EPSON & E-INK HOOK UP
EPSON & E-INK HOOK UP
2006-01-02 at 10:12:00 am #13823
SEIKO EPSON & E-INK HOOK UP
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.
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
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.