Although the company will not confirm, industry sources report that Prime View International is gearing up for mass production of flexible electrophoretic displays (EPDs) by the second quarter of 2009, with production of color displays soon to follow. The devices are the world’s first flexible active matrix EPD made in a volume thin film transistor (TFT) fab. The move is in response to what the company believes is a new wave in the e-reading revolution. Much of the work will be done at Hydis, PVI’s Korean subsidiary. Since acquiring Hydis in mid-2008, PVI has shifted its EPD production to Hydis’ three facilities.
PVI Acquires Phillips Patents
Established in 1992 in Taiwan as a subsidiary of the YFY Group, Prime View International (PVI) has pioneered development in the thin film transistor industry. It was responsible for the first TFT plant in Taiwan. PVI entered the e-paper business in 2005 when it acquired the e-paper display division of Philips, with all its patents and IP rights. Coupled with PMI’s technology and production capacity, the company developed MagicMirror Ò reflective display technology to become a leading force in e-paper technology.
Prime View manufactures active matrix e-paper displays using TFT technology for the backplane with an electrophoretic frontplane using E Ink’s technology. The displays are made possible by a combination of MagicMirrorÒReflective Technology and the EPLaR process developed by Philips Research, to which PVI now has exclusive license. The company claims that its e-reading devices have an extensive battery life of up to 7,000 page turns per charge, equal to approximately 20-full-length books. In addition, since the products employ a Si gate (poly Si-gate) driver, the devices are more robust and compact.
Force-Sensor Touch Screens
PVI was the first manufacturer of active matrix e-paper displays, and the only one until recently when NEC announced its similar device. The new displays are unique in another critical aspect also. Called Touch EPD the product features a distinctive “force sensing” touch panel technology. These force sensors are located under the e-paper display, as opposed to traditional touch panels, which add a layer on top of the device. Consequently, there is no reduction in the reflective qualities of the display. Proprietary software determines the location and amount of pressure when a user touches the display. It works with either a finger or a stylus, and is cost competitive with restive technology. However, traditional restive touch panels have a light output of only 80-85%, so the e-readers become too dark to read. Other current technologies such as capacitive touch panels are very expensive. Another advantage of the technology is that it does not use indium tin oxide (ITO), which is fragile, expensive and whose supplies have become problematic.
The new device was introduced at the Society for Information Display (SID) conference last fall. “Touch Reader combines innovative touch panel technology and PVI’s existing e-paper product,” says PVI Chairman and CEO Scott Liu. “By humanizing e-paper’s user interface, we expect this new product to spur demands for e-books and solidify PVI’s leadership position in the global ePaper market.”
E-Paper: The Environmental Alternative
It is interesting to note that The YFY Group is a leading paper manufacturer in Taiwan, dedicated to recycling and reforestation initiatives. In large part, PVI’s affiliation with the YFY Group is motivation for its push for e-paper displays as an environmental alternative to paper for information dissemination. According to the company’s website, a best seller such as the Harry Potter series uses 290,000 tons of paper, which equates to 5.8 million trees and four million trees were used for newspapers in Taiwan in 2008. Since news, information, socialization, learning and shopping are now available online, PVI feels that “the advent of e-Paper can facilitate an eco-friendly transformation of the reading experience.”
It would seem that Prime View International is poised to help make that transformation move forward. It has the strategy, the resources, the technology and the initiative to make it happen.
Update May 8th, 2009
Bad news for anybody hoping for PVI’s color e-paper before the end of 2009, as the company has pushed back the launch until 2010 having encountered “barriers to achieving satisfactory results”. To make up for the disappointment, however, PVI have tipped a larger ebook reader from Sony later in 2009, to compete with the recently-announced Amazon Kindle DX.
By Linda M. Casatelli
e-ink, e-reader, pvi