E Ink, Philips unveil novel microcapsule display

Philips Components, a division of Koninklijke Philips Electronics NV, and E Ink Corp. Tuesday demonstrated the first prototype electronic ink devices at the Society for Information Display conference here.

Electronic ink is a new display technology, consisting of thousands of microcapsules that can be switched between black and white by applying a suitable electric field. The capsules are printed onto a plastic film that is in turn linked to driver circuitry.

The companies are showing prototypes that have come to fruition less than four months after they began their partnership. The devices feature a five-inch (12.5-centimetre) diagonal sheet of electronic ink, integrated with Philips’ active matrix technology. The screens deliver 80 pixels per inch for either monochrome or grayscale images, and feature the “black ink on white paper” look that the companies are betting will catch on because of its readability.

“Within months of signing the joint development agreement with E Ink, we were able to roll out our prototypes,” said Peter Hopper, CEO of Philips’ Mobile Display Systems. “We are now working with a number of partners to bring these devices to market.”

Philips and E Ink expect to bring devices featuring the electronic ink screens to appear by 2003, and both companies are actively working with device makers to co-develop and design electronic ink displays for PDAs (personal digital assistants), mobile phones, electronic readers and e-mail devices.

“The more that these displays can mimic print on paper, the more acceptable these devices will be,” Jim Iuliano, president and CEO of E Ink said. “Our ultimate goal is a display that behaves as much like a piece of paper as possible,” he added.

Eventually, the companies hope to have a variety of screen sizes available, ranging from three inches (7.5 centimeters) to 14 inches (35 centimeters), the executives said. Also, because the screen is active matrix, the size will not affect the refresh rate, Iuliano said.

E Ink in Cambridge, Mass., can be reached at http://www.eink.com/. Philips Components, in Sunnyvale, Calif., can be reached at http://www.components.philips.com/.

The Society for Information Display conference began Tuesday and ends Friday. More information can be found on the Web at http://www.sid.org/conf/sid2001/sid2001.html.