At a mere 9.9 mm thin, the BRAVIA KDL-40ZX1 is the world's slimmest* LCD TV. But the facts and figures fade when you see it, as analysis gives way to simple amazement. That's the strength of its design. After the KDL-40ZX1, claims to thinness based on specs will seem flat.
Matsuoka: In the KDL-40ZX1, we've reached a destination in the quest for thinner and thinner LCD TVs. It's only 9.9 mm at its thinnest point. What makes this possible is a new "edge light" backlight system. White LEDs are arranged along the edges of the panel, and we have eliminated lights on the back of the panel itself. That's why it's slimmer than ever.
The front is also more seamless. Traditionally, the panel in LCD TVs is supported by a metal body and covered by a molded frame. This prevents the bezel and panel from being flush. Designers conceal the unevenness, but you can notice that the bezel and panel are usually about 6 mm apart. In contrast, the panel and frame of the KDL-40ZX1 form a nearly flat surface. That's because the frame both supports and encloses the panel.
With the kind of technology applied in this television, any designer could make it thin. And that's exactly why we had to ask ourselves how we should present this thinness. How could the thinness amplify the messages of design? How would people recognize it as a Sony product? I left these tough questions to Yuki Kubota, one of the designers I trust most.
Kubota: I was in for a surprise when I first saw the developers' demo model. It was so slim, I doubted it was a working model. When the screen came to life, I was truly startled. It was the thrill of seeing something extraordinary. I knew then that I wanted an ultimately simple design, to convey that feeling as directly as possible.
Kubota: My first impression of the demo model was of a glowing board. I thought, wouldn't it be intriguing to reduce it further, to a glowing sheet of paper. That's why we designed the frame with sharp edges. This way, when you view the product from the side, for a moment it seems to have no depth at all. Like a floating sheet of paper.
Sharp frame edges were essential to this idea. Unfortunately, regular fabrication inevitably produces dull edges, preventing the sharp image we sought. We decided to use extruded aluminum.
The frame has quite a sophisticated cross-section, although you'd never know it by looking at the finished product. For one thing, the thickness is not uniform. It's about 1 mm at the base of the panel. Other areas are thicker, and the edges are even thicker, which makes the frame sturdier. Without a very rigid body, products this thin and large would be pliant and easily warped. In retrospect, it was by creating thicker edges that we solved this issue. Just bending thin aluminum into right angles doesn't make a frame this sturdy. Somehow, after years of TV product design projects, I often find design ideas and engineering necessities fitting neatly together.
The frame joints were particularly challenging, though. When you cut extruded aluminum of this shape at an angle, you'll end up with corners that are a little too thick, unless you're careful. It took repeated attempts until our manufacturing partner accepted the fabrication process we sought. After a lot of nerve-wracking work by our team of designers and engineers, who proposed a series of intricate 3D structures, we chose a numerically controlled lathe to produce the ideal shape.