Clumsy e-reader users can breathe a sigh of relief. South Korea-based LG (PINK:LGEAF) announced it is mass producing what it says is a durable electronic paper display (EPD) that will be able to better protect e-reader screens from falls and scratches.
LG had previously demoed 11.5-inch and 19-inch EPDs way back in 2009 and 2010, respectively, but those models never made it to the manufacturing line.
The new, 6-inch EPD has pixel resolution of 1,024×768 and uses e-ink technology — similar to that in Amazon’s (NASDAQ:AMZN) Kindles (except the Kindle Fire) — which is said to reduce eye strain and glare. The LG display’s ability to bend at up to 40-degree angles will make it easier to hold for longer periods of time and should make safe storage easier.
Crafted from a flexible plastic substrate, the display measures 0.03 inches (0.7 millimeters) thick and weighs 0.5 ounces (13 grams), making it one-third slimmer and half the weight of currently available glass EPD devices. LG’s press release claims the display can sustain drops of up to approximately 5 feet (1.5 meters), or about the same height as a drop made while standing and holding the device like a book. The screen also took blows from a small urethane hammer without breaking or scratching, the company says. (Although it’s still best not to take a hammer to expensive electronics.)
A starting point, and an OLED discovery
The company is already planning its next move in flexible displays, according to Sang Duck Yeo, head of LG’s Mobile/OLED division. “Based on our success in mass-producing plastic EPD,” he said in a press release, “we are excited as we look toward applying concepts from this experience to future developments like plastic OLED and flexible displays.”
LG isn’t alone in its flexible OLED plans. Displays that use OLEDs — organic light-emitting diodes: essentially an electroluminescent layer of organic materials sandwiched between two electrodes — are typically found in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, a wider market than the e-reader-specific EPD.
Samsung (PINK:SSNLF), too, confirmed last month that it hopes to mass produce a flexible OLED display. The news was followed by a patent leak demonstrating the ability to fold the device lengthwise, as one would close a book, or roll it up into a tube shape. Samsung won’t begin production until the end of this year, at the earliest, providing a window for LG to test out the consumer response to its flexible screen.
On the technology research side, researchers at the University of Toronto recently announced they have developed highly efficient OLEDs on very thin, durable, flexible plastic using a process that, in manufacturing settings, can be applied inexpensively and in an environmentally friendly way. The production technique, the researchers noted, was discovered by accident when the research team cleaned sheets of indium tin oxide, which is used in flat-panel displays. The cleaned sheets had picked up chlorine molecules used in the cleaning solvent, which, it turned out, resulted in a much brighter and more energy efficient display.
LG’s EPDs, meanwhile, will be in the hands of consumers soon. The displays will be shipped to device manufacturers in China, where they will be popped into e-readers. Finalized units will ship off to Europe at the start of next month. A North American rollout schedule hasn’t been announced.