Use could rise as energy use and display prices fall
Gartner has predicted the use of electronic paper could increase steadily over the next few years, but only if the cost of e-paper displays falls far enough to challenge print media.
E-paper is a display medium intended to mimic the appearance or ordinary ink on paper while being rewritable. The technology has been in the labs for at least 10 years.
In the late 90s IBM developed a thin flexible transistor that could be used as the development basis of electronic paper. The plastic transistor combined with electronic ink was considered as providing a medium for rewritable displays that could be rolled up and carried around.
Toshiba a few years ago launched an innovative eco-friendly printer that produced erasable mono prints on specially prepared plastic paper using the thermal printing technology commonly used in fax machines.
HP has been working on reusable printing processes for years and has developed some new approaches for paper-like displays based on new materials and manufacturing methods. A number of techniques are currently being investigated at HP Labs in Palo Alto, California.
Notably, HP is looking at development of new viewing surfaces using bi-stable liquid crystal displays which can hold their image even when disconnected from their power supply. It is also looking into the use of new light-emitting devices that incorporate nanocrystals in polymers which could be manufactured using inkjet printing techniques.
Gartner noted that electrophoretic technology, where the image is generated by an array of electrically charged particles suspended in fluid is currently to be found in devices such as the Amazon Kindle, Sony Librie reader and Plastic Logic’s e-newspaper, while an LCD variant, such as the technology from Kent Displays is used in Fujitsu’s new e-book reader.
According to Gartner, low power consumption is the main driver for e-paper adoption, which boosts the technology’s green credentials.
Toshiba claimed the adoption of its reusable paper printer in certain business scenarios could lead to reduced CO2 emissions during paper manufacture and waste processes from the level of 6.5kg per 1,000 sheets to only 1kg per 1,000 sheets of rewritable paper.
Toshiba uses paper that carries an active layer of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic onto which heat-sensitive chemical pigments can be temporarily fused. The vendor claimed that in test conditions it was able to reuse these special paper sheets at least 500 and up to 1,000 times.