XEROX:NOW YOU SEE IT , NOW YOU DON’T !
XEROX:NOW YOU SEE IT , NOW YOU DON’T !
2006-12-06 at 11:31:00 am #17309
Xerox :Now you see it, now you don’t
Xerox is working on a chemical process that would allow its copiers to recycle paper documents, possibly an unlimited number of times.
In 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.