Unfortunately, the 'State of Display' report indicates that engineers are being let down by the display supply chain rather than being empowered by it. Materials are hard to source, there is limited guidance for those new to the technology, and vendors will naturally lean towards high-volume orders to maximise their profits and to ensure that their stock is moved in bulk.
About 49 percent of engineers in our survey struggle with prototyping due to the availability of samples, and 55 percent find it challenging to get development kits operating quickly when trying to integrate displays into their product. The display supply chain is thereby creating a barrier to the very thing it should be encouraging!
To counteract this challenge, it's important that engineers work with a strong and supportive partner. With the help of a trusted supply chain partner, the barriers affiliated with prototyping due to display sample availability should also diminish and engineers will be better-placed to evolve a great concept into a disruptive, market-leading product or service in this incredibly competitive marketplace.
So where can we see successful experiments with ePaper?
Despite the logistical difficulties of experimental materials, their unusual qualities still lead to incredibly creative use cases. If supply chains can help create space for innovation, encouraging and enabling engineers to innovate, we will continue to see innovative ideas come to light.
Once again, ePaper is an extremely interesting example. In terms of conventional usage, it has begun to find integration both into personal devices over the past decade. The advent of the eReader, allowing users to carry a digital library with them without the eyestrain caused by LCD or OLED displays, is the most well-known example and has given rise to a host of brands competing to develop the best device.
Beyond this, ePaper has also found great success as a public utility, particularly when deployed in urban areas. Transport for London has trialled ePaper bus timetables in 2016 with great success, with similar schemes taking place from Germany to Japan. As a low-power display that is resistant to vandalism or accidental damage, ePaper is extremely well-suited for applications in busy cities.
Pushing the envelope even further is the incorporation of ePaper into the popular sphere in fashion or art. Brands as big as Google and Levi’s are collaborating to produce smart clothing that can synchronise with the personal devices that people own, and researchers at the University of Buffalo are using a type of ePaper for Kirigami – a form of origami – which allows the construction of malleable electronic circuits within the artwork itself.
These examples are all indicative of the immense versatility that ePaper has to offer. When engineers are given the opportunity to push beyond their comfort zone, they are capable of utilising ePaper in a huge variety of ways, which can only help consumers get closer to the personal experience that they seek.
Ultimately, the 'State of Display' report suggests that engineers need to commit to creativity and unconventionality over practicality and conformity if they are to discover the most effective ways to address the frustrations of both themselves and their consumers. To do this, they will need to cooperate with their suppliers to facilitate a creative environment, collaborating in efforts to drive innovation and experimentation.
Tim Burne has been CEO of Plastic Logic since January 2015 and was chief strategy officer of the company prior to that. Plastic Logic’s survey was undertaken during March and April 2018. It was completed by 115 professional electronics engineers specifically involved in the outline specification or physical design of electronic products featuring integrated displays.
Related links and articles: