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What Is E-paper/E-ink?

Feb 16, 2022

It has been more than thousands of years since humans began to use paper and printing technology. Due to the deforestation of trees and the misuse of natural resources, the earth's ecological environment has been deteriorating step by step. Electronic paper technology was developed to replace traditional papers out of the appeal for environmental protection. And it turns out that e-paper is a platform on which incredibly versatile projects can be built - but what exactly is e-ink? This article will introduce in detail.

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E-paper VS. Oridinary paper

Part 1. What is E ink?

The electronic paper goes by many names: e-paper sometimes spelt as ePaper, electronic ink and (generically, after the company that manufactures it) also e ink. All of these names describe the same thing: a technology that mimics the appearance of ordinary ink on paper.

Simply put, electronic paper is also known as e-paper, "electronic ink", or E-ink (also the company that manufactures the paper). Those names all introduce one thing: it's a technique that mimics the appearance of ordinary ink on paper.

Simply put, just like the crisp lines of text you write on paper with a pen, e-paper can display the same clear, highly readable content.

Part 2. Uses of E-Ink

In the early 2000s, e-ink was used by many e-readers, most notably the Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo eReader, and Sony Reader.

Consumers favour it for its clear, comfortable and eye-friendly reading experience in bright sunlight, and it is almost indistinguishable from paper books. It's still available on some e-readers from the Kindle and Kobo, but other screen technologies have taken over most e-reader markets.

E-ink technology appeared in some early phones. It has also expanded into applications such as traffic signs, electronic shelf signs and wearables.

Just as Wikipedia explains, "It is available in grayscale and colour and is used in mobile devices such as e-readers, and, to a lesser extent, digital signage, smartwatches, mobile phones, electronic shelf labels and architecture panels." 

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MinewTag's electronic table cards used in meeting room

Part 3. Features of E-paper

For nearly two thousand years, ink on paper has been the only way to display text and images. Ink is still superior to computer monitors in terms of portability and price -- it does not require external power, and many think reading physical books is more eye-friendly. 

However, it also has some limitations: Once the paper is printed with any words or images, it can be hard to change the displayed content, and if you have a large number of printed books, it can be challenging to carry around. Then what about E-paper? What makes it popular?

  • Low-power consumption

E Ink launched the first e-ink screen display, Immedia, in 1999, which requires only 0.1 watts of power to operate. E Ink said: "If the electronic device replaces the e-ink display, it can save 50 to 100 times the power compared to the liquid crystal display."

The same is true when the e-ink screen is applied to an electronic label. Take MinewTag's ESL as an example: the screen can be refreshed through a background operation even if the label information changes. Even if it is refreshed five times a day, the battery of the electronic tag can maintain a lifespan of 5 years, and the battery is replaceable. In other words, electronic tags can be used indefinitely, which is much more cost-effective than paper tags that can only be thrown away after replacement.

Low-power digital labels' introduction


  • Flexibility

The application of e-ink is flexible because it can be printed on a variety of surfaces. Such as walls, product labels, billboards, bus stop signs, etc. Without removing the surface, the user can quickly send a signal from the background to refresh the e-ink screen. Such flexible and scalable application characteristics bring many possibilities for foldable displays of electronic devices.


  • Readability

Compared with traditional computer displays, electronic ink has another advantage -- readability. It looks more like printed text, so it's more eye-friendly. However, manufacturers of e-ink screens must increase the resolution of their products to survive in books or other small publications.


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Amazon Kindle with E-ink screens

  • Limitations of E-Ink

While E-ink technology is gaining traction, it also has limitations. Unlike traditional LCDs, typical e-ink displays don't have a backlight, making them challenging to read in dimly lit places. They cannot display video, either.

To enhance competitiveness, E-Ink strives to improve its technology. They added touchscreen capabilities, launching their first colour display in late 2010 and a limited colour screen in 2013. It can be said that the colour of the e-ink screen may be richer in the future.


Part 4. To sum it up

Now that e-ink screens are gradually replacing paper and competing with LCDs, as a related industry of e-ink screens, we should explore more of its application possibilities, which is exactly what we have been doing. We have successively launched electronic table cards, electronic conference room signages, archive room signages, workstation nameplates, etc., which are deployed in medical, retail, industrial, warehousing, office and other fields, providing many environmentally-friendly and efficient label solutions.