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 user 2006-12-06 at 11:32:00 am Views: 30
  • #16945

    Xerox :Now you see it, now you don’t
    is working on a chemical process that would allow its copiers to
    recycle paper documents, possibly an unlimited number of times.

    most modern offices, paper increasingly is used as a medium of display
    rather than of storage, according to Brinda Dalal, an anthropologist at
    the Palo Alto Research Center where she and the Xerox chemists are
    developing an “erasable paper” system.Of the 1,200 pages the average
    office worker prints per month, 44.5 percent are for daily use -
    assignments, drafts or e-mail. In Dalal’s research into the waste
    produced by office workers, she found that 21 percent of black-and-
    white copier documents were returned to the recycling bin on the same
    day they were produced.Documents are stored on central servers and
    personal computers and printed only as needed for meetings, editing or
    reviewing information.Her research is part of a three-year- old
    technology development effort to design an add-on system for an office
    copier to produce “transient documents” that can be easily reused. The
    researchers now have a prototype system that will produce documents on
    a specially coated paper with a light yellow tint. So far, the process
    works without toner and produces a low-resolution document that appears
    to be printed with purple ink.The printed information “disappears”
    within 16 hours. The documents can be reused more quickly by simply
    placing them back in the copier paper tray.The researchers said that
    individual pieces of paper had been printed upon as many as 50 times,
    and the only current limit in the process appears to be stamina of
    paper.”People really like paper,” said Eric Shrader, a computer
    scientist who is area manager for printing systems at the Hardware
    Systems Laboratory of the research center, which is known as PARC.
    “They like the way it feels.”The project is still very much in a
    laboratory phase, he said. The researchers are trying to refine the
    process, both to increase contrast and to extend control over the life
    span of the print process.

    During the 1990s, the Japanese office
    equipment maker Ricoh developed a commercial system that made it
    possible to remove toner from paper to make recycling possible, Shrader
    said. It was possible to recycle individual pieces of paper up to 10
    times, according to Ricoh, but that system no longer is commercially
    available.Xerox has not yet decided whether to commercialize its
    technology, Shrader said. But the goal of the research is to create a
    system in which the specially coated paper initially costs two to three
    times what standard copier paper costs, but that the total cost of the
    system is substantially less because the special paper is reused
    repeatedly, he said.The company said that the precise nature of the
    technology was proprietary and that Xerox had applied for a number of
    related patents covering the invention. The researchers describe the
    invention as being based on compounds that can change color when they
    absorb a certain wavelength of light, but which gradually can revert to
    their original appearance. The compounds currently self-erase in about
    16 to 24 hours, or can be erased immediately when heated.The challenge
    Xerox faces is to find a market for a new paper printing technology in
    an era when information increasingly is being viewed and read on
    electronic displays of all types.For example, PARC has done extensive
    research on the idea of “electronic paper.” Its researchers separately
    developed an “electronic reusable paper” system called Gyricon. A
    Gyricon sheet is a thin layer of transparent plastic composed of small
    beads similar to toner particles. The beads are “bichromal,” with light
    and dark sides. When a voltage is applied at different positions on the
    sheet, the beads rotate to create an image. Xerox tried unsuccessfully
    to commercialize the technology.The Sony Reader, introduced this year,
    is based on a similar technology developed by the E Ink Corporation of
    Cambridge, Massachusetts.”I worry that this would be like coming out
    with Super 8 just before the video camera,” said Paul Saffo, a
    researcher in Silicon Valley who has been a consultant to Xerox, said,
    referring to a film format. “This would have been a bigger deal 10
    years ago. These days there’s so much getting read online, I wonder if
    time hasn’t passed this by.