Sony, E Ink form electronic paper joint venture

April 11, 2017 // 11:17 a.m.

Tags: #digital-paper #e-ink #electronic-ink #electronic-paper #electrophoretic #epaper #johnson-lee #sony #terushi-shimizu

Sony has announced a joint venture with sunlight-readable low-power display specialist E Ink to develop new devices based around electronic paper displays, beginning with an upgraded version of the Sony Digital Paper system.

Founded in 1997, E ink Corporation oversees the commercialisation of a type of low-power sunlight-readable display panel using microencapsulated electrophoretic technology patented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) a year earlier. Best known for being the display type behind most eReader platforms, including Amazon's popular Kindle, E Ink 'electronic paper' has a number of interesting properties: It retains its image while powered off, requiring energy only to change the displayed image; it is readable in direct sunlight with extremely high contrast; and it can be used with a front-lighting system in absolute darkness. It also has some downsides that have prevented its adoption in the tablet market at large: The colour variant is limited in the shades it can display, and the refresh rate of both is suited only to still images.

Regardless, Sony believes E Ink is the future - to the point where its semiconductor arm is partnering with the company for new products based around the electrophoretic display technology. The joint venture, Sony has announced, is registered in Taiwan with a Japanese subsidiary, with E Ink and Sony Semiconductor Solutions holding a combined 70 percent stake in the resulting company. 'Sony has worked on ePaper technology with E Ink for over a decade,' explained Sony Semiconductor president Terushi Shimizu of the reasoning behind the joint venture. 'Through this long-term partnership, we share the same vision with E Ink together to proliferate the use of ePaper.'

'E Ink is very excited to deepen this partnership with Sony through the JV and honoured to have such an experienced board member to provide guidance to the JV,' added E Ink president Johnson Lee. 'With the strong support and collaboration between E Ink and Sony, we believe the mutual efforts will lead the JV to a significant business growth.'

Sony was an early adopter of E Ink technology with a since-abandoned range of consumer eReader devices. More recently, the company has been working on enterprise adaptations of the same core platform with a range of 'Digital Paper' devices offering the ability to view, annotate, and edit Portable Document Format (PDF) files on an A4-format high-resolution E Ink display. The most recent of these, featuring a 13.3" grayscale E Ink display with a 1,650 x 2,200 resolution, was announced by Sony's Japanese arm this week and is due to launch later this year.

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