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Plastic Logic pulls out of e-reader business

British plastronics pioneer decides to license its technology

Plastic Logic, the Cambridge-based company that makes plastic electronic displays, is closing its US operations and abandoning plans to manufacture its own e-readers.

The decision follows a strategic review by Plastic Logic CEO Indro Mukerjee and key investors. The company said it plans to move from being a vertically integrated rigid e-reader product company to one that develops, manufactures, markets and sells its flexible plastic display technology in a variety of markets.

"Plastic Logic has always been at its core a dynamic technology company," said Mukerjee. "Having recently achieved significant milestones, including being the first in the world to fully industrialise the mass production of flexible plastic displays, we are now well positioned to address a broader set of applications and markets throughout the world."

Once seen as one of the UK's most promising technology start-ups, Plastic Logic has pioneered technology that can print electronic circuits onto plastic rather than silicon. The technology could be used to produce cheaper, lighter chips, or replace the glass screens on smartphones with bendable plastic displays, known as "electronic paper".

Despite raising more than $500 million from Oak Investment Partners and Rusnano since it was founded in 2000, however, the company has struggled to bring out commercial products using the technology, and its attempt to launch its own e-reader called Que in 2010 was a flop.

Plastic Logic now intends to license its flexible display technology and software to OEMs, system integrators, and device manufacturers for applications such as paper replacement and rugged displays. The company said it will also explore non-display applications.

Although its US development facility will close, the company will continue to operate its facilities in Cambridge and Dresden, and plans to open a centre of excellence for plastic electronics R&D in Russia, where it has already helped to bring e-books to the education sector.

Mukerjee told the Financial Times that the company was in talks with several potential customers and the first products using its technology could be on the market by the end of 2012. One particular draw for customers could be Plastic Logic's ability to make both colour and monochrome displays with proven lifetimes of over five years and more than 10 million page updates. The company's e-paper can deliver 4,000-plus hues at a resolution of 75 ppi.

"Our proprietary technology will drive our future growth potential and so we are aligning our people and resources to generate new opportunities for our technology which will both accelerate value creation, and advance the plastic electronics industry as a whole," said Mukerjee.


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