Cell phones with touch panels are the latest trend and not just in Asia. Thanks to product development in Suzhou, China, SCHOTT now offers a new cover glass for them (photo left below). Photo: SCHOTT/A. Sell
At Eye Level with Asia
SCHOTT’s Customer Technical Service Centers are proving to be competitive motors for product development. The successful introduction of cover glasses for touch panels is only one example.
Cell phones are certainly no mayflies, but their model life often expires after only about six months. Here, it is all the more surprising that the components used in these short-lived devices must travel through many different countries in order to be manufactured. The supply chains often run through half of Asia, the main region for producing consumer electronics. The individual modules are completed in stages by being sent from one processor to the next. Given the short product cycles in the mobile phone industry, there isn’t much time for this.
Photo: SCHOTT/A. Sell
The SCHOTT Customer Technical Service Centers (CTSCs) in Asia are increasingly taking over this key local role in direct technical customer support and application development. Their service portfolio includes analytical laboratory and measurement services, prototyping and application development, but also establishing contacts to research institutes and companies from all over Asia. The first CTSC in Suzhou, China, has been offering this service since the spring of 2007. In the meantime, sites have been added in Minakuchi, Japan, and, most recently, Seoul, South Korea. The qualified CTSC team of engineers, scientists and technicians now consists of around 40 permanent employees and freelancers – and counting.
And there are plenty of good reasons to expand it. Optical technologies like the ones SCHOTT develops and uses are becoming innovative pacemakers in many areas of industry. According to the trade association Spectaris, the world market for products based on optical technologies was worth more than 210 billion euros a few years ago and is expected to grow to 439 billion by 2015. Potential lies mainly in the areas of consumer electronics and information technology, where Asia is leading the way. Here, China, a country that has grown from being the workbench for countries like Japan, Korea and Taiwan to become a region for producing technological developments and a market, offers a lot of chances. And with increased competition in Asia, the responsibilities and importance of the CTSCs that work closely with both sales and customers have continually grown too.
SCHOTT has nine production sites and 13 Corporate & Sales Offices in Asia
(including Sales Offices in Tel Aviv/Israel and Dubai / UAE) with around 2,700 employees.
The lithium aluminosilicate glass SCHOTT LAS80 offers high chemical and mechanical resistance and excellent surface quality. Photo: SCHOTT/ R. Weitnauer
This know-how has also made a major contribution towards the success of applications. Commercialization of SCHOTT LAS80 together with well-known Asian manufacturers of cell phones is underway. Large scale production of glass is scheduled to start in the spring of 2011. For SCHOTT, this represents a promising business because touch-sensitive screens are becoming increasingly popular. Global proceeds from the sale of touch screen modules climbed to 4.3 billion dollars already in 2009. The market research firm DisplaySearch expects sales to increase by 18 percent per year to 14 billion dollars by 2016.
The SCHOTT CTSCs will continue to grow as a result of these developments. “In the meantime, we are working for almost every SCHOTT Business Unit and plan to intensify the development of applications and products in specific fields even further. We will be adding new personnel in certain areas to achieve this,” José Zimmer says. Lutz Grübel also stands to benefit: “The comments from our Asian customers clearly show that sales are not the only area that is benefiting from working with the CTSCs. Many of our customers are surprised by how quickly we are able to react at the technological level.” At eye level with the local competition.
SCHOTT LAS80 is a lithium aluminosilicate glass that offers many qualities for use as a cover glass for the touch panels of smart phones and cell phones, portable gaming consoles, e-books, cameras, camcorders, laptops and desktop monitors. Manufactured using the microfloat process, it offers high chemical resistance and outstanding surface quality.
SCHOTT LAS80 is chemically strengthened using potassium nitrate, among other substances, to instill extremely high surface strength and up to five times higher breakage resistance than conventional flat glass. Some of its features can even be customized during manufacturing. The low transformation temperature is also of advantage in efficiently manufacturing 3D glass geometries with hot forming technologies. This opens up chances for new designs in cell phones and lowers the manufacturing costs.
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