To buy off-the-shelf or to customise? That is the question
When designing an e-paper display into your product, you’ll reach a point where you need to consider whether to settle on one of the off-the-shelf sizes available or whether you need something more bespoke. This blog looks at the factors you’ll need to consider when this happens.
The short answer is that it comes down to three closely interrelated factors – cost, quantity and timescales.
Ultimately if you can make your product’s form factor work with one of the off-the-shelf sizes available then it’s going to be cheaper, faster and easier for you. For one, there’s probably already stock available that can be shipped to you quickly. Even if you need to wait for a production run, all the production processes, equipment and set up of the line is already geared towards the display size you need. This means there is no further investment required and it’s likely you’ll get a better price as some of the economies of scale can be passed on by the manufacturer.
If your time to market window is short then it’s also likely that your opportunity to create your own innovation is restricted and therefore it makes sense to buy off the shelf. In contrast, if you’re blessed with the luxury of time and resources you may be able to co-design an e-paper display that is unique and that adds to the innovative attributes of your end product.
Going bespoke obviously requires upfront commitment to the engineering and manufacturing needed to develop the screen and this all takes time and financial investment with up to five different stages of design evaluation, development and production involved… and of course, a minimum order quantity. Depending on your objectives, your volumes, your margins, your time to market and the level of uniqueness/complexity required this may be exactly the right course of action and the investment can offset the frontloaded manufacturing and design costs in the production run. For other projects, it may be a non-starter but there is no hard and fast rule.
If you do go down the custom route, be prepared. You’ll need to define requirements such as: the active display area; pixel density; bezel size; location of driver electronics; COF/COP; and the overall module size, including tolerances. However, the Plastic Logic team is well prepared to help, and we have developed a milestone approach to guide you through all the necessary steps.
Of course it is also feasible that you might set out down one path but the design veers you towards the other. A good example of this is our fashion wearables customer – L!BER8. They set out to use an off-the-shelf design, however in the high-fashion wearable market aesthetics is everything. As the design progressed they moved towards a custom display so that they could enable the active area of the display to go right to the metal ends of the device. As a single team, we worked closely with them to agree on a final version of the screen – which is the version being used in the Tago Arc bracelet today.
Regardless of the choices you make you’ll want to make sure you’re working with a flexible technology partner that is as committed as you are to meeting your needs and that provides thorough pre- and post-sales technical expertise and support to help you develop your product and get it to market fast and headache-free.