E-paper displays seem to settle in on the display market. It is not only the e-book readers which are most associated with e-paper. Electronic labels, information boards, advertising carriers, or even architectural decorative elements – this technology is more and more popular in public space and transforms it into a much more human-friendly one.
Choose the right one
The key factor determining the choice of display technology is the quality of the content presented in the environment where the designed end device will be located. We can assume that e-paper displays will be ideal for places where traditional paper can be used because both “papers” have a lot in common. An example to illustrate their similarity is a newspaper. We can view it in a traditional – paper and electronic – e-paper version. In both cases, the content of its pages will be perfectly legible – the only condition is to provide adequate lighting (artificial or natural) because, like ordinary paper, e-paper does not have its backlight.
When the newspaper is moving
Thanks to the constant development of technology, e-paper can now do much more. Let us still stick to the analogy with the newspaper – in some titles, publishers include, for example, short comics. In the paper version, of course, these will be pictures with speech bubbles supplemented with text. In an e-newspaper, it can be… an animation. Thanks to the image refreshing modes known as “flashless,” the e-paper display can present simple animations. Image quality and ghosting (i.e., the presence of relics of the previously shown content revealed because of imperfect movement of pigment particles) have been optimized. The response time is about 120 ms at 25 degrees C.
So, where’s the problem…?
We have mentioned the advantages of e-paper displays, including wide viewing angles, physical parameters, and energy efficiency. However, device designers often pointed to the small thickness of the displays as their biggest… disadvantage. The thickness of the 13-inch EPD is 0.78mm. The much larger, 31-inch display is not much thicker because it is only 0.805mm. Considering these parameters and the fact that the panels use glass substrates, there is a high risk of damage during improper installation.
…and how to solve it?
Unisystem has been offering e-paper products for several years. The technological partnership with E Ink – the originator, pioneer, and world leader of this technology allows us to provide more and more modern displays and help in their implementation. The growing interest in EPD (Electronic Paper Display) has prompted us to create solutions based on E Ink displays, which will facilitate the implementation of modules in end devices and thus contribute to the further dissemination of e-paper technology.
EPD like LCD TFT? Really?
The e-paper technology differs from the LCD TFT so much that in terms of the steps required to obtain a functional component, EPD can be compared to the matrix itself rather than a complete LCD TFT display. In both cases, several factors must be considered to obtain a finalized working module.
The mechanical modules from the USEM series primarily solve the issues related to safety and ease of installation. As we have already mentioned, the e-paper display itself is very fragile and prone to mechanical damage. An adequately designed housing is, therefore, a critical element ensuring its safety. The thickness of the entire module is approx. 5mm – it is still not much, but enough to protect the delicate e-paper display from damage. In addition, thanks to using a UV filter, we do not have to worry about discoloration and degradation of e-paper. All components are bonded together using the optical bonding method, which by removing air from between the layers of the module reduces, among others, the possibility of fogging resulting from the ingress of moisture and dust into the device’s crevices. The modules’ undoubted advantage is their design – elegant front glass with delicate painting makes the whole look stylish.
USEM is not only a display and housing – but it also contains a dedicated controller created by our R&D department. Thanks to the complexity of the solution, the integrator does not have to struggle with the protection and display control. The controller is powered from a single 5V source and enables communication via SPI and USB interfaces. It supports 4-bit graphics, which increases the possibilities of using e-paper displays in digital signage applications.
Reality or science fiction?
The creators of e-paper are now facing a lot of challenges. One of the most important is currently creating new solutions that will display a wider range of colors. The introduction of the third, fourth, and subsequent pigments, or going even further and offering a solution with a full spectrum of colors will multiply the possibilities of using this technology. In 2016, E Ink, for the first time, introduced ACeP, i.e., Advanced Color ePaper. Work is currently underway on its following variant.
The development of e-paper and the emerging new possibilities of using it sometimes resemble those we expect to find in science fiction rather than in the world around us. Even though EPDs are not yet as affordable as LCD TFTs, it is only a matter of time before they are used in more advanced and, therefore, more exciting implementations.
If you need more information regarding e-paper and its capabilities – contact us.
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