This article appeared in Electronic Design and has been published here with permission.
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The conceptual i Vision DEE car developed by BMW features E Ink Prism 3 (see figure), a display that changes colors in real-time. Overall, eight colors are available in E Ink Prism 3, and they're combined with patterns to produce rich, dynamic surfaces. Thanks to its bistable technology, E Ink consumes minimal power and is energy-efficient.
The surface of BMW's concept car, showcased at CES 2023, contains tiny programmable capsules full of electro-active pigments that change color in response to an applied current. Users can switch the car's color through a smartphone app. According to BMW, the car displays 32 colors via the 240 E Ink panels, which means there's lots of potential for multicolor pattern production.
Overall, the display runs on 30 V (peak) when it's transitioning into different colors. Once the color is set, the Prism 3 no longer requires power. The materials on the car don't need to be connected to any energy sources to retain that color. Voltage is applied on the top and bottom of a panel, where it connects to the surface.
However, the E Ink technology requires durability improvements, since car washes, bumps, scrapes, and weather may cause damage. In turn, BMW and E Ink are working together to make it more durable. If successful, color-changing cars may attract many consumers who want to save a few bucks from changing their car color in an auto shop. Besides low power consumption, the E Ink Prism 3 also allows designers to produce patterns and colors on their products. Plus, the thin and rugged design makes it ideal for surface displays.
"E Ink Prism creates unique experiences like never before. Product developers and designers now can integrate E Ink technology to create dynamic surfaces," said Paul Apen, chief business and operating officer of E Ink Corp., U.S. Operations. "E Ink Prism offers the ability to design in a low-power, sustainable display solution that is customizable and offers endless design opportunities through a combination of changing colors, patterns, and user-defined programs. E Ink works to enable solutions that allow our customers to design smarter devices for a sustainable future."
E Ink Prism 3 can be used in a wide range of applications, including retail, consumer electronics, appliances, apparel, and industrial goods. Thanks to its flexibility and durability, manufacturers are able to cut, shape, and integrate E Ink Prism 3 onto any substrate. It also operates without relying on electric outlets and runs on batteries and renewables.
"E Ink Prism 3 is part of E Ink's segmented display product line. In this type of product, a drive line is mapped for each segment, enabling simple graphic or numerical displays,” according to the company. “Unlike products requiring a thin-film transistor (TFT), E Ink Prism 3 can be manufactured in any 2D shape, for example, a circle, triangle, or abstract shape, enhancing industrial designs."
So far, E Ink's display has been integrated into eReaders, cell phones, medical wearables, logistical tags, and digital signage.