Flexible electronic paper – yes please

Hermann Hauser won an ‘investor of the year’ award a couple of weeks ago. During a ‘fireside chat’ with Innovate!Europe producer, Chris Shipley, he revealed what interests him most in …

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21st May 2007 at 8:00 am

Hermann Hauser won an ‘investor of the year’ award a couple of weeks ago. During a ‘fireside chat’ with Innovate!Europe producer, Chris Shipley, he revealed what interests him most in today’s technology world.

His bedtime reading is about systems biology and how the principles of redundancy, repair, etc. might be applied to electronic systems. But, of more immediate interest to us, were his thoughts on digital paper. Especially bendy plastic stuff.

Turns out he was a founding investor in Cambridge Univesity spin-out, Plastic Logic, which has developed flexible, paper-like displays. It starts building its new factory in Dresden this week and expects to be in volume production next year.

Clipping from Plastic Logic exampleUntil now, digital paper products from people like Philips spin-off iRex and Sony have required a solid casing to protect the electronics inside. By printing the display electronics on flexible material, Plastic Logic makes the end result more (stiffish) paper-like in terms of handling, reducing the weight and increasing the display size. The displays will still require a rigid element to hold the controls, batteries and remaining electronics but this will probably be down one edge. The actual designs will depend on Plastic Logic’s customers: the makers of the reading devices.

The ‘ink’ itself, or e-Ink to give it its proper name, is bi-stable which means it shows either as dark or light. According to Hauser, once set, it requires no further battery power to retain its state. And because it’s reflective, rather than illuminated, it will provide a more natural read. The main battery drain takes place only when you ‘turn the page’, ie refresh the pixels. Hauser expects a battery life of 3,000 page turns.

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David Tebbutt is an award-winning columnist and feature writer who specialises on the subject of using software and technology to increase business productivity. He's an analyst with Freeform Dynamics but, in previous lives, wrote for Director magazine, Real Business and was also editor of Personal Computer World. http://freeformdynamics.com

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