Digital display industry consultant Alan Brawn recently said, “nowhere have I seen it more true that you get what you pay for [than] in the total cost of ownership and service of a direct view LED supplier.” Though the technology is quite complex, the value dynamic in the industry is quite simple. NanoLumens conducted a brief survey of customers, integrators, and design partners to gauge what the digital display community understood about this value dynamic. The results yielded the primary conclusion that people would like LED displays improve their pricing but that they simultaneously want improvement on several other performance-related fronts as well.
The problem with wanting both low prices and cutting-edge performance levels is that manufacturers usually can’t provide both. This dichotomy rings true across all industries. So which should customers choose? Turns out, with NanoLumens, they don’t have to make that choice.
Considering Total Cost of Ownership
There’s an oft-used metaphor that details the footwear purchases of a rich man and a poor man. While the rich man can afford an expensive pair of boots that will last him many years, the poor man has to repeatedly buy and replace cheaper boots, over time forcing him to spend more money for a lesser solution. From the perspective of the two customers, particularly the poor man, this appears counterintuitive. The pricy boots are not actually pricier and the cheap boots are not actually cheaper. Though commonly employed to demonstrate other concepts, when viewed through the lens of the digital display industry, this metaphor perfectly illustrates the importance of considering a product’s total cost of ownership.
Just like the shoddier boots, lower-end display technologies may seem like the best option at first glance. Their prices look practical, their performance seems on par with the competition, and their manufacturers advertise their technology can get the job done. They assure customers not to overthink things. What manufactures, integrators, and savvy customers know however is that in this field, “good enough,” is never actually quite good enough; something is always missing. While we strive to keep our costs down, prioritizing price above all else forces manufacturers to jettison many of the features that make their technology worth acquiring in the first place. This tradeoff is captured by a quote often credited to both Benjamin Franklin and Aldo Gucci that reads, “[t]he bitterness of poor quality is remembered long after the sweetness of low price has faded from memory.” By chasing a particular price point in recent decades, the LCD industry left customers exposed to Franklin’s (or Gucci’s) predicted pitfall.
Instead of luring in customers with tempting up-front cost cuts, NanoLumens delivers the newest innovations at the best value. We aim to give customers the strongest possible return on their investment by optimizing the total cost of ownership of our display solutions. What that means in practice can be complicated, and we’re likely not the only company to advertise it as a goal. Boastful claims from manufacturers about display lifespan, repair rates, and efficiency are ubiquitous in this industry, and talks of expected lamp life, diode consistency, and other technical vernacular can confuse even experienced buyers. We contend the only sure way to navigate a path to purchase in such an environment is to demand that manufacturers explain and prove their claims. The following subsections detail a few areas where NanoLumens strives to provide value for our customers. Others may claim to innovate in similar ways, but as we said above, ask them (and us) to prove it.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right? Well, the same sentiment can be applied to a digital display. Each diode made in a given production run will exhibit tiny variances from the others in its bin, despite the fact that they were all created with the same materials in an MOCVD reactor. For this reason, manufacturers sort newly created diodes through a classification process that groups together performance-similar diodes. This process is called “binning.” NanoLumens purchases only the diodes from within bins that meet end display performance requirements. This precision is justified when comparing NanoLumens display color consistency to that of less meticulous manufacturers. It also delays recurring calibration processes, leading to longer display lifespans in use.
The color consistency of our displays is related to the consistency of our diodes, but even more specifically, it depends on the uniformity in luminance of our dies. The deviation between dies impacts elements of the completed display like color distribution and brightness. The levels of energy that can be accommodated by each die, and thus the resulting levels of brightness, are a function of their surface area. The larger the surface area of the die, the more expensive it will be. By purchasing dies of larger size and of narrower deviation, we increase cost but further increase brightness. This is another element contributing to display longevity.
As a further part of the manufacturing process, NanoLumens packages certain diodes with polyphthalamide (PPA) material on a lead frame. Though recycled PPA material could be used for this, we only use virgin materials to reduce the rate of structural fatigue and moisture egress. Further, when performing the die attachment and encapsulation processes, we use only specific types of epoxies. Important for assuring conductivity, viewing angle, moisture defense, and other details, these epoxies run at a higher cost than their generic substitutes. This improves durability and structural integrity to protect against the emergence of hidden maintenance costs in the future.
NanoLumens is the only manufacturer that uses frame/skin topology for our seamlessly curved displays. This freeform design methodology requires a bit more legwork, but it allows for dramatically more creative and continuous display styles. This unique designability creates distinctive features on which advertisers will pay more to showcase content.
Customers and integrators alike express concerns over hidden costs related to mounting. These expenses could have to do with excess weight, gaps in the cabinets, or complications stemming from use of a third-party mount. Unless told otherwise by a customer or integrator, we usually mount directly to structure. This eliminates the confusion and complication that lead to unexpected expenses.
The color space of a display is a mathematical representation of the colors that it can accurately recreate. It shows, in simple terms, how close to real life a display is able to get. Due in part to our meticulous binning process, NanoLumens displays can be built with a native color space that is wider and richer than the two traditional industry standards, Rec709 and DCI-P3. The involved technology is improving every year and thus so are we, accepting of the related cost increases. Digital displays are pushing their native color spaces closer and closer to the limits of the visible color space. NanoLumens is at the forefront of this mission, and we hope one day to be able to show content indistinguishable from reality.
Size and Shape Customization
The reason we build our displays in any size, shape, or curvature is not because everyone needs a unique display solution, but because someone might. Doing the same thing as everyone else isn’t going to get you noticed, and the entire point of an LED display is to be noticed. We don’t know what sort of installation our customers are going to want, but we want to give them the ability to have it, whatever it may be. The customizability of our display solutions nurtures a productive relationship with artists, architects, and designers, who appreciate the ability to work without limitations. Rolling standard-sized displays off the shelf would be cheaper, but standard is not what our customers want.
We protect our displays with an industry-leading six-year warranty that covers service down to the individual pixel, and our American-based support staff is on-hand 24/7. When purchasing a display, customers should not look for a product, but a partnership. If customers choose the right manufacturing partner, buying the display won’t be their last interaction. They will continue to receive timely upgrades, education and training, local service and support, and a long-term relationship that they can rely on. As we’ve said, display technology is complex. It is important to have someone you can call whenever you have questions.
While our warranty will protect a NanoLumens LED display even six years after the day you bought it, other manufacturers, particularly of the LCD variety, are unable to offer such a warranty. This is in part because after so many years they likely won’t even have the proper model in stock anymore. If a few years pass and your LCD videowall needs a product replacement, you may be out of luck. With NanoLumens, that is not going to happen. We provide a partnership, not just a product.
Give Your Input!
While our products may appear more expensive at first, their total cost of ownership over their long lifetime improves upon what competitors offer, especially given the dramatically stronger performance of our solutions. The fields listed above are but a snapshot of how we go about providing value, but we encourage our customers to press us to prove these claims. We know we’ll be able to; our competitors, that remains to be seen.
Hoping to learn the opinions and expectations of even more industry members, we are conducting our survey again. We encourage everyone to take part in it, as the more respondents we have, the stronger the data will become. You can find the new survey here.