E Ink Corporation, the leading developer and marketer of electronic ink technology for paper-like displays, today announced its demonstration of the world’s thinnest active-matrix displays. Prototypes were first exhibited to industry leaders at last month’s Society for Information Display Symposium, Seminar and Exhibition, in Boston, Massachusetts.
E Ink has demonstrated two display sizes targeting highly portable, rugged information appliances. At less than half the thickness of a credit card, these development prototypes have a total display thickness of just 0.3 mm.
“These displays are an important milestone for E Ink,” stated Dr. Michael McCreary, vice president of Research and Development at E Ink. “These prototypes are the first of their kind on steel foil, and their thinness and flexibility opens many exciting application possibilities.”
Traditional active-matrix display panels measure 2 mm thick and often require a backlight for a combined thickness of 4 mm or more. E Ink’s prototypes are roughly 90% thinner and lighter than typical glass-based, liquid crystal displays.
Active-matrix displays that are commercially available today are produced with two sheets of thick, fragile glass. Fracture of glass substrates is often reported as the leading cause of field failure of portable devices. In contrast, E Ink’s flexible displays are constructed by combining a thin, shatterproof steel foil transistor substrate with E Ink’s paper-like electronic ink display material coated onto a plastic face sheet. Steel foil was chosen as the transistor backplane material because of its overall performance from initial transistor processing through final display use. The result is the thinnest, lightest and most rugged active-matrix graphical display ever demonstrated.
“Today, ‘anywhere, anytime’ information enabled by the latest advances in wireless, broadband and processor technologies places new demands on mobile displays. Enhanced information access and readability are required, while not compromising device portability and battery life,” stated Dr. Dan Button, vice president of Business Development at E Ink. “These displays represent an ideal solution. They offer not only the great ink-on-paper look of electronic ink, but begin to take on the form and utility of paper with ultra-thin, flexible structures and ultra-low power.”
“The beauty of this technology is that it is compatible with existing display production technology, cutting years off time-to-market,” McCreary added.
Unlike other flexible display or ultra-thin display solutions – using plastic substrates, specially processed glass or organic transistors – E Ink’s novel backplane technology is practical; it is based on readily available substrate materials and well-established semiconductor process technologies. Combined with E Ink’s electronic ink front plane film, E Ink now offers a complete technology platform for flexible, paper-like displays. These advanced display products are expected to reach consumers in 2004-2005.
The transistor process and steel foil substrate technology were reduced to practice by E Ink’s flexible microelectronics development team. E Ink intends to license this technology to display manufacturers for mass production.
The first display prototype is targeted at card-sized mobile applications such as SmartCards and cell phones. With a 1.6 inch diagonal and 80 pixels per inch (ppi), the display has a resolution of 100 x 80 pixels. The second display prototype measures 3.0 inches diagonally and is targeted at handheld devices. These include PDAs, two-way pagers and novel communication devices such as mobile display appliances or handheld monitors that are peripheral to cell phones or other wireless ‘servers.’ The resolution of this display is 240 x 160 with 96 ppi. E Ink envisions the unveiled prototypes will enable new design freedom for device makers – such as curved surfaces and bendability – while providing end users with highly portable and rugged information appliances.
“E Ink is now working with leading device makers to integrate our novel electronic ink and backplane technologies into ultra-thin and flexible displays for next generation portable devices,” stated Button.