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E Ink - A look at the Company Behind the E-Reader Screen

Mon, 11/28/2011 - 9:44am
Sriram K Peruvemba, E Ink

SriFirst some definitions: E Ink is the name of the company. Electrophoretic is the name of the technology. Pearl is the brand name for the product. The product also has a generic name - ePaper or Electronic Paper.

E Ink the company that is a MIT spin off, located in Cambridge, Massachusetts is part of E Ink Holdings, its Taiwanese parent. E Ink makes ePaper displays using Electrophoretic technology. Electrophoretic technology uses the principle of electrophoresis that explains the phenomena of movement of charged particles in a fluid.

E Ink's dual pigment electrophoretic display technology has black and white pigment particles suspend in a fluid, encapsulated in a microcapsule. Each microcapsule is like a snow globe (except that they are tiny - about the thickness of human hair) and our snow globe not only has white snow, it also has black snow. By applying a voltage across the snow globe, we can cause the white or black pigment particles to rise to the surface. By reversing the polarity of the voltage we can switch the particles from black to white or vice versa. When you look at the miniature snow globes from above, you will see a white or black dot.

Each display made by E Ink has millions of these microcapsules. The microcapsules are shipped in 'buckets' to a coating factory in Massachusetts where they are coated onto a sheet of plastic that is a few feet wide and can go a mile long. The material is rolled up and shipped to the next stage of manufacturing where they are cut into relevant sizes depending on whether they are used in an eReader, wrist watch, store sign, indicator or other devices including Rosie the Music Stand.

e ink music stand

The rolled material is manufactured in the USA and exported to E Ink's factory in China where further processing occurs including lamination of TFT glass or flexible plastic backplane, integration of row and column semiconductor drivers, flex connection from display to the board that holds the microprocessor.

When you look at a typical eReader display, each pixel has dozens of microcapsules beneath them. This technology mimics paper because the white particles used inside the microcapsule are made from the same materials that make ordinary tree-based paper white and also use same materials used in ordinary ink to make the black particles. So in essence, E Ink's Pearl electronic paper display uses bits of paper and ink to improve upon ordinary paper and ink. Its flexible, paper white, feather lite, sunlight readable, low EMI and saves so much power that you would have to use it to believe it.

The dual particle electrophoretic display technology based on the Pearl platform is used in over 90% of the eReaders used worldwide. By applying a color filter on top of the monochrome display, E Ink has created Triton its color ePaper which just won the Wall Street Journal's Innovation award for 2011. Both displays offer the best reading experience of all displays in the world.

These displays have been primarily used for leisure reading, in the future, E Ink believes that all textbooks in schools and colleges worldwide will use electronic displays and have been striving to make this a reality. Ereaders, using E Ink's epaper technologies are not replacing mere books, they are like an entire library. Our aim is a library in every backpack.

In non-publishing applications like smart cards, shelf labels, electronic signs, battery indicators, music stands, snow boards, bicycle displays, GPS, fish finders, etc, E Ink wishes to realize its vision of 'E Ink On Every Smart Surface'.

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