Wiping smudges off glass screens: Singapore company Wangi Industrial and A*Star collaborate

(From left) Wangi Industrial's Mr Chew, A*Star's Dr M.S.M. Saifullah, Dr Chong and Dr Mark Moxey. Wangi is working with A*Star to develop a water- and grease-repellent screen.
(From left) Wangi Industrial's Mr Chew, A*Star's Dr M.S.M. Saifullah, Dr Chong and Dr Mark Moxey. Wangi is working with A*Star to develop a water- and grease-repellent screen.PHOTO: LIM YONG TECK FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A*Star plays a significant role in future-proofing Singapore's manufacturing industry. The Straits Times looks at some of these emerging technologies.

It may not be too long before you can say goodbye to the frustrating reflections and greasy fingerprints on your smartphone or inflight entertainment screens.

A special screen that can transmit light better and repel both water and grease is being developed in a collaboration between local company Wangi Industrial and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star).

Dr Karen Chong, a senior scientist and manager of the Nanoimprint Foundry, a programme led by A*Star's Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, explained: "You can think of it as Play-Doh, where children use a stamp to transfer a shape onto the Play-Doh."

Except for this: The shapes on the special screen are several times smaller than the width of a human hair. They enable the screen to transmit more than 98 per cent of light hitting its surface and repel water and grease.

It was not easy turning ideas into action.

"There are a lot of things you need to consider, for example, intellectual property issues, funding issues," said Mr Chew Ker Yee, vice-president of business operations at Wangi Industrial, which makes coated industrial glass for specialised applications. "Just negotiating the research agreement can take one to two years."

Yet only four months after the idea was broached in October 2013, the agreement was signed with A*Star.

The collaborators are now designing a machine that can mass-produce the special screen, and plan to market it by the end of 2017.

"Wangi is very unique," said Dr Chong. "It always wants to know what is the next best thing that it can put into its product."

Mr Chew attributed the rapid progress to the company's trust in A*Star to take good care of its intellectual property under Singapore's strict regulations.

Wangi Industrial is a participant in the Headstart Programme run by Exploit Technologies, A*Star's commercialisation arm.

It allows local small and medium-sized enterprises to enjoy exclusive royalty-free use of its research technologies for the crucial first 18 months of product development.

Lin Yangchen

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2016, with the headline 'Wiping smudges off glass screens'. Print Edition | Subscribe