E Ink Holdings and LTS Lohmann-Therapie Systeme AG, today announced their partnership to develop a “Smart Patch” prototype...
TAIPEI, Taiwan - The flexible and thin features of electronic paper have enabled it to jump out of the scope of traditio...
Because paper is the primary material for writing and keeping records and because it is feasible to make paper in all sizes and ranges, it is ubiquitous in a wide variety of forms including books and magazines, notebooks, printed materials, notes, wallpaper, and photographic paper.
“Substitute paper is our primary objective,” noted E Ink Senior director of the Product Integration Department Jim Chang to topple the outside world's myths about e-paper applications.
People have this kind of stereotype, and it's actually excusable. The blame for this should be placed on the tremendous success of the Amazon Kindle which has made people in the market only think for four-sided e-readers and products that cannot be used to surf the Internet or watch movies. They think that it's only for that, and there are no other applications.
Jumping Away from the E-Book Framework Into Diverse Applications
However, to tell the truth, this is actually the crime of not fighting, and in the background of our time (approximately the year 2000), not only has semiconductor technology been limited and material and design abilities extremely insufficient, but good creations and ideas have also been hard to put into practice. Therefore, for a long time, e-paper technology has been in the same boat as e-readers.
In 2009, Yuen Foong Yu Paper Mfg. Co., Ltd's (YFY) flagship company, E Ink Holdings Inc. purchased the E-Ink company for US$215. This was an extension of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab's landmark products plan in the United States, and there was finally a new opportunity for development.
At the time, some people may have felt puzzled by this integration; however, looking at it today it is a perfect match. After all, YFY started as a paper company, and only they truly understand paper and have the ability to appropriately realize the potential of e-paper and even develop its potential outside the scope of most people's imaginations.
“It is just like a religious conviction that we believe that paper has a definite market space, and it is not easy to have a breakthrough with another substitute product. This thinking has been in existence for over one thousand years,” said Jim Chang.
However, e-paper is not real paper. Although it has the visual effectiveness of paper, its core principle is very much electronic. Therefore, the controlling electronic technology behind a “sheet” of e-paper can by no means be underestimated.
Jim Chang pointed out that in recent years there are a number of competing manufacturers of e-paper technology; however, only E Ink is capable of actual mass production and launching products. In addition, the technology of E Ink's e-paper has huge advanced, and through advanced semiconductor controller ICs and materials manufacturing technology, E Ink's control over their electronic ink particles is already extremely accurate and fine. They have even launched multi-color and four-color e-paper products which have made for a more expansive range of e-paper applications.
Jim Chang in particular began R&D engaged in reflective LCD products. As a result, he is better equipped to understand the pleasant feelings that will be brought about by the display quality of E-Ink's e-paper. “Currently, in the field of reflective LCD products, nobody else can exceed the quality of E Ink's products,” he confidently said.
Integrating outstanding production and a deep understanding of paper applications, E Ink's e-paper products have began to jump out of the framework of e-readers and gradually expand their footprint into a wide variety of other products that use “paper,” including electronic tags, writing tablets, signs, identification cards, debit cards, and interior design and architectural applications, transforming E Ink into the company which currently has the most forward-looking display technology.
In addition making the most of the characteristics of paper, E Ink's e-paper has also begun to cross-over into development which integrates other domains which do not exclusively make use of displays and recording, such as fashion and medical industries.
Stationary Reflective Display Applications – Expanding the Full-Color Market
At this year's Touch Taiwan Exhibition, E Ink brought their “Prism” adjustable color e-paper which is utilized in clothing and high heels to provide a completely new design concept for fashion designers. In the domain of wearable products, Sony is collaborating with E Ink to launch a next-generation FES Watch U e-paper wristwatch, which subverts traditional creative watches and enables consumers to independently define their own watches' appearances.
In the medical treatment industry, E-Ink has also been working together with the transdermal therapeutic system developer and manufacturer Lohmann-Therapie Systeme AG to jointly launch a type of smart patch, and through the use of e-paper, this therapeutic patch will be able to show in real time whether on not it is accurately stuck to the skin. It will also display the time that the next drug dose should be administered and remind medical care personnel to carry out patch removal and replacement.
Jim Chang explained that E Ink's e-paper's most important properties are: reflective display, wide viewing angles, thinness, flexibility, breaking-resistance, ultra-low power, not overheating, being able to be cut, and being able to be used in a large variety of sizes. Its low power consumption and low-heat characteristics make e-paper extremely suitable for use in public space furnishings.
In the near future, the The National Palace Museum in Taiwan will collaborate with E Ink to jointly promote an e-paper display exhibition area entitled, “The Making of a National Treasure: Select Masterpieces of Painting and Calligraphy in the Museum Collection.” The background purpose is to enable people to see the projection display and non-heating characteristics of e-paper, which fully meets the requirements for this exhibition.
Although E Ink could could be considered the only player in the e-paper market, they are still continuing to develop new products and sophisticated performance capabilities. One direction of development is towards full-color display applications, and Advanced Color ePaper (AceP) is their new weapon. AceP is a type of high-quality and full-reflectivity color e-paper display screen, and it includes the following four ink particles: yellow, white, blue, and red. With its detailed TFT backplane electronic voltage control, it can achieve full-color domain display efficiency with eight primary colors. Furthermore, this type of CMTK printing color technology enables ACeP to display very delicate and rich colors.
Jim Chang made a point of stressing that ACeP technology does not require color filters; therefore, it has more outstanding visibility and has far better viewing angles and power consumption than LCD display cases. They are anticipating launching the ACeP next year.
However, Jim Chang still emphasized that they are not launching full-color products to compete with LCD displays but rather to focus on applications of “paper” itself, and he hopes that the release of high-quality full-color products will bring about printing effectiveness and quality that is close to that of actual printed products and expand the application space for customers.
“E-Paper does not have a competitive relationship with LCDs. The relationship is complementary and cooperative, and they can be used together with one another. Our position is clear, and it is reflective displays,” said Jim Chang.
(TR/ Phil Sweeney)
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