*NEWS*EPSON & E-INK HOOK UP
*NEWS*EPSON & E-INK HOOK UP
2006-01-02 at 10:11:00 am #13444
SEIKO EPSON & E-INK HOOK UP
The printer subsidiary of Seiko Epson has committed to produce electronic paper after Seiko partnered with E Ink to produce the world’s first paper watch earlier this year. The link up between Epson’s inkjet printing prowess and E Ink’s electronic ink are compelling and with Epson’s inkjet printer and LCD businesses in the doldrums and facing a 50 per cent drop in profit this year, the company is eager to find new pastures on which to graze.
E Ink was born out of the MIT Media Lab and commercialised by a series of venture capitalists and technology partner/investors. So far only US$65 million has pumped into the company and it already has some viable product hitting the market. The company just announced it has teamed up with LG.Philips to prototype a 10.1-inch flexible electronic paper display which is less than 300 microns thick and as flexible as construction paper. The paper runs at SVGA (600×800) resolution at 100 pixels per inch. The contrast ratio with 4 levels of greyscale is 10:1.
The LG.Philips material is actually a steel foil, rather than plastic or paper, though the technology is still TFT. A pilot run of the material is being manufactured at one of LG Philip’s LCD plants, no doubt with the assistance of TFT filter specialist and E Ink investor Toppan. The other E Ink investors are an interesting bunch including Philips, The Hearst Corporation, Universal-Vivendi and Motorola.
One of the key advantages of the E Ink e-paper is that it doesn’t require power to maintain its image. Other technologies such as the Siemens chromatic prototypes require printed batteries that only last a couple of months and so would be more suitable for packaging. Siemens plans to make its e-paper widely available by 2007. The displays operate using electrochromic materials which absorb different wavelengths of light when electrical voltages shift charges in their molecules.
Fujitsu’s e-paper is made form three displaying layers – red, blue, and green so has the advantage of not requiring a colour filter or polarising layer. The colour is said to be significantly more vivid than conventional reflective-type LCDs.
The E Ink technology looks like a printed page and maintains a constant contrast ratio under different lighting conditions. The core technology is aimed at handheld devices with the image retention capabilities reducing energy consumption 100 times lower than a standard LCD. Think – cameras, ATMs, kiosks, GPS, smartphones, PDAs, wireless tablets and signage.
The company points out that virtually any surface could be printed with its electronic ink – including paper! The smart ink is made up of microcapsules suspended in a liquid carrier medium. The ink is printed onto a sheet of plastic film that is laminated to a layer of circuitry. The circuitry forms a pattern of pixels that can then be controlled by a display driver. The little spheres have charged transparent and black particles in them which line up as the circuitry dictates. The ink is flexible enough that, if printed on a sheet of plastic, can actually be rolled around a pencil. To make the image colour, the company has to apply a colour filter, which is Toppan’s speciality.
Tie all this together with Epson’s recently developed a flexible TFT-Static Random Access Memory (SRAM) and you have a handy set of components for small, light, and flexible electronic devices.