Black and white e-paper displays have been in use for decades, whereas the history of color e-paper can be traced back to 2010 when E Ink Corporation launched E Ink Triton, a color e-paper display, followed by an iteration – Triton 2.
Thereafter, many new generations of E Ink color e-paper came into the existence. Many leading tech companies, including Qualcomm and Lenovo, successfully deployed the technology to wearables like smart jewelry and watches, as well as e-readers. But it didn’t work as expected.
Then came the E Ink Gallery 3 color e-paper, and this seems to define a new era of color e-readers and e-notes. With the growing demand for color e-paper and E Ink steadily improving its capabilities, premium color e-paper displays are becoming prevalent. There are now larger format single and multi-color displays that are useful for virtually all industries.
The demand for e-paper has grown largely because of their ability to help achieve sustainability and reduce energy consumption up to a great extent. And now, because there are color e-paper displays.
So, what is the future of e-paper? Let’s find out the answer with Tim O’Malley, who leads commercial activities for E Ink in the US market.
Main Applications for e-paper displays, E Ink displays.
Retail is one of the major applications of e-paper displays. With new functionality, more sustainability, and improved experience, retailers don’t need to replace papers all the time. Using e-paper displays for shelf tags or larger screens displaying sales and special promotions, they can update the information within seconds. In fact, there is already an explosive demand for electronic shelf labels (ESL), particularly because they are easy to use and consume very low power.
E-reader is another big application of E Ink e-paper display. As the company introduces new color platforms and innovative products, the technology can become suitable for larger installations of digital signage.
E Ink displays for Indoor and/or outdoor applications
At present, the E INK’s highest saturation color displays are intended for indoor uses. O’Malley told Sixteen-Nine that the company is progressing towards adding the capabilities for outdoor applications. In April 2023, E INK announced Kaleido 3 Outdoor, which is a color technology on 13-inch- to 15-inch screens outside. This large-screen Kaleido 3 Outdoor tech will launch in 2024. This will give the temperature range needed for the outdoor applications of E Ink displays.
According to O’Malley, the refresh rate on Kaleido 3 can be up to 10 or 15 seconds. It’s built on E Ink’s black and white platform, which switches swiftly and takes a second to move white or black particles up or down. However, the refresh rate may be affected by temperature and other factors.
Color filters for transit or municipal displays
Based on the feedback from the market and consumers, E Ink started with a color filter because people associate colors with particular things shown on transit or municipal displays. For instance, in a public transportation subway line, people want to show each line colors with red, green, blue, etc. properly. Similarly, for bus lines, red means no parking.
So, E Ink moved to built-in particles to make the color more saturated over time. The Kaleido platform is the color filter platform, and Spectra is a higher saturation retail platform.
E Ink and Healthcare Industry
O’Malley told Sixteen-Nine that E Ink has started working towards healthcare, mainly in Asia. The company has done a pilot with Brigham Women’s Hospital in Boston, having an E Ink display as an information board in the patient room to display patient-related key stats to their schedule for the day. And they have received positive feedback for this.
Healthcare is extremely lucrative and extremely hard to break into. We’re working on the break into it at the moment.
For this year’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show), BMW showed off the i Vision Dee, which is an electric sports sedan concept featuring a full-color version of the E Ink technology. The concept car is covered in E Ink material that could switch between 32 different colors, showing different patterns and segments.
What to Expect in the next six to twelve months for E Ink?
We’re heavily leaning into applications that are color, and we want to bring full color into all of our product lines. So the thing that I would be looking for is more announcements by customers and partners that have E Ink displays that are upgrading them to those full-color solutions, and in many cases, I think that will help us unlock another round of excitement as consumers become aware of what can be possible, and hopefully, smart cities start to look at that and adopt it as well. So full color in more places is the type of announcement that I’m looking for.