As the product design lifecycle becomes more digitized, engineers spend their days looking at screens. Viewing files on a screen makes it easier to manipulate 3D CAD data and make changes to digital files; but that also means hardware manufacturers must ensure crisp color quality, ease of use and advanced interfaces.
“In the last couple of years, most of the technology advancements–and in-the-near future–will be about the resolution, size and aspect ratio,” says Kenneth Mau, senior product marketing manager at ViewSonic.
Currently, standard resolution for HD displays is set at 1080p. With advancing display technologies and standards, more manufacturers are moving to 4K, which measures pixels horizontally and calculates a higher number of pixels and an average resolution of 3840×2160.
Despite the fact that there has been more of a push for these high-density resolutions for consumer-based applications, Mau says 4K screens offer professionals the ability to display finer details and more content, taking advantage of available display space.
Selecting a Screen
When looking at monitor selections, there are a number of factors to take into consideration before making a selection, according to Mitch Callihan, director, Commercial Displays Business Unit, HP. These include: quality, reliability, screen performance of the display (that is if the display is designed for the demands of engineering applications), warranty, bezel design, display size, resolution, color accuracy, connections, panel shape and 3D stereo capabilities.
“Any one of these, or a combination of these, display aspects can dramatically improve productivity, accuracy and quality of the work that is performed at the desk,” Callihan explains.
Chris Wang, business line management, Monitors at BenQ America, agrees. “[The] right monitor that offers ergonomic adjustments and eye protection means work can be done more comfortably, especially as engineers have to spend hours working on their computers,” he says.
With traditional desktop monitors, engineers can also find solutions that integrate touchscreens, new display types, or are significantly larger in size. While some of these features are geared more toward the consumer market, they do have benefits for engineering use cases. “Touch, in general, will enhance the interaction between users and systems,” says Mau.
Touchscreen and high-resolution displays are often segregated into different portfolios so engineers have to choose which feature would be more beneficial for their workflow. “[A touchscreen] is more often observed with high-end professional laptops or tablets, and not necessarily needed for desktop applications, as the uses of desktop can be different than a laptop/tablet,” Mau explains.
However, some manufacturers are bucking this trend with all-in-one desktop computers and workstations that include touchscreens. For example, Microsoft’s new Surface Studio has a 28-in. PixelSense display that can be used upright or tilted down to draw on it like a drafting table. The 10-point multi-touch screen has 10-bit color depth and is compatible with the Surface Pen, according to the company. When it arrives early this year, it will compete with HP’s Z1 Workstation All-in-One models; first released in 2012 and already on their third generation.
Adding touchscreen capabilities and heightening resolution aren’t the only advancements in display technology. Companies are also integrating OLEDs (organic light-emitting diodes). This type of display technology consumes much less power than a traditional LCD display because they do not require a backlight. OLEDs also enables displays to have a larger field of view and the ability to be produced in larger sizes. However, despite providing a brighter, crisper image, not all OLEDs have a longer lifespan than their LCD counterparts, and manufacturing costs are still somewhat high.
For enhanced user experience, engineers may also increasingly find displays that incorporate either anti-glare or low blue light mode. With this feature, users can reduce eye-strain by having reduced flicker rates or excess blue light.
Larger displays that surpass the average desk size can offer benefits for collaborative engineering and design reviews. “A large-sized monitor with high resolution would ensure engineers get a holistic picture while eliminating the worry of missing out on crucial details as engineers can see clearly and have ample workspace for their UI (user interface) toolboxes as well as reviewing their work,” Wang says.
One offering taking monitor size to the extreme is the Microsoft Surface Hub, which the company describes as “the future of group productivity.” The Surface Hub comes in 55- and 85-in. sizes, and is equipped with Windows 10, Skype, OneNote and a handful of apps for viewing 3D models and CAD files. Google is also entering this “digital whiteboard” space with the Jamboard, a 55-in. 4K touchscreen that will be available later this year.
As designs increase in complexity and engineers spend more time designing and simulating digital models, ensuring the display is suited for CAD/CAM/CAE applications is critical. By taking advantage of more connectivity, higher resolution, larger monitors and even touchscreen capabilities, engineers can make sure even the smallest design details stand out.