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A project log for ELPH skin

A flexible and low-power electrophoretic (e-ink) display worn on the skin, like a temporary tattoo.

Hunter 05/02/2017 at 17:270 Comments

When I started this project, I was fully aware that I had a difficult road ahead, the technical aspects of this prototype are tricky as are the material considerations for flexible circuitry.

What I didn’t predict were the challenges with procurement. I mentioned previously that I was considering two flexible screens, one manufactured by Plastic Logic and the other by eInk. On my first day of my residency I inquired about ordering a display evaluation kit from Plastic Logic. After some hesitance from them about being a “certifiable business” Dan (Resident Engineer of the Design Lab) was finally able to submit an order with them but I still haven’t received the display.

As a backup plan, I ordered an evaluation kit and flexible display from eInk and they shipped it right away. But out of the box it doesn’t work and since they are in Taiwan, the back and forth with their sales and technical support team has been lagging. I requested their source code and a data sheet for the display itself since I would need this anyway since I am developing my own hardware and software. They agreed on the condition that I sign an NDA, which I waiting on them to send.

So at this point I am halfway through my residency and I don’t have a physical prototype. This is frustrating and even though I am still working full time on this project, each day I struggle with finding the motivation to continue. But I did learn a valuable (albeit sobering) lesson that manufacturers aren’t as motivated to work with small developers.

So while I wait on the other two displays, I have ordered a third, which Todd Kurt (another Design Lab resident) recommended. It’s a rigid 4.3” ePaper display from Waveshare and is designed to be easier to work with. In an earlier post I referenced a project from davidgf.net that uses this same hardware and he added an ESP8266. Out of interest of moving forward, I am going to try it out -- even if it’s not the most direct path to my end goal. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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