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Raring to wrap the world in e-paper

Post Time:2016-03-21 Source:China Daily USA Author:Qiu Quanlinin Views:
Under Chen Yu's leadership, Guangzhou OED Technologies is set to go places.

"I have a dream. In the near future, I hope to see our company's e-paper displays almost everywhere in our living environment, on walls, TVs and watches, even our shoes and clothes." That's Chen Yu, chief executive officer, Guangzhou OED Technologies, which is based in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province. 

The company identifies itself as one of the two major electronic-paper display suppliers in the world, engaged in the design, development, manufacture, assembly, and marketing of thin film electrophoretic displays, primarily panels for e-readers, electronic shelf labels and other related low-power display applications. 

The fact that OED Technologies began mass production of e-paper display panels only at 2011-end, and is up against established rivals who are willing to adopt means fair and foul to slow down its growth on their home turf, does not faze Chen. 

For, OED Technologies has already come a long way, and is intent on going the distance. Its journey over the years under Chen's leadership is seen as a bright spot in the history of China Inc. 

After returning from the United States in 2005, Chen began working in the Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University, where he led a team in the research and development of e-paper display technologies. 

In 2008, he set up OED Technologies with the support of angel investors. The company's initial registered capital was 60 million yuan. 

Now, to realize Chen's dream, OED, which currently has a team of about 100 research and development staff, will invest 500 million yuan into technology research. 

"We are continuing efforts in technology research and development. Advanced technologies would help boost sales in overseas markets, especially in emerging countries and regions in the years ahead," said Chen. 

Overseas sales of OED increased to more than 50 million yuan ($7.67 million) in 2015, according to a company source. 

"The market, both domestically and internationally, is very huge as technologies of e-paper display can be used widely," said Chen. 

The company's website indicates the wide range of applications of e-paper. In addition to e-book readers and electronic shelf labels, e-paper film is used in digital signs, information billboards, watches, mobile device displays, health and fitness displays. 

So, to meet the growing market demand for e-paper displays, OED has started construction of a new factory in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province. 

"Following strong investment in technologies, China, the birthplace of paper-making in ancient times, can also lead the global e-paper display industry," said Chen. 

Towards this end, OED has jointly developed a soft e-paper display laboratory with Sun Yat-sen University, which is strongly supported by top researchers. 

According to Chen, OED will start exporting its products to the US, where the market is dominated by global e-paper display producers such as E-Ink Corporation, a supplier to Amazon, maker of the widely-used e-reader Kindle. 

"We are positioning to break the global market rule by shipping advanced technologies and products to traditional markets," said Chen. "After years of research and development, you need to bring your advanced technologies of e-paper display to the market," said Chen. 

OED has so far developed more than 155 domestic and international patents of e-paper display technologies, said Chen. 

Emerging markets, especially countries and regions along the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, will play an important role for the company's future growth, said Chen. 

In the past, OED's strong research and development in the e-paper display sector had resulted in a big deal with a leading mobile phone producer based in Russia. 

In October last year, the company signed an agreement with Russian smartphone maker Yota Devices, to provide its technologies to the Russian company, which is developing its next generation of products with double-sided displays. 

"With closer cooperation with Chinese suppliers, a substantial increase in sales is expected in China in the near future," said Vladislav Martynov, chief executive officer of Yota Devices, during the agreement signing ceremony. 

Yota launched its YotaPhone2 in the Chinese market in May last year. Its dual-screen phones got a big blast of publicity in China after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave one as a gift to Chinese President Xi Jinping at the 2014 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders' Meeting in Beijing. 

The novel smartphone has a second e-paper display screen on its back, which can provide various notifications and messages and help reduce battery use. 

But it was not smooth sailing always for OED Technologies in the global markets. It's just over a year since the company successfully fought off a bruising patent infringement suit filed in early 2012 by its global rival E Ink Corporation. 

Memories of that case still rankle Chen. 

The lawsuit had alleged that OED's German customer, TrekStor GmbH, had infringed two E Ink patents on electrophoretic displays in e-book readers. The case followed the Chinese e-paper producer's success in Europe where its sales had surged. 

"OED's high sales in Europe, especially in Germany, raised E Ink's concerns about possible loss of market share," said Chen.
It took nearly more than two years for OED to successfully defend its customers' right to use its e-paper display panels. 

"As a young company, we needed to offer our full services and support to our customers. So we were active in helping defend ourselves against the lawsuit," said Chen. 

"After a thorough analysis by our German attorneys and technical experts, we considered the lawsuit to be wholly without merit as we had already developed dozens of patents of producing and selling the e-paper display panels." 

In February 2015, the Federal Patent Court in Germany ruled E Ink's lawsuit was invalid. 

"Winning the lawsuit helped greatly expand our overseas sales. The global e-paper display market will change in the near future. 

We have plans to ship more products overseas," said Chen. 

According to him, the company's products have since been sold in the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. 

"The years-long lawsuit has not affected our business and our clients. TrekStor's marketing and sales of its E-Book readers are running as usual," Chen said. 

OED is now gearing up to supply its products to some top makers of home appliances in South Korea, including LG and Samsung.