Ever since LCDs and Plasmas began penetrating the rental and staging business, end-users of these products were faced with the dilemma of losses due to damaged inventory. Monitor owners were subjecting their panels to road-warrior type hazards that were not part of the manufacturers original concept for stationary TVs and desktop displays. These new hazards varied from: vibration in continued shipping, rough handling during setup, scratches and dings in the front panel surface, to brightness decay and driver IC failure from industrial-level usage rates. The challenge has become how to repair monitors for an economical price after it has failed in the field.
The Evolution Of Flat Panel Monitor Repair
LCD manufacturers were initially stumped when their customers started to return notebooks and flat panel displays with LCD failures in large numbers. The intrinsic value of early LCDs in notebooks comprised the major cost of its components, and the OEMs were forced to replace expensive failed LCDs with new ones, until a small group of engineers in California started to look into the possibility of repairing LCDs. These engineers wrestled with the many different models of LCDs and Plasmas, each with its own unique interface requirements, and the various elements within a panel that could fail. It was a daunting task as there were a multitude of unique technologies that had to be developed. Over the next few years they developed and optimized technologies, equipment and processes they created and that became the standard of the industry.
Initially the OEMs were reluctant to see panels repaired vs. selling a new unit and did not supply new parts so the engineers had to create refurbishing technology to recycle used parts from salvaged panels. However, the quality of the repairs and the economics of repair vs. replacement eventually won over the manufacturers even to the point that now several OEMs of both LCD and Plasma monitor panels look to these California boys as their certified in-warranty repair provider and supply them with factory parts for returning panels to good-as-new status.
Over the last several years they have developed the technologies, equipment, processes, and facilities to analyze, remove, refurbish and re-bond drivers mounted on delicate flex-circuits located around the periphery of the glass sandwich. High-Def monitors have spacing between circuits that is less than half the width of a human hair. This has been found to be one of the most common repair necessities with LCD monitors and Plasmas when lines or whole sections of the screen are disrupted due to excess vibration or rough handling during shipping and setup.
Frequently, in the rental industry, scratching of the monitor surface makes polarizer replacement for LCDs and optical glass replacement for plasmas critical. Therefore, new technologies and equipment were also developed to remove a damaged polarizer without damaging the fragile LCD glass-sandwich and to determine the exact optical angle of the optical axis before one could develop specifications for a replacement polarizer.
Repair Environment: Its All About The Yield!
The front runner in the flat panel repair industry is Displaytronix, Inc. (www.displaytronix.com) in Oxnard, CA, where the fathers of LCD repair, Phil Tomasi and Bob Wentworth, continue to evolve the engineering of flat panel repair technology ahead of the fast pace of new product offerings by the OEMs, including current capacity development for repairing monitors as large as 65 inches and beyond.
Walking into Displaytronix is like walking into Willie Wonkas sterile Wonkavision room.
Unlike traditional repair houses, Displaytronix is somewhat of a maverick inasmuch as it chose a repair environment that more closely resembles a highly organized, antiseptic environment. When one enters this company, one gets the feeling of being in an OEM house rather than a repair house. This orderly and ultra clean, ISO-9001:2000 environment, including a class-1000 clean room, and class-10 flow hoods promote high quality. Just walking through this plant one can feel that process control drives every function and sets the stage to improve quality, which enhances the repair yield.
CEO Bill Barber focuses on the yield for the following reason: For our customers, the yield is as key factor that affects the repair price. For repairable failures our yield average has always been by far the industry best at 98 percent. This gives our customers the best return for their money and makes us both the quality leader as well as the price leader.
The net result for Displaytronix is that their repairs are now factory certified by several major OEMs even for In-Warranty repair. Displaytronix has developed, integrated, and currently utilizes solutions to more than 800 different panel models that have come through their doors over the years. Even though the notebook market has been refurbishing panels for the last 10 years using their technology, the rental and staging market is really just finding out about them now. We didnt know these display elements were even repairable until Displaytronix showed us their results. We had damaged inventory we thought we had to scrap that we are now sending back to the field, said Dan Ellis of Background Images, Inc.
Of course, certain damage does render a panel totally un-repairable. For example, cracked glass cannot be repaired; however, even non-repairable panels can provide salvageable parts for use in other identical panels and bring the price of repair down.
The Value Of Repair vs. Replacement
As larger and larger monitors become the standard in the industry, Rental and staging companies have more and more dollars tied up in critical inventory. Even as monitor prices drop, the replacement costs, lost revenue, storage costs, and the cost of unhappy customers make the cost-effective solution of repairing failed monitors a valuable investment. In most cases repairing a monitor can be done for less than 25 percent of the replacement cost. And the results are excellent. Multiple repairs are feasible throughout the life cycle of an individual monitor (still at fractions of the replacement cost) and discontinued monitor models can be repaired to maintain matching inventory. When your ROI depends on maintaining a useable batch of flat panel inventory, the repair process is the way to get the most out of your investment.
Additional Impact On the Bottom Line
There is also a measurable benefit to the repair vs. replace equation when it comes to taxation. Repairs can be expensed as opposed to capitalized, so the cost of recovering a panel is deductible. No new asset purchase means no new sales tax, the repair is an expensed write-down on taxable income and the end result -- functional inventory and improved ROI!