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Displays Hardware Technology

LG Begins Mass Production of First Flexible E-ink Displays 87

Posted by timothy
from the will-believe-it-when-in-my-hands dept.
MrSeb writes "LG has just announced it has begun mass production of the world's first flexible, plastic e-ink display, with finished devices expected to hit Europe next month. LG says these plastic displays are half the weight (14g) and 30% thinner (0.7mm) than the hard, heavy, prone-to-cracking glass-laminate e-ink displays found in e-book readers like the Kindle and Nook. The press release says the plastic display survives repeated 1.5-meter drop tests and break/scratch tests with a small hammer, and that it's flexible up to 40 degrees from the mid point. Technology-wise, it's not very clear how LG's e-paper actually works. The press release suggests LG is using a conventional TFT process, which hints that they've cracked Electronics on Plastic by Laser Release (EPLaR). EPLaR is basically a technique of embedding electrophoretic ink capsules in a plastic substrate, but using existing TFT manufacturing processes, rather than building a whole new factory (unlike E Ink, which makes displays for the Kindle and other e-book readers). If this is the case, then other LCD manufacturers like Samsung and Sharp could start producing e-ink displays as well, hopefully driving prices down and further improving the display technology."
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LG Begins Mass Production of First Flexible E-ink Displays

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  • by adisakp (705706) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:55PM (#39516057) Journal
    It mentions a TFT substrate and calls it an eInk display. Correctly me if I'm wrong but TFT requires active power for a display while the idea of eInk is that once a display is "set", you do not use any power until you need to update / change the display.
    • by adisakp (705706)
      The main reason I ask this is I can read a number of books on my B&W eInk Kindle without recharging. In fact, it gets recharged only about once a month and I read nearly daily. A device with a display with active power requirements would probably need much more frequent charging.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It makes it clearer in TFA. The 'TFT process' they refer to is the manufacturing process. So a TFT manufacturing plant is believed to be able to produce the LG eInk plastic as well without significant retooling. The LG eInk display is low power usage, just like normal eInk displays.

    • by Dyinobal (1427207)
      I was under the impression that a huge chunk of most devices power usage was the back light for the displays.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      As I understand what is they say is that they are using manufacturing process of TFTs to produce them which means that existing fabs can adapt to manufacturing them quite easily. Also the usage of electrophoretic ink capsules hints of not needing active power to maintain the picture.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @06:10PM (#39516235)

      TFT is just "thin film transistor" - the switches that make it work. Backlit flatpanel displays are really LCD (liquid crystal display). Liquid crystals need a sustained voltage bias for their polarization to hold. The suspension of charged ink capsules in eInk does not require a sustained bias for the capsules to stay put in their viscous oil carrier. That is the property that governs the power consumption of these displays, not the electrode substrate.

      • by viperidaenz (2515578) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @07:43PM (#39517103)
        The property that governs the majority of the power consumption is the backlight. How do you think and LCD watch maintains its display for 5 years on a single 50mah battery? Transflective displays were semi-popular in the PDA market 10 years ago. You could turn the backlight off and still read it when there is sufficent ambient light. They're also easy to read in direct sunlight. The down side is without ambient light they require a much stronger backlight to get through the semi-reflective back layer of the screen.
        • "The down side is without ambient light they require a much stronger backlight to get through the semi-reflective back layer of the screen."

          On machines like laptops, which could be used in ambient mode when on battery power and active mode when connected to an outlet, a screen like this would be awesome. Too bad Pixel Qi doesn't seem to be gaining any ground :(

    • by bigtrike (904535) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @06:14PM (#39516269)

      TFT means Thin Film Transistor, and from what I understand is a method of manufacturing transparent electronics behind the display. If it's still an e-ink display, those transistors will presumably only be powered on when it's time to flip the capsules.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126)

        I wonder if they have made any progress on being able to reliably flip individual capsules off without having to blank the entire screen, and on getting the refresh rate up.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          I wonder if they have made any progress on being able to reliably flip individual capsules off without having to blank the entire screen, and on getting the refresh rate up.

          The refresh rate on the Sony and Kindle e-ink readers I've seen is perfectly adequate for reading books, which is what they are designed for. You would have to be a real dedicated speed-reader to find it slowed you down noticeably more than turning over a paper page.

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            I think most of us would like the display to be capable of doing more than book-reading, though. You can hack the nook simple touch to be a general Android machine, but some apps are just unsuitable. I heard even google maps has too many spurious refreshes but I have no personal experience. I just got my first Android device by installing x86-4.0-rc1 on my EEE701...

    • You still need electronics to flip / reset the eInk pixels. Maybe that's what the Thin-Film-Transistors are for. But that's pure speculation on my part. If that's the case, once the pixels are set, you no longer need power to keep the displayed image.
    • It mentions a TFT substrate and calls it an eInk display. Correctly me if I'm wrong but TFT requires active power for a display while the idea of eInk is that once a display is "set", you do not use any power until you need to update / change the display.

      If what you say is true, incorporating this new technology would seem to me to defeat the whole purpose of having a dedicated e-reader. If I'm going to have to charge my device regularly, I'll just get an iPad and read on that.

      The Kindle is great because I can just pick it up whenever and continue reading - no worrying about the charge, even if I haven't read for a week. I usually leave wireless on, so the charge interval I see is more like two or three weeks... but still, that's playing a whole different b

    • TFT requires active power for a display

      TFT LCD panels are a type of LCD panel that uses TFT parts. To use "TFT" as a shorthand is convenient but only useful as such when the subject domain is LCD panels.

      I'm not sure of all the uses for TFT's but there are probably many.

  • by busyqth (2566075) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @05:56PM (#39516073)
    This will be great for the newspaper industry.
    They can roll up an e-ink display, stuff it into a plastic bag, and toss it in your driveway everyday.

    The newspaper industry moves into the 21st century!!!
    • by cpu6502 (1960974)

      Everyday? More like once-and-done. Then they newspaper editor would just have to send updates via 3G, like the kindle does with books.

      • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

        by busyqth (2566075)
        Well then what is the use of making it flexible?
        Just download the newspaper to your iPad and be done with it.
        • by GodInHell (258915)
          Can you roll up your Ipad and jam it in your bag?
        • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Thursday March 29, 2012 @06:20PM (#39516321)

          I wouldn't want to read a newspaper on an iPad. I can of course if I have to, but an e-ink display is better (looks like a real newspaper).

          • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 29, 2012 @06:54PM (#39516681)

            Excuse me troll, but as an Apple user, I find your disturbing use of the word 'better' to be highly offensive and inflammatory.

            How can you state with a straight face that another company can make a product that does something better than the gold standard Apple equivalent?

            People like you should be locked up and throw away the key. Or maybe rendition to an Apple Store you so you can be re-educated to prove the error of your evil ways.

            Nobody, and I mean NOBODY makes better products than Apple! If you think otherwise, you are just as bad as the racists and holocaust-deniers of the world, and are therefore scum. iScum!

            • by cpu6502 (1960974)

              Hmmmm.

              Excuse me troll, but as an Apple user, I find your disturbing use of the word 'better' to be highly offensive and inflammatory.

              How can you state with a straight face that another company can make a product that does something better than the gold standard Apple equivalent?

              People like you should be locked up and throw away the key. Or maybe rendition to an Apple Store you so you can be re-educated to prove the error of your evil ways.

              Nobody, and I mean NOBODY makes better products than Apple! If you think otherwise, you are just as bad as the racists and holocaust-deniers of the world, and are therefore scum. iScum!

            • by Tweezak (871255)
              Perhaps and appropriate punishment would be a job at Foxconn. At least Apple then has a direct influence on the suffering of the offending individual.
        • Pocket size. I don't think this display is flexible enough, but there was a company a few years ago that put out a concept eBook reader in a scroll form factor. Rolled up, the screen was completely protected and it would fit in a pocket. Unrolled, it gave a reasonably large screen. I'd love to have a device like that.
          • Pocket size. I don't think this display is flexible enough, but there was a company a few years ago that put out a concept eBook reader in a scroll form factor. Rolled up, the screen was completely protected and it would fit in a pocket. Unrolled, it gave a reasonably large screen. I'd love to have a device like that.

            In the early 90's, _Earth: Final Conflict_ had a device called a 'global communicator' (everybody's cell phone) that worked this way. Darned if I can find a video on YouTube, though.

            • by cpu6502 (1960974)

              Late 90s. And it didn't roll up. The screen was solid. EFC was a good show in season 1, and then they dumbed it down and it was boring.

              • Late 90s.

                ah, thanks.

                And it didn't roll up. The screen was solid.

                Do you mean the prop or what it was imagined to be? The imagined part had a roll-out screen. Check out the scissor mechanism on the prop [movieprop.com].

                EFC was a good show in season 1, and then they dumbed it down and it was boring.

                Agreed! Such wasted potential. I suppose if Gene were around it would have been good.

  • Okay, so no color yet, but what about the contrast? Is it better than e-ink's Pearl display from the 4th-generation Kindles? And is it faster?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    What the hell happened to the OLED technology?! The industry announced a wide production release soon, several years ago!

    • by bigtrike (904535)

      It's in a bunch cell phones and increasingly larger TVs.

    • My mobile phone is two years old and has an OLED display. I can only assume that this means that they were in production two years ago, and probably still are since things like the Galaxy Nexus also have them.
  • This is not a phrase I associate with eink, can the posted post some evidence that this is a problem? I've never, ever heard of an eink display cracking

    • Well, have you throwed an eink device from several meters hight, or hit it with a hammer?

      Prone to cracking is relative.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        The standard meaning of "prone to cracking" is not "can be broken with a jackhammer and enough patience".
    • I cracked mine by setting it on top of a toilet paper dispenser and then brushing it off to land on it's corner on the concrete a couple feet below... I dunno about "prone" but it certainly can be done.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Kindle screen cracks quite easily, a small amount of pressure on the corners of the screen will cause it to crack. Fortunately, Amazon will replace it for free if it is under warranty.

      Evidence [imgur.com]

      It really doesn't take much to break an eink screen.

      I welcome this technology.

  • I would love to see a portable computer that is similar to the old scroll type maps of days gone by. The CPU itself would be about the size of a paper towel tube and the display would just unscroll to look at it and scroll back up around the tube when you are finished with it.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I've broken 4 Kindle screens, always by packing it in my luggage and discovering the cracked screen immediately after boarding a flight. The screen is so fragile, just by applying a small amount pressure on the screen it will break.

    This is my most recent one: http://i.imgur.com/Q6GtV.jpg [imgur.com]

    I NEED this. Amazon, can you hear me?? Please please please put this on the Kindle.

    That is all.

    • by NoKaOi (1415755)

      I'm not saying a more durable screen wouldn't be great, but perhaps it would be cheaper for you to buy a decent case once instead of buying a whole new kindle 4 times?

    • Thank Apple and its development of the iPad for that... there was a company called Plasticlogic that was developing an eReader called the Que. It was a flexible plastic display, and in one demo they slammed a boot on it to show its durability. Refresh rates were poor compared to most eInk displays, but with a plastic-based technology it would have been a leap forward. Problem is they pulled out of the market when the iPad was announced and the Que vaporized. (However, I wonder if LG bought the right or
  • A 19" demo screen? If it's that cheap to produce and low-power like traditional glass e-ink, show me a billboard or the side of a building covered in this plastic e-ink display.
  • I wanna changing tatoo! Man that would be hilarious. Put it on banner mode, "I love Mom!!" "I love /."
  • It's the protective screens that they put over them to protect them in consumer devices that aren't typically flexible.

    Nothing new to see here.

    Wake me up when they can do vibrant color and have motion video-capable display update speeds.

    • by iksbob (947407)

      Correct. As an example, the displays used in the e-ink magazine cover that Esquire released in 2008 were quite flexible. The cover as a whole was pretty rigid, but that was more due to the controller/battery PCB.
      This is the first flexible pixel-matrix type display I've seen, but claiming it's the first flexible e-ink display ever is hype.

  • If they could make these in color I would love to have a giant one of these as a picture frame! It would use less power than digital photo frames so long as it doesn't change that much! You could have a Monet on your wall one day and a vacation photo the next.
  • What do they cost? Typical LVDS panels cost ~$28 in quantity 10,000. If they can't hit near that, then they are going for a niche market.

    -- Terry

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (9) Dammit, little-endian systems *are* more consistent!

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