A San Francisco Display Company
It is certainly no secret that most manufacture of displays, display components, and display materials is done in Asia. This is so overwhelmingly the case that when I come across a display company located in Italy, France, Brazil, Germany, Ireland, Russia, Scotland, or the U.S. – and, yes, there are functioning display companies in all of these countries – I am more than usually interested in learning about that company, its technology, and its business model.
So it was that on a Monday in January I was driving across the marshy southern end of San Francisco Bay on the Dumbarton Bridge, heading toward Fremont and SiPix Imaging. There, I met with Chief Operating Officer Yi-Shung Chaug and Senior Director for System Integration Jack Hou. SiPix is fairly well known for having developed an electrophoretic-display technology in which each electro-phoretic cell is one of many Microcups™ formed on a polymer sheet. One highly significant feature of this approach is that the "EPD film," as SiPix calls it, can be made via roll-to-roll processing.
SiPix has been showing a medium-blue–on–light-blue display for some time, but has now developed a new "almost black" – a very dark blue – dye that permits them to make impressively high-contrast displays (Fig. 1). I saw a 4 x 7-in. module with black characters on a white background that is being developed for a Japanese customer and an impressive A4-sized (210 x 297 mm) module with white characters on a black background for a European customer. The company has entered into a joint development agreement with BASF to develop purer red, green, and blue dyes for more intense colors, and is working with Philips on TFT backplanes.
Fig. 1: This SiPix electrophoretic module has the recently developed "almost black" dye for high-contrast images.
A Japanese supermarket has been very pleased with its field tests of the displays, but wants area color. Hou said that they are in the process of figuring out how to do area color in their roll-to-roll process, and expect to demonstrate it this year (subpixel color is for the future).
In answer to a question about driving voltage, Hou said that their current driving voltage is 15–20 V, but the microcup structure allows tuning for both low voltage and high speed. They are working toward a driving voltage of 5 V, together with a response time as low as 5 msec.
SiPix's roll-to-roll coating equipment has a capacity of 2–3 million square feet per year, said Chaug, and it will take some time to exceed this capacity. When it is necessary to build an additional coating plant, it is likely that the new plant will be in Taiwan or China.
SiPix will be showing off some of its latest developments this month at the SID International Symposium in Boston.