Epson a Key Player in Electronic Paper Displays

- The Epson booth at FPD International 2011 -

Electronic paper displays (EPDs) are superior to other display technologies in several important respects: they display text that is as sharp and easy to read as print on paper, they use no power while displaying an image, and, because they do not need a backlight, they are thin and lightweight. These qualities make e-paper the ideal display for e-book readers, but EPDs are also poised to rapidly spread into business and industrial applications.

As a provider of EPD controllers, Epson is a key player in this fast-growing market. We have been developing e-paper for 10 years and have one of the largest portfolios of e-paper patents in the industry. Epson has been collaborating for a number of years with E Ink Holdings, Inc. (E Ink), the world's leading EPD manufacturer. In 2008 Epson developed a custom controller IC for E Ink EPDs. Since then, Epson has filled out its EPD controller lineup so that today we own a large share of the EPD controller market.

Slideshow of Epson's e-paper development history: New window

Epson highlighted its e-paper business in October at FPD International 2011, Japan's largest and most comprehensive exhibition of flat-panel display technology.

The Epson booth was divided into three areas. One area was for professional applications of EPD controllers for high-resolution e-paper, another was for e-book readers, and a third was for industrial applications using small- and medium-sized e-paper.

A high-resolution, high-speed display control platform for professional e-paper applications

The qualities of e-paper make it an excellent fit for a growing number of applications where huge amounts of information need to be displayed both fast and accurately. Business and education applications require higher-resolution displays than current 160-dpi models if they are to faithfully render engineering drawings, illustrations, Chinese characters, and other very fine or intricate content with smooth gradations. They also require faster page navigation and greater ease-of-use to allow instant viewing of vast amounts of data.

To meet these market needs, Epson developed a display control platform powerful enough to refresh and control the world's highest-resolution e-paper display -- E Ink's 300-dpi e-paper -- at high speed. E-paper tablets equipped with 300-dpi displays controlled by Epson chips are far more responsive and easier to read and use than any e-reader seen to date. The improved performance is expected to propel sales of e-paper tablets in Japan, China, and other regions that use Chinese characters, and open doors to business and education applications where vast amounts of data must be processed.

The arrows point to the high-resolution, high-speed display control platform chipsets. Epson provides the necessary software in the package, thus streamlining and speeding up manufacturers' e-reader development.

On the left is a sample of the 300-dpi e-paper. On the right is 150-dpi e-paper. Text displayed at 300 dpi looks as sharp and clear as laser printer text.

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Page navigation is extremely fast


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Smooth pen input


Display controller IC for e-readers

Like ordinary paper, e-paper relies on reflected light for viewing. So, like ordinary paper, it has a wide viewing angle and is highly readable even in direct sunlight. Electronic paper is extremely well-suited for reading and is thus being used by manufacturers of e-readers around the world. Epson provides EPD controllers that enable fast image rendering, high-speed partial rewrites, and the rendering of natural gradations.

Lineup of EPD controllers on display

A controller IC for color displays


Display controllers for small- and medium-sized e-paper displays for industrial applications

E-paper does not use any energy to hold a display, a property that is expected to make it extremely attractive to retailers, distributors, advertisers, and companies in the medical and health sectors.

Unlike backlit displays, which become dark and hard, or impossible, to read under sunlight, e-paper displays maintain excellent readability. Moreover, because they consume power only when the display is changed, they will likely find a variety of uses, in items such as price tags and cards, for example.

Sample solution for wireless rewriting of EPDs hold significant promise for increased logistics efficiency.

Epson is also developing e-paper modules for watches that will be able to display rich content in high resolution. The photos show Seiko watches with e-paper faces.

Electronic paper's material properties, including excellent readability and low power consumption, are fueling its rapid spread into a variety of applications. Epson will continue to develop devices that take maximum advantage of the features of e-paper and recommend e-paper solutions to a broad range of customers in the consumer, industrial, and other sectors.