The global electronic paper (e-paper) industry is on the rise due to digitization trends and ESG sustainable development. Based on e-paper’s power conservation and low carbon advantages, products such as e-paper tablets, electronic shelf labels, and electronic notebooks have quickly penetrated into the consumer and commercial markets. According to TrendForce estimates, the size of the global e-paper market will be approximately US$4.65 billion in 2022, growing 48.1% YoY, and is expected to reach US$20.34 billion by 2026.
According to TrendForce, E Ink is currently the world's largest supplier of e-paper modules, electronic ink films, and other related materials, as well as finished products such as electronic shelf label (ESL). In addition to continuing improvement of its operational performance through new production lines, E Ink's biggest advantage comes from its alliances and partnerships with numerous manufacturers such as its partnerships with Qingyue Technology, Yes Optoelectronics, Jiangxi Xingtai Technology, and other e-paper module factories to develop and promote e-paper industrialization, technology sharing, and utilizing manufacturing and market advantages to expand the scope of e-paper application in the Chinese market. In 2021, E Ink announced the expansion of 4 production lines in its old Hsinchu factory from the initial 2 material production lines to 6 material production lines. The capacity of the last production line will come online in 1Q23. In addition, E Ink is currently planning to set up two new material production lines in its Hsinchu factory in 2024, with a production capacity equivalent to the total of the company’s three existing production lines. E Ink also plans to build new factories in Guanyin (Taiwan) and Yangzhou (China).
E-paper products such as e-paper tablets and ESL are primarily composed of three parts: display module, wireless chips, and battery. The internal structure of an e-paper display (EPD) module consists of electronic ink coated onto a layer of plastic film which is then attached to a TFT panel. This module needs to be controlled by a driver IC to form pixel graphics. An e-paper TFT panel should be equipped with approximately 11 driver ICs. As e-paper continues to trend towards large-size screens, the number of installed driver ICs will also increase, which will be beneficial for the performance of suppliers Fitipower, UltraChip, and Solomon Systech in the field of e-paper in the next five years. This is especially true for ESL driver ICs which is a market equally divided among these three companies, in general.
In terms of Fitipower, the company’s main products are mostly concentrated in consumer electronic such as TVs and PCs, followed by ESL, e- paper, EPD, and TCON IC which account for 15% of overall revenue. In terms of UltraChip, the visibility of its EPD IC orders has reached the end of 2022 and its STN driver IC orders are mostly in the fields of automotive, industrial instruments, and white goods. The company has migrated part of its production capacity to a 12-inch plant. According to TrendForce, approximately 75% of UltraChip's production capacity for electronic label driver ICs from 2020~2022 came from 12-inch wafer foundries and is currently actively promoting 12-inch 80nm and 70nm processes which are more cost-effective compared with its competitors who utilize 8-inch wafers foundries. Solomon Systech's products include e-book readers and ESL. The company’s main products are EPD driver ICs, OLED driver ICs, Mobile ICs, and large display ICs.
According to TrendForce, from the perspective of future trends in the e-paper market and the application of existing digital technologies, various e-paper products can be integrated into smart logistics, smart warehousing, smart retail and other fields to replace traditional paper. Utilizing cloud platforms and IoT, shelf labels can be changed on the fly and inventory information can be obtained in real time, thereby reducing labor costs and traditional paper consumption. The willingness of retail, logistics, and warehousing companies to adopt e-paper tablets, ESL, and other products will increase greatly, especially as digitalization and sustainable development continue to trend. The development of e-paper products from black and white to colors has become a primary growth driver of e-paper market size.
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