Remember our first Ask an Inker blog featuring Jenn Lampron?
Six years ago, Jenn posted a job opening about an engineering role, and that was how Eric Duchaine came to E Ink. Today, we are excited to have him on the blog to tell us about the exciting projects he’s working on and where he sees E Ink going in the future.
Tell us about your background. How did you land at E Ink?
Eric: Before joining E Ink, my previous company did a project with E Ink and I was the lead engineer on that project. I found E Ink’s technology to be fascinating, and I enjoyed the working relationship with the E Ink team. One day, I stumbled upon a job opening at E Ink – and it happened at a point in my career where I wanted a change – I sent in an application, my resume, and now I’m here, six years later. In Inker years, I’m still a baby. There are many knowledgeable folks who have been with E Ink for 15-plus years. Working alongside them allows me to learn new things every day and grow my career.
What’s one thing we can’t guess from your LinkedIn profile?
I currently live in Southern New Hampshire, and I commute to work daily on my motorcycle.
Eric in his motorcycle gear.
Credit: E Ink
How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t work in tech?
In simple words, I make things change color. While most people are not too familiar with E Ink, they’ve heard about or used consumer devices like an eReader. So I tell people that my job is to leverage the technology and material in eReaders and use that in new and exciting applications.
To go a layer deeper, as a prototyping engineer, I work closely with customers to address their needs for display applications and come up with creative solutions to integrate E Ink into various surfaces.
Was the BMW i Vision Dee concept car one of the most exciting projects you’ve worked on at E Ink? Tell us about your experience.
Definitely! I was involved in both the black and white concept car at last year’s CES and the color-changing car at this year’s show. What’s unique about the i Vision Dee is the full-color film had never been used in this type of application, and it had never been used in that large of a format.
The BMW concept car – i Vision Dee – showcased at CES 2023.
Typically, the sheets we use are in a smaller fashion. They were never laminated to the type of rear electrode that we used for i Vision Dee. We made custom electrodes, and we developed the process for attaching the front plane laminate (FPL) to the rear electrode. And then we had to scale that up. That required us to automate the process because the manual machines could only handle process development on a smaller scale. That, of course, presented its own challenges.
For the concept car, we used multiple different batches of material, so we had to figure out how to make all those batches of material look similar in color. The waveform team, which is Crystal’s team, worked their magic so the colors looked fairly uniform.
The color changing Cream Guitars are very cool! What was the engineering process like?
That was a fun project indeed! It was unique because I doubt anyone has seen color-changing panels on a guitar before. It was a different engineering process as well because we had to work with a lot of negative space on the surface where the pickups (device that converts the vibrations of guitar strings into electrical signals) were coming through. Negative space (the cutouts on the guitar where the strings and pickups are), creates unique challenges where the materials conformed differently which was a fun opportunity to overcome. That required us to rethink how materials bend and stretch so we could laminate the material on the surface better.
Color-changing guitar by Cream Guitars showcased at National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) 2023 in California
Credit: 60 Cycle Hum on YouTube
What are you most excited about the future of E Ink?
I would like to see E Ink commercially available in the automotive space, whether it's an exterior or interior application. I’d also like to see E Ink in other novel environments and on non-standard surfaces such as architectural buildings.
More than 2,000 tiles made from E Ink’s ePaper technology were installed across the exterior of San Diego International Airport’s Rental Car Center
Credit: E Ink
It’s a very exciting time for E Ink. Many companies are talking about being green, and that’s precisely the founding value of E Ink as a company – that our technology is low power and sustainable. I’m excited about what’s ahead.