Fujitsu Frontech Starts Limited Sales of A4/A5-size Portable Information Terminal Featuring Color E-paper

Apr 23, 2007
Masao Oonishi, Nikkei Microdevices, and Takuya Otani, Nikkei Electronics
Tone of Fujitsu Frontech unveiling FLEPia (A4-size model)
Tone of Fujitsu Frontech unveiling FLEPia (A4-size model)
[Click to enlarge image]
A5-size model
A5-size model
[Click to enlarge image]

Fujitsu Frontech Ltd. has commercialized the line of FLEPia portable information terminals in A5 and A4 sizes with the use of a plastic film color electronic paper developed by Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. The company starts limited sales of the samples on April 20, 2007. The shipment will begin in the end of October, 2007; while the commercial models are slated for launch in FY2008. The line comes in three body colors including white pearl, pink pearl and silver.

Achieving XGA resolution

The plastic film e-paper uses cholesteric liquid crystals. Its prototype was exhibited at CEATEC 2006 held in October 2006. Although the basic performance of the e-paper used in the latest product remained as it was, the display screen is enlarged and the resolution is enhanced to the XGA standard of 768 x 1024. The number of colors displayed on the screen is selected between eight and 4096 according to content. The contrast ratio is 4:1 with a reflectivity of 30%. The thickness of the e-paper is 0.8 mm. To redraw a screen, it takes 2.3 seconds for eight colors and 10 seconds for 4,096 colors. "We are working to achieve the redraw time of 1 second, on a commercial model displaying eight colors," says Hirosada Tone, Corporate Senior Vice President of Fujitsu Frontech.

Equipped with a touch-panel

As an information terminal, the product features a slim profile measuring 12 mm, light weight, easy operation with a resistive touch panel, high-speed information access via wireless LAN and continuous operation as long as 50 hours.

The A4-size model measures 210 x 304 x 12 mm, weighs 480 g and has a display measuring 184.3 x 245.7 mm. The A5-size model measures 158 x 240 x 12 mm, weighs 320 g and has a display measuring 120.2 x 160.2 mm. The product is equipped with wireless LAN connectivity compliant with IEEE802.11b/g, an SD card slot, a USB2.0 connector, compact stereo speakers and an earphone jack. It is provided with a built-in lithium polymer sheet rechargeable battery with a capacity of 1,600 mAh. When an eight-color screen is switched every 1 minute, the terminal runs 50 hours continuously with a fully charged battery, capable of displaying 3,000 pages. It is powered by the Windows CE 5.0 operating software and can be used through the easy manipulation of menu items. The device can display universal files such as JPEG and PDF, as well as Word and Excel files. It is equipped with a web browser.

Roll-to-roll production process

The e-paper supports continuous production by a roll-to-roll process of the plastic film. Partitions and other elements that constitute a pixel are sequentially formed on a film having a width equivalent to the length of the short side of A4 size. Although post processing steps such as liquid injection and superposition are currently carried out after cutting the film into individual sizes, the company plans to employ a roll-to-roll continuous production process in the post processing. "We are now developing a production apparatus that can stack films while aligning them with one another," says Takashi Uchiyama, a board member and General Manager of Storage Intelligent System Laboratory of Fujitsu Laboratories.

The e-paper under development by Fujitsu Laboratories enables color display by the lamination of liquid crystal layers each corresponding to red, green and blue. Therefore, a number of e-paper engineers have frequently pointed out that the product is difficult to be mass produced since it is too expensive. "We will try to reduce the cost as much as possible by promoting the automation in the assembly process in addition to the adoption of the roll-to-roll processing," says Fujitsu Laboratories, responding to the above opinions.

The A4- and A5-size models are available at sample prices for one lot (10 units) of ¥1,575,000 (¥150,000 per unit excluding tax) and ¥2,625,000 (¥250,000, same as above), respectively. "The samples will be sold for the purpose of validation tests for companies and organizations," explains Yoshinori Ohashi, Deputy General Manager of System Business Division and General Manager of Second Business Division at Fujitsu Frontech. The company plans to launch a website for FLEPia to offer a content distribution service of newspapers, magazines, etc. The company is also considering providing solutions for distribution, finance, electronic meeting systems and so on.

The company's target price of A5-size mass production model is "¥39,800" (Tone of Fujitsu Frontech) while the A4-size model to be ¥60,000. The target units of sales of samples are 1,000 for FY2007 and 10,000-20,000 for FY2008. The company expects exponential growth every year from then onward.

(Video is no longer available.)

動画Demonstration of screen redrawing on A4 size model