Holographic Displays Bid to Replace Car Dashboards

Article By : Anne-Françoise Pelé

Holography is another way to look at the road.

Holography is another way to look at the road. Many car models now use head-up displays (HUDs) to provide information to drivers and keep their attention on the road, reducing the risk of accidents due to distraction. St-Andrews, Scotland-based Ceres Holographics has showcased a full-scale replication system for producing 1500mm width holographic films in high volume, enabling holographic transparent displays and augmented reality-HUDs (AR-HUD) for windshields.

Ceres Holographics announced it has strengthened its partnership with German-based Covestro to accelerate the commercialization of its holographic-enabled display solutions and established a new facility in Livingston, Scotland.

Holographic Windshield
Covestro and Ceres Holographics are expanding their collaboration to make transparent displays with volume holographic optical elements suitable for use in the automotive industry, for example. (Image source: Ceres Holographics/Covestro)

Long-awaited debut

Holography has been around for almost three quarters of a century and has yet to find a large-scale application. Could automotive displays change the game and prove the value of this technology? In a discussion with EE Times Europe, Andy Travers, CEO of Ceres Holographics, answered this question and more.

“While there is no doubt that new holographic applications are made possible due to the increased computing power available in GPUs and mobile devices, it is really the lack of a suitable stable, environment-friendly holographic material that has limited their possibility,” said Travers. “That is being addressed with the emergence in the main of the Bayfol HX material from Covestro” and others.

The immediate applications are related to AR and Transparent Display applications across automotive and consumer, he added.

Expanding holographic display collaboration

Ceres, whose goal is to create an ecosystem around holography, has built a long-standing partnership with Covestro and is now forging tighter ties. Ceres’ precision-engineered Holographic Optical elements (HOEs) and Covestro’s Bayfol HX photopolymer combine to create next-generation transparent display applications. Covestro’s light-guiding photopolymer indeed enables Ceres to produce its HoloFlekt films in volume for holographic display solutions.

Travers commented, “Ceres is developing the design, mastering, and replication technology into Covestro’s blank Bayfol HX which comes on a variety of substrates. Covestro are customizing the substrate and photopolymer ‘film-stack’ for automotive applications and integration into windshields, etc.”

Ceres replication technology will be optimized to let partners around the world manufacture the final HoloFlekt films, he said. “There are other elements to a whole system – some are hardware stack related (LED and laser-based projectors which shine content on the holographic optical elements) and some are software/firmware stack related (i.e., the content generation to project and the image correction needed).

Ceres said it is working with companies and partners to help them design the projectors and content correctly so that the entire system works optimally.

In this configuration, Ceres’ HoloFlekt film, coupled with a Texas Instruments DLP-based projector enables the display of full RGB color content on a windshield. (Image source: Ceres Holographics)

A volume manufacturing facility

The volume production of HOEs requires special equipment. The full-size production equipment for the volume production and replication of Ceres holographic films was recently installed at a purpose-built 8,000-square foot facility in Livingston, Scotland. It cost £2 million (about €2.4 million) to develop and received £1.2 million (about €1.4 million° from the EU H2020 funding program for innovation.

The roll-to-roll (R2R) industrialized replication machine, which arrived in the first week of December, is being installed and tested and should be operational within the next few weeks. “It is in the process of having the optical head fitted and aligned,” said Travers. “It will be operational before the end of 2021.”

Ceres’ industrialized roll-to-roll printer can produce its HoloFlekt films at full width for next-generation display applications (Image source: Ceres Holographics)

The facility is “a mix of system and HOE design space, mastering machines for transparent display and AR-HUD, and one full-size replication R2R machine,” said Travers. “The latter is the ‘blueprint’ of the machines we will license and build with partners around the world.”

The new manufacturing facility will allow Ceres to scale its technology. It is difficult to comment on volumes at this stage, as “estimates vary every time we meet new potential customers who express serious interest for one, two, or three displays per car. But we are targeting over 2 million vehicles by 2025 and 10 million by 2030.”

Travers said the mid-term objective is to build enough capacity at the Livingston facility to meet early prototype and industrial readiness with key windshield supply chain partners. The long-term objective is to license the machine technology worldwide and supply the masters from Livingston and regroup recurring license and royalty revenues.

Ceres is headquartered in St. Andrews, a small town on the east coast of Scotland and known for the 600-year-old University of St. Andrew. Ceres has no particular connection with the university and continues “to explore relationships with any University in the U.K. or worldwide,” said Travers.

The facility is, however, located in Livingston, near Edinburgh, to simplify access to visiting customers and partners and to make recruitment of highly qualified engineering staff from the Central Belt easier.

Beyond mobility

When asked to project five years into the future, Travers said, “As well as meeting the volume targets for Transparent Display into automotive, commercial trucking, aircraft, and other vehicles, and recruiting to meet those targets, we see the application focus expanding into other areas beyond mobility that can use the HoloFLekt films and then beyond into other applications that can be satisfied with reflection volume holograms.”

This article was originally published on EE Times Europe.

Anne-Françoise Pelé is editor-in-chief of eetimes.eu and EE Times Europe.


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