Electronic Paper and Ink for E Fashion
Fashion Terms  E Fashion Terms  Smart Fabrics

Electronic Paper Displays were developed by the technology industry, but they are equally important to the fashion industry.  They are used by clothing retailers for display purposes, but even more importantly they are being utilized by fashion designers to create wearable tech apparel and fashion accessories.

Based on our understanding, Electronic Paper and Electronic Ink are generic terms, and the term E Ink appears to reference the E Ink Corporation.

Electronic paper, e-paper and electronic ink are display technologies that mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper.   E-paper (sometimes called radio paper or just electronic paper) is a portable, reusable storage and display medium that looks like paper but can be repeatedly written on and refreshed by electronic means.

E Ink (electrophoretic ink) is a specific proprietary type of electronic paper manufactured by E Ink Corporation, founded in 1997 based on research started at the MIT Media Lab.

E Ink is the creator of electrophoretic, or, electronic ink — the optical component of a film used in Electronic Paper Displays (EPD). Although futuristic-sounding, electronic ink is actually a straightforward fusion of chemistry, physics and electronics. It's so much like paper, it utilizes the same pigments used in the printing industry today.

E Ink's technology is commonly referred to as "bistable".

Bistable means that the image on an E Ink screen will be retained even when all power sources are removed.  In practice, this means that the display is consuming power only when something is changing.   

This means that designers can set a product to show a particular design pattern that can be worn without requiring a constant flow of power.  The design can be changed when the wearer has time to add a new charge if needed.  Low power consumption helps get designers around the primary problem of current generation wearables which is sucky battery life.  So expect a whole lot more of this pattern-shifting stuff to start cropping up.

E Ink displays are also referred to as "reflective displays." In an LCD, or "emissive display", light from a backlight is projected through the display towards your eyes. In an E Ink display, no backlight is used; rather, ambient light from the environment is reflected from the surface of the display back to your eyes.

By using electronic shelf labels (ESL) with E Ink's technology, retailers have the ability to change pricing strategies as needed in real time, allowing them to stay one step ahead of competitors while attracting consumers based on changing market conditions. Spectra allows retailers to elevate the impact of their ESLs, by adding color to logos and quickly directing consumers' attention to important information, such as product sales and promotions.   E Ink Spectra is the first three pigment electronic ink offered in mass production. EPDs using Spectra offer the same high-contrast, sunlight readable, low-power performance attributes of our other display types - now with a pop of color. The first generation of Spectra will feature black, white and red pigments, and we expect to release additional colors in the future.

In January 2013, at the International CES, it was announced that the fourth generation of E Ink devices features 768 by 1024 resolution on 6-inch displays, with 212 ppi (Pixel density).  It was named Carta and is used in the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 2nd generation (2013), in the Deutsche Telekom Tolino vision (2014), the Kobo eReader Aura H2O (2014) and in the Amazon Kindle Voyage (2014).

Unlike conventional backlit flat panel displays that emit light, electronic paper displays reflect light like paper. This may make them more comfortable to read, and provide a wider viewing angle than most light-emitting displays.  The contrast ratio in electronic displays available as of 2008 approaches newspaper, and newly developed displays are slightly better.  An ideal e-paper display can be read in direct sunlight without the image appearing to fade.

Many electronic paper technologies hold static text and images indefinitely without electricity.  Flexible electronic paper uses plastic substrates and plastic electronics for the display backplane. There is ongoing competition among manufacturers to provide full-color ability.

Applications of electronic visual displays include electronic pricing labels in retail shops, and digital signage, time tables at bus stations, electronic billboards, mobile phone displays, and e-readers able to display digital versions of books and e-paper magazines.  Most importantly, they can be used for wearable technology.

A few of the early display manufacturers include the following companies:

This technology has been rapidly expanding into the apparel industry and jewelry business.  For an example of jewelry you can view the Tago Arc e Ink bracelet post on our fashion blog.

Wearable tech clothing is an exciting part of our industries future.  We at Apparel Search are looking forward to seeing all sorts of clothing items using this technology.  Our guess is that we will be seeing a great deal of interesting new hats, jackets, footwear, bags, etc., utilizing e-paper.

If you have additional information on this subject that you wish to share with viewers, please let us know your thoughts so we can possibly make updates to this page.

If you are interested in wearable technology, you may also want to learn about Near Field Communication (NFC). 


By the way, digital printing is something entirely different than using E-Paper or E-Ink.  You can learn more about direct to garment printing here in the fashion terms section.

FYI: this also has nothing to do with E-tailing fashion which also starts with the letter "E".


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