Electronic Paper: Trying to Improve on the Original - Recent Developments
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Japanese companies seem to be leading the way both in using and, more recently, in creating some apparent breakthroughs with electronic paper. They aren’t the only ones in the field, though. Early last year Phillips figured out a way to print organic electronics onto a thin plastic film, which allowed it to create a sheet of electronic paper that could be rolled up into a tube less than an inch in diameter. The company described it as the most flexible electronic display ever developed – though again, it cannot display moving images.
Still, the product was good enough to attract the attention of Sony. Within a couple of months of its production, Sony, E Ink, and Phillips teamed up to create LIBRe, a paperback-sized e-book reader that utilizes the technology. The e-book reader’s resolution is approximately 170 pixels per inch, which gives it a newsprint-like appearance. Since the display only uses power when the image is changed, a reader can go through more than 10,000 pages before needing to change the devices four AAA alkaline batteries. Best of all for bookaholics, the LIBRe can store up to 500 downloaded books.
At the same time, Seiko Epson has been working on electronic paper on which users can download entire newspapers. A letter-sized sheet of this paper would cost well under $100 and last for a month to several months before wearing out. That may sound expensive, but it could actually be economical in Japan when used to replace the cost of buying a daily newspaper and several glossy magazines every month. These items cost slightly more in Japan than in the U.S. The company is also looking into developing large TV panels that can be attached to and peeled off walls like wallpaper. The TV panels would be used for displaying scenery; again, the limited speed of updating the screen would prevent its use for moving images.
Fujitsu came out with one of the most exciting developments earlier this year. The company created what it calls “the world’s first film substrate-based bendable color electronic paper.” The key point is that this is color electronic paper. It is constructed of three displaying layers: red, blue, and green. Like other versions of electronic paper, it does not need power to hold text and images once they have been put on the paper. Bending the paper does not affect the image.
Developers will be delighted to learn that E Ink in late September came out with the AM-100 EPD Prototype Kit, enabling prototyping across a wide range of display applications. The kit lets developers try out electronic paper displays and find out what they can do. It includes a six-inch diagonal display module, a development board containing an Intel XScale processor and the Linux operating system, I/O support for MMC cards, Bluetooth, and USB, and open source software drivers and applications.
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