A low cost, indigenous rubbing machine, that plays a key role in the manufacture of Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs), has been designed and developed by researchers of the University of Hyderabad (UoH), here.

LCDs are used in all electronic devices like TVs, laptops, computers, cell phones and many household devices today. Rubbing ensures the proper anchoring of the liquid crystal, a component required for visual image production, said the UoH researchers.

Globally, the display manufacturing industries use large rubbing machines for in-house production as well as research and development purposes. In contrast, researchers in India rely on manual rubbing process with not so well reproducible results, they said.

According to Surajit Dhara of UoH, the team leader the rubbing machine they designed is simple to operate, portable, and inexpensive. ThoughLCDs are not manufactured in India as yet the advent of this technology is a step forward and can spur domestic market growth, he felt.

The UoH is in advanced stages of negotiating with the Kochi-based, Holmarc Opto-Mechatronics Pvt. Ltd. to transfer the technology. The company specialises in making lab equipment, optical devices, teaching aids etc. and helped the University in the fabrication. “We want Indian companies to come forward and take this technology for manufacture as the market for LCD is huge and will grow exponentially in the near future” , Surajit said.

The rubbing device will also find application for R&D purposes—for making prototypes and in studying fundamental aspects of liquid crystals & LC based devices. At present manual methods are used in the Indian context.

It is expected that the machine will not only encourage LCDs fabrication in India but will also significantly lower the production cost. The UoH is also in the process of applying for an Indian patent, Surajit told BusinessLine.

The cost of the machine developed with part funding from the Department of Science and Technology is more than ten times cheaper than the similar ones available in the foreign market. The present global LCD market is about $150 billions and expected to increase to $200 b by next five years, he said.

LCD screens are manufactured by assembling two transparent electrically conducting glass substrates in which the liquid crystal is confined. Aligning the sandwiched liquid crystal in a twisted fashion is very crucial for LCDs fabrication. The steps involved in creating the alignment layer include deposition of a thin layer of polymer, thermal treatment and a controlled uni-directional mechanical rubbing using soft velvet. The rubbing process creates microgrooves, where the liquid crystals get in, and so, a required alignment of liquid crystals is achieved over the entire LCD. Thus a uniform rubbing of substrate is very crucial for LCDs, he explained.