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Plastic Logic Unveils a Flexible Color ePaper Screen (video)

Hot on the heels of the Kindle Color rumor comes this surprise bit of news from Russia. Plastic Logic, the screen tech company I’d written off in 2010, has a color screen in the works. I have full details as well as a video of the new screen.

It was unveiled this weekend at a press event in Russia. Peter Fischer, Plastic Logic’s VP for Process Engineering, is shown in the photo above with the new screen. It’s described as being slightly smaller than an A4 sheet of paper, making it likely the same size as screen PlasticLogic currently has in production (8.5×11).

The color is quite cool, but the flexible detail isn’t quite so amazing as you think. Plastic Logic’s screen tech is based plastic transistors, so all of their screens are flexible – including the screen currently used in the PlasticLogic 100, the academic ereader which is currently being tested in Russian schools. In fact, I recall that PlasticLogic thought their screen was too flexible when they launched their first device at CES 2010.

There’s no word yet on when the new screen might hit the market, but I do know that it can display 4 thousand colors (4,096 to be exact) with a resolution of 75ppi. While that might seem awfully low, there’s a reason for it. PlasticLogic added color to their existing screen in much the same way that E-ink did.

The color is provided by a filter lying on top of the grayscale screen. The screen underneath the filter has a resolution of 150 ppi, and that gets cut in half because you need 3 pixels to do red, green, and blue. There’s also a 4th pixel which is left alone (it shows the white/black of the underlying screen. The RGBW are arranged in a 2 by 2 grid in the layer on top of the PlasticLogic screen.

Wanna know why I find this screen so exciting? It’s not just that it exists; but that’s a start. No, I’m excited because I have some understanding of the work involved. This is a flexible screen, and so is the filter lying on top. PlasticLogic had to design the filter so it flexes at the same rate as the screen so it wouldn’t get bent out of shape. That is an interesting trick, IMO.

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Comments


reichsputin 14 May, 2012 um 11:05 am

A resolution of 640×480 on an A4 size screen would be really "cool".

Facepalm.

Nate Hoffelder 14 May, 2012 um 11:18 am

The resolution is closer to 825×638.

Paul Durrant 14 May, 2012 um 12:03 pm

It’s still a bit low compared to Amazon DX’s 1200×824, and pathetic compared to the iPad 3’s 2048×1536!

I can’t see the colour filter method of producing a colour screen being really useful unless they can get a much higher resolution on the base screen.

reichsputin 14 May, 2012 um 1:50 pm

They’ve obviously just added a color filter layer to their old 1280×960 10.7″ screen and say it’s "almost A4 size" and 75 PPI. As a color pixel is formed by four b/w subpixels, that leaves us with a quarter resolution of 640×480 for color images.


fjtorres 14 May, 2012 um 12:31 pm

Saturation looks decent. Better than Triton.
As for the resolution, 75dpi is (barely) adequate for color images and fine for line art; charts and graphs, presentations, etc.
For text if they are smart and use sub-pixel antialiasing it should also be adequate.
The big issue is going to be price.
But at least the plastic substrate brings a level of durability that LCD can’t match so they may be able to make a case for premium pricing on that basis.
Not a surefire winner but not D.O.A. either.


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Hans 14 May, 2012 um 6:42 pm

"and that gets cut in half because you need 3 pixels to do red, green, and blue."

Huh? How should this be possible? Epaper does not emit light, it only reflects, right? So it must use subtractive color mixing, that is CMYK.

Please explain otherwise.

Nate Hoffelder 14 May, 2012 um 6:52 pm

According to E-ink, their screen is RGBW:
http://www.eink.com/sell_sheets/eink_brochure.pdf

I was just emailing with E-ink’s marketing head and he implied that PL’s screen worked the same way.


Grammarian 14 May, 2012 um 6:45 pm

The filter is not "laying" on top; rather, the filter is *lying* on top.

Nate Hoffelder 14 May, 2012 um 7:04 pm

You’re right:
http://www.grammarmudge.cityslide.com/articles/article/992333/8992.htm

Fixed it.


Kevin 14 May, 2012 um 9:56 pm

They need to make this 150 ppi Color/300 ppi Black/White with front lighting like the Nook to really impress. They could call it a Retina display like Apple does. The same goes for eInk with their Triton displays. What’s delivered in the JetBook Color doesn’t cut it with respect to the standards being set now by LCD screens.


CharonPDX 14 May, 2012 um 10:54 pm

That first picture they show made me think they were using a Prokudin-Gorskii photo… (Which would have been very appropriate.) But I can’t find it in the collection anywhere.

(Prokudin-Gorskii was a Russian photographer around the turn of the last century who pioneered an early form of color photography. His photographs were recently restored by the Library of Congress, and they are astounding. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/empire )


Tom 15 May, 2012 um 3:36 am

Nate, do you remember color STN displays? This is exactly what this display will look like. Also, 4096 colors is not good enough to display realistic images. This is merely a flexible version of the "praised" Triton EInk screen.


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itechbeat 26 August, 2018 um 9:16 am

Saturation looks decent. Better than Triton.
As for the resolution, 75dpi is (barely) adequate for color images and fine for line art; charts and graphs, presentations, etc.
For text if they are smart and use sub-pixel antialiasing it should also be adequate.
The big issue is going to be price.
But at least the plastic substrate brings a level of durability that LCD can’t match so they may be able to make a case for premium pricing on that basis.
Not a surefire winner but not D.O.A. either.


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