I had the good fortune of talking to Sriram peruvembra, E Ink's marketing VP. Sriram is always happy to help, and has agreed to do a short interview with us.
Sriram Peruvemba is VP of Marketing for E Ink Corporation. He has over 20 years of experience in the electronics industry including extensive background in the electronic display industry, having held management positions with Suntronic Technology, Planar Systems, TFS and Sharp. He holds a BSEE and a MBA.
Q: What kind of displays does E ink currently offer?
E Ink makes a display platform referred to as E Ink Vizplex. The E Ink Vizplex imaging film is used in Active Matrix displays for applications such as eBooks. For SURF displays for applications such as wrist watches. And in Ink-In-Motion displays used in applications such as signage. The active matrix displays have a glass based backplane whereas the SURF and Ink-In-Motion displays use flexible backplanes.
Q: Can you explain E Ink business model exactly? where does your revenue come from? Is it mostly from IP licensing?
We do market the IP and license but that is a small portion of our revenue. The vast majority is from actually selling the imaging film in case of matrix displays and both top and bottom planes for the SURF displays. We manufacture the microcapsules at E Ink (in the building that I am at), we then coat the microcapsules on film rolls at E Ink or third party, we laminate protective films, cut to mother sheet sizes and then subsequently cut to individual sizes. All done by E Ink either in-house or outsourced to vendors but managed by E Ink.
When PVI or other partners receive our imaging film, the remove the protective sheet and laminate it to their backplane electronics to make the display module
In case of SURF products, we laminate the backplane ourselves and sell the display cell to a third party integrator to assemble into a module
Q: what is the power-consumption of e ink displays, compared to LCDs?
E Ink Vizplex displays consume much less power compared to backlit LCDs. The benefits of this power saving is application dependent. Since E Ink Vizplex displays are bistable or image stable, they consume power only when the image is refreshed on the screen. In the eBook example, once you have displayed a page on the screen, the E Ink Vizplex display consumes zero power until the page is turned whereas the backlit LCD will continue to consume power even if you keep the same image without changing. In some applications we have shown power savings to the tune of 90% over LCD. With E Ink Vizplex displays, you can leave the power cord behind.
Q: You say that e ink displays are actually better in direct sunlight. How is that possible?
E Ink Vizplex displays employ electrophoretic technology enabling reflective display products. Our products use the sun rather than fight the sun as is the case with backlit LCD and other emissive displays such as LED, OLED and Plasma. At E Ink we say: E Ink Vizplex – no shade required.
Q: When are you gonna have color e ink available?
E Ink has demonstrated color displays in the lab. We will show color displays at the SID show in San Antonio, Texas during the first week of June. We plan to mass produce color electrophoretic displays by the end of 2010. We are hard at work to take our color product to production and are building an eco-system around our color products.
Q: Let's talk a bit about the recent acquisition of E Ink by PVI... What does the new acquisition mean for other licensees of E Ink? Will they be able to continue and produce E Ink?
PVI - E Ink will continue to ship products to other companies as well.
Q: Don't you fear that other makers will use other ePaper technologies in order to avoid using PVI's E Ink?
PVI - E Ink plans to support other display makers.
Q: What are PVI's plans for the technology? Will they push color faster?
PVI and E Ink will jointly accelerate the development of flexible displays and color ePaper. PVI gets access to technology and E Ink gets access to resources, both companies will primarily benefit from closer collaboration.
Q: Why did PVI buy E Ink, in your opinion? What are they getting that they couldn't do as a licensee?
With the merger, PVI gains substantial intellectual property and employee talent, while securing supply of a critical component during the rapid growth phase of the market, and adding alliances and relationships across the ePaper and flexible display industry.
Q: What kind of displays are competing with e ink? are OLEDs a competition?
E Ink Vizplex displays have three types of competitors. In-Kind:
Other technologies like electrochromic which are being developed to address the ePaper markets.
The incumbent LCDs which offers an alternative in applications where not all of the benefits of E Ink Vizplex can be taken advantage of.
Finally, the biggest competitor for E Ink Vizplex is a 500 year old technology called printed paper. Y’know, the kind that you make by chopping down precious forests, trucking the trees to the mill, crushing and treating the trees, generating huge amounts of waste water, creating rolls of paper, trucking them again to a printing press, printing and cutting the paper, crating them onto another truck for delivery. That kind of paper.
Q: What are your thoughts about OLED displays?
It seems like that technology is advancing quickly in the past few years. OLEDs technology has seen billions of dollars in investment during the past 20 years, by dozens and dozens of companies and it is targeted towards applications such as Television where it promises advantages over incumbent LCD technology. Lets check back in a few years to see if the technology is able to displace LCD.
Q: Flexible e ink "segmented display" (SURF) is already possible. Can you estimate when flexible active-matrix e-ink will be possible?
Flexible active matrix displays have already been demonstrated by our customers and partners including Prime View International (EPLaR), Plastic Logic, Polymer Vision, LG Display (stainless steel), Epson, Samsung and others. We hope to see commercially available flexible E Ink Vizplex film based displays in consumer products in the near future.
Q: What kind of products do you think will adopt e ink in the next few years?
Two broad categories of products will adopt E Ink Vizplex displays. Mobile Internet and Smart Surfaces. Mobile Internet includes applications for our Active Matrix displays such as eBooks, eNewspapers, eTextbooks, Tablet PC, Web browsers and others. Smart Surfaces refers to applications for our SURF and IIM product lines and include smart cards, wrist watches, electronic shelf labels, battery and memory indicators, indoor and outdoor signs, advertisement displays in magazines, fabric and on non-flat surfaces in non-rectangular shapes. Design engineers should really “think outside the rectangle” when it comes to our SURF and IIM displays.
Q: I know you are talking about "e-newspaper" - which is like an e-reader but with a larger display (11"-15"). When are these gonna be a reality? how much will such a large display cost?
It is already been realized by our customers such as iRex with their DR1000 device that features a display larger than 10” diagonal and Amazon’s Kindle DX has a 9.7” display. As flexible displays are developed, this is an application that is likely to benefit significantly. In terms of value, eNewspapers show promise of delivering superior value to traditional pulp based paper, not just in economic value but will also significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the traditional newspaper industry.
Q: I think that e-readers are getting popular. What should we except from such readers in 2-3 years? what will the displays look like?
In 2-3 years, there will be more content available in eReaders, they will be available in more countries around the world, in more designs and price ranges, they will be more robust and give you better user experience overall. E Ink and its partners and customers will drive this trend. Our displays will be more rugged to suit devices made for school children, our displays will be available in various sizes to suit different applications that can generate additional revenues from advertisements, our displays will depict monochrome and color images and our displays will bend so that the customer’s device wont break.
Q: Where do you see E Ink inc in 5 years?
Continue to lead the market in providing the best digital reading experience. Lead the industry by innovating with new display products and technologies, by collaborating with the worlds’ best companies and mass producing eco-friendly products globally.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Thank *you* Sriram! E Ink is a great company that makes great displays, and I really wish both you personally and PVI - E Ink good luck!