CHICAGO — A GE Plastics unit and a Sunnyvale, Calif., high-technology start-up firm aim to revolutionize large flat-panel and rear-projection systems with a new, ``reasonably priced'' display technology known as BlackScreen.
GE Plastics is displaying a BlackScreen panel measuring 55 diagonal inches, a 39-inch square, in NPE Booth S2311. The panel shows a video clip highlighting digital versatile disc technology.
The panel's combination of black and clear plastic layers absorbs ambient light, enhancing visual properties and offering a nearly 180-degree viewing angle, even in bright sunlight, according to the developer, Jenmar Visual Systems. The firm is working on agreements with original equipment manufacturers and may deliver consumer products within a year. BlackScreen for high-end commercial applications is available now.
Projection is ``almost photographic in quality'' and can deliver large-screen-television images with the clarity of those in a motion picture theater, John DiLoreto, Jenmar vice president of sales and marketing, said in an interview.
``Customers have measured ambient reflection at significantly less than 1 percent. Other technologies provide a `milky' appearance due to reflectance levels six to 10 times higher.''
A BlackScreen has a tightly packed monolayer of optical beads that are embedded in a black resin — a proprietary chemical formulation — in a web coating process, DiLoreto said.
The beaded film is bonded to one of GE Plastics' clear Lexan polycarbonate sheets or film to make a thin or thick screen to suit the end use.
``All steps in the process utilize well-precedented manufacturing methods and materials,'' DiLoreto said.
Jenmar vendors can make BlackScreen panels measuring, for now, up to 80 diagonal inches.
This project is in ``the beginning portion of the [product] curve, and we see potential in promoting'' it, said Dan Bennett, GE Plastics' Structured Products industry manager for computer, electronics and information systems in Pittsfield, Mass. Structured Products is a custom sheet and film extruder.
GE Capital Services, another General Electric Co. operation, is a possible financing source for the project.
Pittsfield-based GE Plastics and Jenmar began working together in mid-1996 prior to the publication of a U.S. patent on the BlackScreen geometry and technology in October.
``We are asked frequently'' to help companies bring a technology to market, Bennett said. ``The timing is perfect for both companies.''
Initial target markets include home theater television sets and ``a couple hundred'' audio visual dealers and lessors of outdoor projection systems and corporate installations, DiLoreto said. ``GE has existing customers with a need for this'' technology.
In early June, Synelec SA of St. Sernin-sur-Rance, France, displayed a 50-inch Jenmar BlackScreen as part of a definitive video wall in Los Angeles at the Infocom digital imagery trade show.
The wall, mostly for high-end military, industrial and entertainment command-and-control applications, included a new light processor from Texas Instruments Inc.'s digital imaging division in Dallas.
DiLoreto meets regularly with prospective corporate and private investors and is collecting leads from dealers. He likened the current development stage to sitting on ``top of a huge iceberg'' with pricing ``at the high end'' for the moment.
BlackScreen, however, is ``something reasonably priced and incredibly well-performing'' on the basis of ``high resolution, high contrast, wide viewing angle and ambient light rejection,'' DiLoreto said. He characterized the panel as ``the first high-performance, low-cost, rear-projection screen,'' while declining to supply any prices.
Potential applications include large-screen visual displays, a new generation of computer monitors, computer-aided design and manufacturing systems and small versions of projection television sets measuring 20-30 diagonal inches.