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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Erasable E-paper Can Be Printed, Erased, Reprinted Over 250 Times (video)


printable e-paper image
Image via video screengrab

Researchers have created a new e-paper can be printed and erased over and over again, and they hope it can be a reusable solution for the posters and signs printed by the millions for bus stop ads and store front displays.

Reuters reports that the new e-paper, by researchers at the Industrial Technology Research Institute, can be printed with a thermal printer like that used for fax machines. And when it's ready to be erased, one only needs to flip a switch and it's ready to be printed again -- up to 260 times.

The e-paper can produce different colors for more dynamic posters, and doesn't require a backlight. It is different from e-paper devices because it is essentially just the display, disconnected from any device that might update the display. The e-paper is printed with one image, and that's it until it is erased and reprinted. In the past, we've seen researchers excited about replacing paper signs or billboards with e-ink displays that can be updated on a whim, but this e-paper is a closer equivalent to the single-use printed posters we're used to, only they can be reprinted.

The researchers think it is a perfect solution for printing fewer posters and signs; however, it looks like it has a long way to go before it could really be considered a replacement for more colorful paper posters.

The posters still don't have the bright, crisp look that storefronts and advertisers would want. Yet, that could improve with time and already, an A4 sized piece of the e-paper will only cost about $2 -- and when it can be printed up to 260 times, that's quite cheap.

The only question is does a piece of e-paper used 260 times have a smaller footprint and environmental impact that 260 of the same sized printed paper posters? It would be interesting to see the life cycle analysis of the product.

Researchers hope to have the product available for the market within two years. But again, an LCA would be something we'd like to see before considering this a smart replacement for paper.