    Listening to Atmel's presentation earlier today... there is no doubt that touch is being driven into large screens... Microsoft & Intel are insisting on it... as the guy said today... It's gonna happen! Dont confuse the Bluetooth smart wireless keyboard that you can also draw & sketch on or turn different areas of your desk into touch areas.... with XSense, 10 year old sensors or inflexible ITO... they may be transparent & they may be sensors but that's where the similarity ends. This is just one example in one industry... of where flexible printed electronics are being developed, fingerprint sensing will all be apart of it. As for the PC/ mobile space... In cell modules rather than screens look like being the future.
    4 Dec 2013, 02:04 PM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    LindonT: Microsoft and Intel may be insisting, but the customers are resisting, just as they resisted various other half-baked ideas by these two companies in the past.

     

    ITO is flexible. For example, LG G Flex phone uses ITO. Also, every resistive-touch sensor, which flexes every time the finger touches it, uses ITO.

     

    If in-cell module are to win, then this means the end for XSense, which is not in-cell.
    4 Dec 2013, 03:23 PM Reply Like
  • LindonT
    , contributor
    Comments (207) | Send Message
     
    Richard... XSense is suitable for in cell applications as I'm sure you are aware. It's also being developed at the present time for on cell. I'm also sure your aware that the LG/Google Nexus 5 is in cell.
    http://bit.ly/1g7S7T3~/media/Files/C/Conduc... http://bit.ly/1g7S7T7
    4 Dec 2013, 06:57 PM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    LindonT: In-cell means the sensor is in the actual LCD - the sensor uses the same electrodes that drive the display. So unless Atmel is going in the LCD manufacturing business, XSense is not suitable for in-cell applications. LG/Google Nexus 5 uses ITO for both its in-cell touch sensor and its display.
    4 Dec 2013, 09:23 PM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Actually CIT has been working into using Fine Line Technology for display manufacturing.
    And in-cell still needs a second layer of ITO to work properly. Only one layer is replaced by the display circuitry.
    All what in-cell does is save one layer of ITO.
    CIT believes they can uses FLT to interconnect the display circuitry in back. The problem they are facing is planarisation.
    5 Dec 2013, 09:02 AM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    Ivan: You are mixing up hybrid in-cell with true in-cell. Please read after page 163 here: http://bit.ly/QKP3N0 True in-cell does not require a second layer of ITO. In in-cell, the electrodes are already there - the only way CIT can enter the true in-cell market is if it can also print transistors that compare favorably on size, performance, and cost to current transistors in LCDs. If CIT could do that, CIT would be the world leader in LCD manufacturing, not a tiny, obscure UK company.
    5 Dec 2013, 09:21 AM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » Thank you for teaching me about this new generation of in-cell that is all integrated into the TFT array.
    It used to be only hybrid in-cell before.
    5 Dec 2013, 02:52 PM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » It seems that Samsung thinks that metal mesh is the way to go:

     

    "Samsung is expected to focus on the tablet market next year, and a report published in the Korean media suggests the company is working on changing its display technology for tablets. Samsung is reportedly planning on adopting metal mesh touch screen panels, and has begun testing a few panels for approval, aiming to complete the reliability tests by the end of 2013.

     

    The metal mesh panels have a couple of benefits. They have low surface resistance, which means they’re easily bendable and usable for flexible displays on tablets, and are cheaper to produce. Furthermore, metal mesh panels will also allow Samsung to implement stylus recognition without the need for a dedicated digitizer chip – the lack of a dedicated chip is another factor that will reduce cost, and will also let the manufacturer implement stylus support in more tablets than just premium/high-end ones.

     

    Along with rumors that Samsung will be bringing back AMOLED screens for tablets, the idea of cheaper tablets that come with stylus input even when they’re not flagship devices sounds pretty cool, so let’s hope tablets making use of the above mentioned technologies come out as soon as possible.
    5 Dec 2013, 02:54 PM Reply Like
  • Richard X Roe
    , contributor
    Comments (939) | Send Message
     
    Ivan: Samsung adopted metal mesh in 2012. Do you know how many units with metal mesh did it sell this year (as of September end)? I will give you a hint - its exclusive metal mesh supplier is a public company that discloses unit capacity and its utilization each quarter.

     

    ITO is easily bendable - LG G Flex uses ITO. Metal mesh, especially on module level, is more expensive to produce than ITO. There has been no need for a dedicated digitizer chip for quite some time - all resistive touch sensors made of ITO, and associated touch controllers, allow for stylus recognition without a dedicated digitizer chip. Same for capacity touch sensors made of ITO and active stylus offered by Synaptics, Atmel, N-Trig, etc, etc.

     

    You should really learn more about touch sensors and touch controllers, if you are interested in the companies that make them.
    5 Dec 2013, 03:26 PM Reply Like
  • Ivan Jimenez
    , contributor
    Comments (391) | Send Message
     
    Author’s reply » "The more I know the more I know that I know nothing"
    - Socrates
    6 Dec 2013, 01:22 PM Reply Like
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