Inkplate 6COLOR

Versatile, easy-to-use, Wi-Fi-enabled 5.8" e-paper COLOR display

Mar 09, 2022

The challenges of obtaining e-ink displays during a global chip shortage

by David Z

The shortage of chips and other electronics parts is old news at this point. This "Silicon Armaggedon" hit pretty much all industries across the globe. From small and niche businesses to large enterprises, nobody has escaped it. We anticipated this shortage would only get worse with time, so we decided to stock up on some components so we could ensure you get your devices in a timely manner. While we haven’t been able to get every single part we need, we managed to get most of them. In this a situation, our e-paper displays presented particular challenges.

We get our displays from Chinese vendors. They, in turn, get them from broken and damaged Kindles and other e-ink devices. They then salvage and refurbish the re-usable parts. The individual parts are then either combined to make a new product or are sold as-is. This way, the devices get recycled and reused, rather than thrown away, which is a more eco-friendly process.

Ready to salvage Kindle e-book readers with displays

Facing the challenges

While this is environmentally friendly, it can cause problems in other areas. Mainly, recycled e-paper displays are hard to come by. Unfortunately, the Armageddon reached them too. Furthermore, some of the salvaged panels cannot be reused and must be thrown away. The flex cables used with these displays often get damaged and must be replaced, which can be tricky. This whole process takes time, so vendors can’t stock up as much as they would want. And that’s not to mention transportation and customs got slowed down due to the COVID-19 situation.

Because of all of this, we can’t be 100% sure there won’t be delays in delivering all versions of the Inkplates. To make sure we’re able to ship all of the Inkplates, we identified and booked all capacity from our primary and secondary e-paper display vendors. As it stands now, there shouldn’t be any delays. If there are any, they will be kept to a minimum as we receive the first available completed displays. If demand exceeds the numbers we prepared for, we’ll try our hardest to identify more suppliers, but we’ll keep you posted of any possible delays. Luckily, at least in terms of delivery times, Inkplate 6COLOR is coming from new displays, as AC057TC1 is a new gen e-paper panel and there are virtually no used ones available.

A recent delivery of e-paper displays. See the panels for a new version of the Inkplate?

We tested a lot

As with previous Inkplate versions, Inkplate 6COLOR’s hardware and software have been thoroughly tested. We’ve gone through multiple prototyping runs, tested several different displays, and resolved all of the technical issues. We’ve even decreased the refresh time from 25 seconds to just 11.

Overcoming the challenges of developing Inkplate 6COLOR and the Silicon Armageddon taught us a lot. Some of our previous crowdfunding experiences also helped us immensely, though there were many new challenges as well. This whole experience makes this Inkplate that much more special to us. We truly enjoyed making Inkplate 6COLOR and think you will enjoy using it.

David & the Soldered team


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