You can tote thousands of books around on your Kindle or your Nook. You can read them on the beach, highlight passages, or look up words you might not know. They are sharp and crisp in natural light, and they consume almost no energy when left on a page.
In most respects, they’re fantastic devices.
Unfortunately, they’re still quite limited in what they can do.
E-paper displays like those found on the Nook, Kindle, and Kobo work because of a technique called electrophoresis, where a conductive liquid is hit with a quick electrical charge and particles are drawn to their necessary location to make images.
The problem with the technique is that images cannot be drawn quickly enough to show video. Heck, it’s even too slow to browse the web, so the application of e-paper has been limited to static text and static graphics.
E-readers have been the most popular application for e-paper displays, but e-paper has also been used on smartwatches, USB sticks, Wi-Fi Modems, and even mobile phones.
It’s mostly a niche display technology…but that niche just grew significantly in size today.
The prime player in the e-paper scene is E ink holdings Incorporated (8069:TT), a growing Taiwanese company that holds most of the essential technology used in e-paper displays. Not surprisingly, it’s the leading provider of e-reader screens.
The company announced a new product today that brings e-paper into a whole new market segment: engineering and construction.
The New Idea
Because e-paper is so good at displaying static images, E Ink Holdings and Russian e-reader company PocketBook have come up with a device specifically for viewing AutoCAD documents on job sites.
It’s called the PocketBook CAD Reader, and it is the first Android device designed specifically to display AutoCAD documents.
E-reader screens designed for reading books and magazines have generally hovered around the 6″ mark. The PocketBook CAD Reader has a 13.3″ display from E Ink called the Fina EPD. This massive jump in size makes the screen much more useful for viewing architectural, industrial, and engineering design documents. It is a new class of e-reader.
With 16GB of onboard storage, the device can hold approximately 200 construction projects, and the screen is both touch sensitive and pen sensitive with its built-in Wacom digitizer.
The unit contains both Wi-Fi and 3G cellular radios, has a 1GHz CPU and 2GB of RAM for tackling on-site design tasks. The whole thing weighs only 60 grams.
Why You Should Remember This Announcement
PocketBook’s head of R&D said the company wanted to create a portable, large-format display that was rugged, weatherproof, and capable of displaying CAD drawings for architects and construction specialists working on construction sites.
AutoCAD is an anchor technology that has been a standard since the late 70’s. It’s used everywhere. This includes all types of engineering, interior design, architecture, manufacturing, and entertainment. The combined footprint is massive.
We should take special note that it’s also a major part of engineering education, and millions of students in India and China enter college-level engineering programs every year.
While e-readers remain a niche device, this new category is a wise application of e-paper technology with massive growth potential in an especially fertile sector. The e-reader market has lost some ground to low-cost tablets with LCD displays, but this new application of e-paper breathes new life into the space.