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Portable 'read anywhere' display ready for mass production

05 Jan 2007

Plastic Logic raises a whopping $100 million to manufacture and commercialize portable, rewritable electronic media based on E Ink Imaging Film.

Plastic Logic is to build the first factory designed for commercial-scale manufacture of flexible active-matrix display modules for portable "read anywhere" plastic electronic products.

The facility, to be based in Dresden, Germany, will utilize Plastic Logic's process to fabricate active-matrix displays that are thin, light and robust, which will give users a reading experience closer to paper than any other technology. The volume manufacturing facility is planned to ramp-up in 2008.

To fund this development, Plastic Logic has just raised $100 million of equity finance in a round led by Oak Investment Partners and Tudor Investment Corp. The financing is believed to be one of the largest in the history of European venture capital.

The facility will produce display modules for portable electronic reader devices - a product category that the company expects to grow to 41.6 million units in 2010. It will have an initial capacity of more than a million display modules per year and production will start in 2008. Dresden in the "Silicon Saxony" region of eastern Germany has been chosen as the facility location following an extensive worldwide site selection process.

"Our displays will enable electronic reader products that are as comfortable and natural to read as paper whether you're on a beach, in a train or at home," said John Mills, COO at Plastic Logic.

"Wireless connectivity will allow users to purchase and download a book or pick up the latest edition of your newspaper wherever you are and whenever you need it. The battery will last for thousands of pages so you can leave your charger at home."

Plastic Logic's technology

Plastic Logic's patented technology lies in the backplane of the display, which is laminated together with display materials from US-based company E-Ink. Charged particles of the ink are arranged by a remotely controlled, locally delivered electric field to create text documents. These retain their form (i.e. content) until reconfigured as a result of their bistable nature.

"Overall, the laminate has the thickness and feel of a credit card, perhaps more flexible," marketing executive Anusha Nirmalananthan told optics.org. "We expect that the eventual products will find applications such as office documents, newspapers and literature. The US is likely to be an early market but the electronic readers will ultimately find markets worldwide."

The pace of development of the technology at the company, based in Cambridge, UK, has been dramatic from the first 2-inch 50ppi display at the end of 2004 to today's SVGA display at 150ppi. The company's roadmap shows that it plans to develop high-resolution A5-sized color displays by 2010 and flexible, 10-inch video displays by 2012.

Simon Jones, VP Product Development at Plastic Logic, added, "Even in this age of pervasive digital content, our research shows that consumers are very reluctant to read on laptops, phones and PDAs. We still carry around enormous amounts of paper. However, we believe there is a substantial unfulfilled need that we can meet by making digital reading a comfortable experience."

Big deal

The latest $100 million investment into Plastic Logic, led by Oak and Tudor, was also supported by previous investors Amadeus, which led the seed financing of Plastic Logic, Intel Capital, Bank of America, BASF Venture Capital, Quest for Growth and Merifin Capital.

"Plastic Logic has created a pioneering technology that will revolutionize the way that people interact with their media on the move," said Bandel Carano, Managing Partner at Oak. "This investment is a perfect fit with Oak's vision of future media interaction through handheld devices."

Hermann Hauser, director of Amadeus, which backed Plastic Logic from day one, said, "The first full commercialization of plastic electronics is now firmly in our sights. With this investment we are creating a new electronics industry that will become a significant addition to silicon, as well as scaling up a great company."

Rob Broggi, VP and director of Technology, Media and Telecommunications Equity Research at Tudor, added "This investment meets our objective to find exciting investment opportunities globally, particularly in mobile and nanotechnology sectors."

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