Plastic screen outfit teams with Epson to offer screen on your plastic

Will a credit card that shows your balance be popular?

Plastic Logic, the failed ereader company which nearly went bust trying to prove one could print electronic components onto plastic, is targeting diminutive displays with a new driver from Epson as it continues spending Russian cash.

The new screens, and driver chip, will be demonstrated at trade fair Electronica 2012 from tomorrow, but the focus is on screens from 1 inch to five inches, as the electronic-paper pioneer looks to push its technology into cars and cards - where LCD will never be a superior alternative.

Plastic Logic started out making really big screens, 10.7 inches to be precise, when it had aspirations to compete in the big ebook business and realised a plastic screen could outperform a glass one. But the big ebook business never materialised. Even Amazon dropped its oversized Kindle DX last month as the iPad and its ilk have met any need for more heavyweight reading devices.

Plastic Logic was only one of the companies who lost that bet, Dutch developer iRex being another, but Plastic Logic's Que reader still occupies pride of place on display at Churchill College, Cambridge, celebrating the company's close connections to the university and pioneering work in laying down electronics into plastic surfaces.

Plastic Logic spent $250m failing to sell the Que, and was just about out of cash when a fairy godmother turned up with a deal worth $700m from Russian-government-owned RusNano, in exchange for locating a factory in Zelenograd where the company has been making surprisingly average ereaders for Russian schools.

The company is most interested in licensing the tech, and has some impressive demonstrations of flexible colour screens which work in full daylight, but despite that it's not had a lot of luck. Plastic Logic's technique for putting components onto a plastic substrate can be applied to any circuit, but the process excels at making screens, so with the big screens all sewn up by rapidly evolving LCD, the focus on smaller applications makes sense.

Competing with LCD is a mug's game, but e-ink has its own advantages. One of the most impressive applications of electronic ink was the Lexar USB key with a screen showing the capacity remaining. E-ink screens don't require power to run, only to change, so the screen was updated using power from the USB connection but displayed its data all the time.

Plastic Logic reckons its flexible screens will fit into credit cards and car dashboards, not to mention anywhere else LCD would be too big, expensive and/or heavy, all powered with a driver chip from Epson. ®

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