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Virtual Image Holographic Optical Elements for Windscreens, Enabling the Next Generation of Automobile Head-up Displays

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - VIEW-AHEAD (Virtual Image Holographic Optical Elements for Windscreens, Enabling the Next Generation of Automobile Head-up Displays)

Reporting period: 2021-04-01 to 2022-06-30

The objective of the project is to extend Ceres in-house, low-volume replication technology to copy master Holographic Optical Elements (HOE) into the blank film, such that a viable manufacturing technology is available for industrial partners to manufacture higher volumes of HOEs in the large format film sizes required for automotive windshield integration. Furthermore, during the project the first outputs, information, and samples, will be used to assist the industrial partners to develop the windshield integration processes.

Head-up Displays (HUDs) and Transparent Displays represent the next generation of information display in cars. Every major automotive manufacturer (OEM) is seeking low-cost, compact displays that can display driver and passenger information.

However, existing solutions based on conventional technology can generally not meet OEM requirements. Using current technology, a HUD system that would meet the OEMs requirements would be too bulky for all but the largest vehicles and prohibitively expensive.

One viable solution recently re-considered by OEMs, due to the emergence of new material technology, is to create or replace part of the complex HUD optics with a photopolymer Holographic Optical Element (HOE) laminated within a vehicle windshield. This dramatically reduces the size of the HUD unit, allowing high specification HUDs to be fitted to any vehicle. The new material also makes alternative Transparent Display types possible with even smaller projector units. However, for both potential solutions, there has not been the supporting and credible design, mastering and replication technology which the industry needs, and which OEMs require to see before considering a new technology to be application ready.

Ceres, a holographic technology pioneer has developed the core technology elements of this much-needed capability to enable this new industry. With its in-house software and digitally controlled pixel-wise mastering technology, it has brought to market a viable Computer-Aided Design (CAD) approach to HOE design and mastering enabling it to service multiple OEM customers in a repeatable and cost-effective manner. Ceres has also developed the necessary core replication technology such that master HOEs, once designed to an application's requirements, can be reproduced. Ceres primary customers, major European and USA OEMs, have successfully demonstrated the viability of our holographic technology for Transparent Display applications in full-size windscreen laminated prototypes. They are now so excited by the technology’s potential application that they have re-confirmed their aim to begin fitting to production cars from 2025, and to ramp to at least 2 million cars with Transparent Display systems across their vehicle ranges by 2027. These prospective customers have asked for volume manufacture of the finished windshields to be demonstrated before end 2023.
During the third and final reporting period for the View-Ahead project, there has been continued and significant progress. The final results have surpassed the objectives and milestones set out in the original proposal. The Machine build has been completed and successfully installed at the Ceres Scotland facility. All Site Acceptance Tests and process optimisation work has been completed including the integration of the optical head. The final production machine achieves higher throughput, and the final quality of the replicated HOE surpasses the original project requirements. The machine can also accommodate 1500mm web width and successfully produces full-size windshield film on a continuous Roll-2-Roll basis. To date, the machine has run >1km of film producing more than 1,000 HOE copies in the process. Our film partner has confirmed that the R2R machine and capability, which is the output of VIEW AHEAD, is the only machine in the world with its specified capability.

The Integration phase of the project has also been concluded resulting in the 1st successful lamination of a Transparent Display with a single full-size piece of film with HOE into an automotive windshield. The process developed by our integration partner is designed to meet automotive requirements and is currently undergoing automotive qualification testing by the lead OEM.

The View-Ahead machine has been demonstrated to several key customers and in the case of our lead customer a US-based OEM the Transparent Display system is undergoing final application readiness testing with a plan to incorporate it into a Production Vehicle starting 2025. This OEM, or potentially other OEM who are trying to move faster, will be the 1st fully integrated holographic Transparent Display system in an automotive vehicle and will be a world first. There are also several other OEMs including European and Asia-based companies who we are engaged on proof-of-concept projects. Ceres has a strong pull from alternative sectors including agricultural vehicles and commercial trucking where alternative integration methods are viable, with a potentially quicker time to market
VIEW-AHEAD enables the volume production of HOEs at a size and scale which enables automotive manufacturers to commit to fit High-performance Transparent Displays and HUDs throughout their entire range, in turn, offering added differentiation and safety to their vehicles for the benefit of their customers. Beyond the benefit to the OEMs, and customers, the most significant direct economic benefit will come to the European raw film supplier, windshield interlayer manufacturers, glass laminators and the tier 1 HUD and projector suppliers who will all contribute to the delivery of the complete system.
Associated market opportunities will also be created for Automotive Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) want to project key vehicle information onto the windshield just below and into the line of sight of a driver. Every major automotive OEM is in the process of developing or identifying new Transparent Display (TD) technology and Head-up Displays (HUDs) technologies to deliver three key benefits:

1) Safety: Driver distraction is a contributing factor in 80% of all traffic accidents and a major factor in 3,500 deaths each year in the US [NHTSA].Modern cars provide more information than ever to the driver, most of it through visual dashboard displays. It takes a good driver about 1 second to look at the instrument cluster, register it and look back at the road.
2) Utility: With a wide field of View HUD, information can be overlaid exactly where it is needed, informing drivers of hazards or navigation information more effectively. This also opens the possibility of advanced functions such as Augmented Reality (AR-HUD) far-field HUDs for navigation and night vision augmentation
3) Self-driving vehicles: The auto industry sees line-of-sight Transparent Displays and HUDs as crucial to maintaining driver engagement, comfort and confidence during the introduction of self-driving cars. They are also seen as a way to deliver a new user experience and also essential to new business models being developed by automotive OEMs, such as Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
Transparent Display in Automotive Windshield
Optical Head sub assembly
Side window display from Ceres Holographics
Machine Assembled
HOE Replication Machine Base - Copy Section
Machine Fully Assembled
HUD Sample in Windscreen
HUD in Windscreen
3D Model of Machine base