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Plastic Logic Expands Into the Construction Market With a New 21″ eReader for Blueprints

Remember plasticlogic dual screen ereader 2that dual screen ereader concept design that Plastic Logic demoed at CES 2013?  It’s found a home.

A startup called Printless Plans is working to develop a new platform for the construction industry. They’re looking for a solution which would avoid having to print out the voluminous blueprints needed anything more than a basic construction project, and they think PL’s dual screen ereader is a perfect fit.

They’re calling it the Zephyr.

It combines two of Plastic Logic’s 10.7″ screen panels to produce a surface area that measures 15.4″ when laid flat. Each panel has a resolution of 1280 x 960 pixels, giving the Zephyr an impressive 1280 x 1920 resolution (minus a pixel or 2 for the fold).

Correction: A reader noticed that there is an extra seam in the device shown below. The Zephyr has 4 screen panels, not 2, making this a 21.4″ ereader with a resolution of 1920 x 2540. Thanks, Tom!

Okay, that’s not so impressive when compared to say the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, which has a screen resolution of 2560 x 1600 in under 9″, but the Zephyr is still larger than any previous ereader. And at 150ppi, the sharpness of the screen(s) on the Zephyr matches that of Sony’s 13.3″ writing slate.

Update: I ran this idea by a construction engineer I know and she would never buy it. It’s too fragile, too costly, and everyone has already gone digital. They’re using pro grade tablets to display blueprints, so there is no need for this funky device.

zephyr 2

There aren’t any details yet on connectivity, but the Zephyr will be equipped with a touchscreen to make manipulating blueprints easier. I for one would love to see how they managed a touchscreen with a fold down the center; that is probably the most technically complicated part of the design.

There’s also no firm details on price or release date (nor would you expect any at this point), but according to Plastic Logic the Zephyr prototype will be on display later this month. Printless Plans and Plastic Logic will have the Zephyr on display at the GreenBuild trade show in Philadelphia, Penn. It should be possible for attendees to play with it and try to kill it.

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Tom November 20, 2013 um 5:05 am

I think the demo in your picture has 4 PL panels in it.
There is an edge visible on the left side that goes through the "u" of Pulaski Rd.
So that makes it a 21.4″ display, with 2560 x 1920 pixel resolution.

IMHO this device will never see the light of day.
PL couldn’t get a device with a single panel up and running…

Nate Hoffelder November 20, 2013 um 6:19 am

Yep. I missed that, and it wasn’t mentioned anywhere. Thank you for pointing it out.

Javi November 20, 2013 um 6:19 am

Very nice but Plastic Logic = vaporware

Nate Hoffelder November 20, 2013 um 6:43 am

This is true.

fjtorres November 20, 2013 um 7:17 am

eInk has also done tiled displays so maybe they’ll take a cue from this and whip up an eInk alternative.
In fact, this is one application where the low saturation of color eInk is no issue.
Between engineers, architects, and contractors there is a substantial market for this niche and one that won’t shy away from a healthy 4-digit price tag. Just make it thin, light, and rugged with 40-80 hours of battery life. Biggest issue will be the software. But there will be room for a lot of value-add there.

Nate Hoffelder November 20, 2013 um 7:39 am

Actually, E-ink can’t do it. They would have to rely on one of their partners. And even then, I don’t know that any have the ability to do a tiled and mobile display – just fixed signage. Toppan demoed one a while back that comes close, though:

And technically E-ink is already doing this 4 panel Zephyr display. Plastic Logic uses Pearl E-ink film with their own backplane.

Gary November 20, 2013 um 10:58 am

I can’t see anyone buying this product to use on a construction site.

First, it’s not big enough. A typical drawing used for construction or manufacturing is 22″ by 34″. They are that big so that you can see the required level of detail, such as plumbing, wiring, dimensions, text notes specifying materials, etc. etc. With a 21 inch display (12.6 x 16.8 inches?) you will not be able to see the fine details, so you would have to zoom in and out all the time.

Second, it would have to be really rugged to withstand the conditions on a typical construction site.

Third, it would have to be cheap enough that you don’t mind buying another after the first one (and the second and the third and…) is lost or stolen.

There are, however other applications where a large format display might be useful. For example, the home builder’s sales people could use it to rapidly flip through possible floor plans to show to potential home buyers. This is more or less what is shown in the sample image above.

Perhaps paper "blueprints" will be replaced by a digital display some time in the future, but I don’t think that the technology has reached that point yet.

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