Friday, June 5, 2015

E Ink Tricks the Eye with Color -- and Paper

By Jenny Donelan

The E Ink booth is always a fun place to visit at Display Week, probably because it features so many different products, some “real,” some prototypes. E Ink is a versatile material and designers are still figuring out what they can do with it. This year, the range of products on display included shelf labels, smartphones, blood sugar monitors, and decorative pillars featuring dynamic color displays that were part of the actual booth.

One of E Ink’s big announcements at the show was the addition of yellow to its Spectra product line. Last year, Spectra debuted in black, white, and red. This year, you can get black, white, and yellow as well. The product has various uses, including electronic signage and dynamic shelf labeling. E Ink was demonstrating the latter with an exterior booth wall that featured a life-sized photo of shirts on shelves, as if at a store, with actual Spectra shelf labels next to them. From a distance, the whole eye-catching display looked real, as if there were actual shirts on shelves, What’s really interesting, said E Ink’s Giovanni Mancini, was that more than one attendee asked him what kind of display the shirts were being shown on -- to which he had to answer that it was one of the oldest display materials in the world – paper.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about how the e-Reader market has matured, and it has, but E Ink is still shipping 10 to 12 million panels a year, noted Mancini. No doubt many companies would be happy to be serving a “mature” market in that capacity.

Still, E ink has obviously seen fit to diversify its offerings, with a recent emphasis on the electronic signage market. And in January, it announced Prism, which the company describes as a “dynamic architecture product.” Prism uses electronic ink to decorate surfaces such as walls, artwork, pillars, and so forth, much as LEDs are now being used, but with a softer look and of course, with less power consumption. At the show, two different colors of Prism were used to decorate the sides of pillars in one corner of the booth. The colors changed in intensity: one pillar started out as nearly white, became pink, and then red before fading out to start over again.

Prism is available in a wide range of colors, some of which are shown here.

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