Plastic Fantastic – Incredible New Developments In Flexible Electronics

The world of plastic electronics is taking off at a phenomenal rate.  It may have taken nearly thirty-five years to develop flexible e-paper but now it has hit the market plastic electronics is in the boom time.  I am really interested in the developments of flexible e-paper and e-readers.

I already have an e-reader and have been impressed with the ease and accessibility of the data I can access from it. However I do feel limited when it comes to the choice of magazines.  This is because many of the magazines I read feature a lot of glossy colour photographs.  Until the colour e-readers hit the market I will have to stick to buying the expensive paper alternatives.

Flexible e-paper – Plastic Fantastic!
Current screen displays are mainly glass-based.  This offers robust, high definition resolution but is not flexible and can be easily broken.  The idea of flexible e-paper is that it provides a screen that is plastic based.  This enables flexibility to be introduced and also reduces the chance of breakages.  With revolutionary new plastic transistors flexible e-paper can be rolled up, curved and bent to create highly functional, distortion free images.

The possibilities for application are vast and cross a wide number of industries including communication, IT, film and even medical equipment.  For example there has been talk of full curved 3D body medical scanners that could be crafted from the plastic electronics technology behind e-paper.  Of course this flexible screen technology would also be integral to advancing e-readers and mobile computing and communication devices into the future.

If you were wondering just how much better mobile computing and communication could get then flexible plastic technology could give you a big clue.

New Flexible Colour e-paper Screen Announced
I was very excited to read about the advent of a new colour flexible e-paper screen.  This was announced in May 2012 from plastic electronics leader Plastic Logic. They already have a monochrome flexible e-paper screen out in full production and this has impressed so far with its robustness and practical applications.

News that a colour version is on the way has got the tech world very excited.  This really opens up the possibilities for plastic electronics and paves the way for some very exciting applications including vast libraries of books and videos that you can literally roll up and put in your pocket.

Also on the cards are transparent flexible backplanes, which can be paired with different types of display media and backlit.  At the moment with existing mass market e-readers and flexible e-paper the screens are not backlit and work as reflective displays only.  This basically saves a lot of energy but does limit integration with colour and video images and also means you need a separate light source to view the screen.

Colour flexible plastic e-paper may sound more Sci-Fi than reality but the truth is that the technology is out there right now.  It just needs to be fine-tuned and made accessible for the mass markets.  The thought that I could own a piece of electronic paper in the near future which would enable me to surf the internet, read books, refer to technical manuals and watch films all-in-one is almost too exciting to be true!

The Future is Plastic
Huge steps have been taken in plastic electronic developments since the first experimental ‘electrocapillarity’ devices of the 1970s.  Some incredible revolutionary designs, such as plastic transistors, have really pushed boundaries and created a generation of possibilities that were nothing more than theory just a few decades ago.

You can now buy flexible plastic screens that are as thin and flexible as paper.  This really is an amazing achievement and the plastic electronics industry looks set to go from strength to strength in the future.

Simon Wilson Blogs about small businesses and new technologies.  When he’s not writing he enjoys running, cycling and visiting museums and galleries throughout London.