Also, it’s far from clear which printing process will prove the most effective for this application. Ink-jet based manufacturing has dominated the early e-paper development programs, but screen and gravure are gaining prominence in pilot tests. Offset lithography (as well as flexo-graphy) is seen as having potential for high-volume production, but tends to be referenced as an area of possible future development, with one notable exception.
How the market will shape up is still speculation at this point because even the pioneers don’t have many of the answers yet, and they are keeping what is known under wraps. Scaling up from a pilot project to commercial production tends to be fraught with surprises.
Quantum Paper, in Bloomfield Hills, MI, is the one company to have gone public with plans to roll out a technology that “marries conventional, paper-based (offset) printing with electronics.” It reports being able to produce electronic paper using standard litho printing on top of a base applied in a screen printing process or entirely via flexo printing with specialized equipment. In either case, multiple layers of conductive ink are printed onto paper (or other substrates).
Depending on the degree of printing, pieces can be illuminated in their entirety or selectively and support full-color static or dynamic displays. The company envisions its process being used to produce signage and POP displays, as well as add an interactive component to traditional printed pieces such as brochures and magazines.
After popping up with a big flurry of self-promotion, the company again went quiet, which adds to a sense that this all sounds a bit too good to hold true. Giving the effort credibility, though, is the involvement of Dr. William J. Ray as the principal inventor and Quantum’s chief technology officer. Ray is an industry veteran with a track record of innovations.