John Lewis is testing graphic bi-stable LCD e-paper tags

John Lewis (a UK department store retailer) is testing graphic e-paper labels to replace traditional paper ones. The new labels show product information, pricing, promotions, QR codes and reviews. The project is being handled by Perhouse and ZDB. ZBD uses bi-stable LCD panels. John Lewis is performing the test at their Exeter shop.

Back in January 2012 we reported about Coop Denmark, Denmark's leading consumer goods retailer, plans to start using ZBD's e-paper shelf labels in their 77 stores. Coop's project is worth $9.2 million.

E Ink at FlexTech 2013

E Ink was exhibiting at FlexTech 2013 conference, showing off the latest flexible and color E Ink panels and prototypes. Nothing new here, but a good intro to E Ink's current technology:

PaperTab - flexible paper-like tablet prototype by Intel and Plastic Logic

Intel, Plastic Logic and Canada's Queen's University have collaborated to create a flexible paper-like tablet, based on Plastic Logic's 10.7" flexible touch E Ink displays and Intel's Core i5 processors. A user can use several PaperTabs devices at the same time, and these can interact between them, as can be seen in the video below:

Roel Vertegaal, a director in Queen's University's human media lab estimates that most computers will look and feel like that - within five to ten years. It's likely that the displays will be full-color ones, probably based on OLED technology.

E Ink persistency record - this E Ink panel was last refreshed on November 2000!

When I wrote my post about E Ink persistency, I noted that E Ink has a display at their office that was turned off in 2001 - and it still shows the image correctly. A nice reader just sent me the following photo, showing an Active-Matrix E Ink display that was last refreshed on November 2000 - yes, 11 years ago!

This panel was developed by Philips, with the front panel made by E Ink and the back plane (AM) made in Philip' LCD plant in Kobe, Japan. The reader says that this is actually the world's first active-matrix E Ink panel, and is probably the oldest one that still shows an image. Over the years it has long some of its contrast, but the image is still clearly visible.

About E Ink display persistency

Back in August 2011 E Ink sent me a nice gift - a picture frame with an E Ink "display". It's not really a display as you can't change the image - it's just like a printed photo, using a monochrome E Ink panel. Now it's been over a year since I received the frame, and when I look at it seems the image hasn't changed at all. We all know that E Ink displays are bi-stable - they do not require any energy to show a static display (the picture the frame has no batteries, of course) - but the displays are actually persistent for years.

Persistant framed E Ink display

E Ink says that if the display if sealed and protected properly - it simply will not deteriorate, unless exposed to extreme temperature (a strong magnetic or electric field should not effect the display). In fact, E Ink says that they have a display that was turned off in 2001 - and the image is still visible.

Japan Display unveiled new low-power reflective LCD prototypes

Japan Display unveiled two new reflective LCD prototype displays. Those new LCDs, targeted at e-paper applications are low-power (there's no backlight), visible under direct light and can offer fast-refreshes, high resolution and color.

JD showed two 7" panels. The first one offers a resolution of 768x1044 and a bright reflection of 40%. The color gamut is just 5% NTSC. This panel is ready for mass production soon. The second panel has a lower resolution (576x1024) but has a much better color gamut (36% NTSC) and will take longer to commercialize. Both panels consume only 3mW when showing a static image (the display retains the current image so a static image consumes less power).

Real paper and heat-sensitive ink turned to a basic e-paper display

Researchers from the University of Tokyo developed a sort of e-paper display by using heat-sensitive ink on photochromic paper. Using lasers, the ink can be erased, and an ultraviolet projector overhead can be used to "print" new pixels. This is very slow but the laser is quite accurate (can erase a point of 0.0001 inch in size). The idea is that this can be used for collaboration - where on can draw on a paper and later others can add or erase stuff:

New technology promises fast and bright e-paper displays

Researchers from the Novel Devices Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati developed a new e-paper technology based on plastic sheets coated with aluminum with pores that hide black ink behind them. To show a black pixel, the display pushes the ink through the pore and onto the front of the sheet.

The research already developed a first prototype - a 6" round display that features 150 ppi. The refresh rate is very fast - about 67 times a second. It has a very bright white background - due to the aluminum coating.

The new Kindle Paperwhite uses an enhanced Pearl E Ink panel

When Amazon announced their new Kindle Paperwhite, they wouldn't say what kind of E Ink panel is used - just that it's got a higher resolution (XGA), better contrast, better touch capabilities and a faster refresh rate. Our friend Sriram Peruvemba, E Ink's marketing chief explains that the major advances in this new display is a better TFT and improved software.

Kindle Paperwhite ad

The new TFT backplane allows them to achieve a higher resolution - 212 dpi (XGA), compared to the older generation TFT which allowed only 167 dpi (SVGA). The new software design also allows for faster refresh. Now grey-to-grey speed is 450 mSecs, compared to 600 mSecs using the older software (i.e. 25% faster).

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