E Ink, AUO Partner To Develop Color E-Paper Poster Products Intended To Gradually Supplant Print Versions

April 24, 2024 by Dave Haynes

Two very different Taiwanese display manufacturers have teamed up up to develop e-paper displays aimed at gradually replacing the millions or billions of printed paper posters with richly colored, changeable, low-powered digital versions.

E Ink has announced a strategic partnership and memorandum of understanding with AUO, one of the largest display manufacturers on the planet, to co-develop and produce large format color e-paper displays. “E Ink will provide full-color ePaper modules, while AUO will provide integrated software and hardware technologies along with the TFT backplane components.”

“Currently, ePaper technology is advancing towards full-color and large-size displays,” says Dr. FY Gan, President of E Ink. “With qualities resembling printed posters, ultra-low power consumption, and no light pollution, ePaper is highly suitable for retail advertising or public information displays. We are eager to collaborate with AUO to expand the use of color ePaper in applications for retail and grow our ecosystem of partners.”

More from the announcement:

AUO’s Smart Retail Business Group has cultivated a global demand through its subsidiaries, deploying technologies like digital signage and electronic shelf labels to enable retail’s digital transformation. Despite the priority of implementing digital tools in retail environments, retailers often rely on in-store advertising via printed posters, which lacks dynamic content management for use cases like promotions or discounts.

E Ink’s Spectra 6 color ePaper offers an alternative to paper posters. With its vivid, high-saturation colors and ultra-low power consumption, the display quality matches traditional printed posters. Integrated with AUO’s software and hardware platform, retailers can manage all consumer-facing points of purchase on a single cloud platform, encompassing LCD, LED, electronic shelf labels, and large-size color ePaper displays.

“Paper posters in retail stores incur significant costs related to production, transportation, and manual installation,” says Andy Yang, General Manager of AUO’s Smart Retail Business Group. “Changing these posters, especially under the constraints of challenges related to labor shortages and supply chain disruptions, poses significant challenges to retailers. The strength of AUO Smart Retail is our ability to address these pain points for our clients. Through our close collaboration with E Ink, we are working together to develop a color ePaper solution ideal for displaying static marketing materials. We believe this not only addresses several pain points for our clients but also reduces wastes associated with paper posters, contributing to carbon reduction efforts and supporting the global trend towards decarbonization through a paperless digital experience.”

AUO mostly stays in the background on digital signage and pro AV, manufacturing displays that then carry the logos of consumer and commercial display and electronics brands. But it is also directly involved in digital signage, having acquired the CMS software firm ComQi back in 2018, and via the directly related AUO Display Plus, acquiring another CMS firm, Rise Vision.

At Touch Taiwan, on this week in Taipei, AUO is talking about e-paper and showing a “cloud-based platform solution that integrates digital signage and electronic shelf labels. Its integrated CMS serves over 30,000 client nodes globally.”

Not sure if that is related to ComQi or Rise, or something separate.

While e-paper products are proliferation for use as ESL price labels and e-readers, save for transit schedule displays there hasn’t been a lot of adoption yet for digital signage applications – the main barriers being color support, motion graphics support and price. The big attractions, however, are energy and CO2 savings.

Color is getting better all the time and E Ink’s Spectra product – which is what’s being talked about with AUO – has the sort of rich, saturated color support that looks very much like print (earlier e-paper color displays had filter layers that muted colors.

No word on price, but it has been and needs to continue coming down.

PPDS (Philips) and Sharp NEC both now market color e-paper displays that look pretty good but not great (colors still look muted), but their big challenge is cost. When I looked recently, the 25-inch color e-paper display from Sharp was north of $2,200 USD on CDW and the PPDS one was almost $1,900 USD.

By comparison, the cost of a 27-inch LCD monitor is going to be 10% of that – so as noted in the past, buyers are really, really, really going to want to signal sustainability by ordering and deploying these units.

I am quietly told the AUO target pricing is going over well when floated with potential customers.

Classic Taiwan tech photo, by the way, up top. The everybody-thumbs-up thing is the Taiwan version of the good old grip-and-grin handshake deal photos I still get from UK PR people.

Pictured on the left is Dr. Feng-Yuan Gan, President of E Ink, and on the right, Andy Yang, GM of the Smart Retail Business Group at AUO.

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