Several companies are simultaneously developing electronic paper and ink. While the technologies used by each company provide many of the same features, each has its own distinct technological advantages. All electronic paper technologies face the following general challenges:
- A method for encapsulation
- An ink or active material to fill the encapsulation
- Electronics to activate the ink
Electronic ink can be applied to flexible or rigid materials. For flexible displays, the base requires a thin, flexible material tough enough to withstand considerable wear, such as extremely thin plastic. The method of how the inks are encapsulated and then applied to the substrate is what distinguishes each company from others. These processes are complex and are carefully guarded industry secrets. Nevertheless, making electronic paper is less complex and costly than LCDs.
There are many approaches to electronic paper, with many companies developing technology in this area. Other technologies being applied to electronic paper include modifications of liquid crystal displays, electrochromicdisplays, and the electronic equivalent of an Etch A Sketch at Kyushu University. Advantages of electronic paper includes low power usage (power is only drawn when the display is updated), flexibility and better readability than most displays. Electronic ink can be printed on any surface, including walls, billboards, product labels and T-shirts. The ink's flexibility would also make it possible to develop rollable displays for electronic devices.