Paper-thin speaker collects tech gong

AUTHOR: Inavate

A paper-thin speaker technology was recently honoured at the Wall Street Journal’s global Technology Innovation awards. At the ceremony on October 13, 2009 Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute scooped an award for its fleXpeaker concept that is set to revolutionise sound in industries from digital signage to automotive. According to the Wall Street Journal, ITRI is considering options, including licensing or the creation of a new company, to bring the product to market.

InAVate first reported on the technology back in April. Back then, although it was a relatively unknown product, researchers were confidently claiming the product would be used for in-car audio in 2010. The prestigious award should contribute to putting the product firmly on the map, escalating the likelihood that we will see fleXspeaker out in the market over the next year.

The technology project, supported by Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs saw of competition from 500 competitors to snatch the award that recognises its efforts in research and development.

The Wall Street Journal commented: “Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute, or ITRI, won in the consumer-electronics category for its work developing a paper-thin, flexible speaker. Researchers at ITRI, devised a way to create arrays of tiny speakers that can be combined to produce high-fidelity speaker systems of almost any size. Because the fleXpeaker is lightweight and consumes little power, it could be attractive for use in cellphones or in car sound systems. Other possible applications include giant banners that could be used to deliver public-service announcements in train stations or advertising messages in shopping malls. ITRI is seeking to license the technology or create a spin-off company to commercialise the product.”

ITRI president Dr Johnsee Lee explained: “ITRI commenced with R&D of the paper-thin flexible loudspeaker in 2006 through the team led by General Director Dr Yi-Jen Chan in Electronic & Optoelectronic Research Laboratories. Presently, ITRI has applied for 45 global patents for its 17 projects. Applications for this technology are rather extensive and with enormous industry potential. Aside from currently using in family stereo automobile hi-fi equipment, it can also be used in earphone or for industrial anti-noise purpose. The papers of this technology have been published at the largest display exhibition in the world—the US Display Consortium (USDC), the Society For Information Display (SID), and also adopted by the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America in 2009.”

The paper-thin flexible loudspeaker utilises paper and metal layers and is produced with a printing technique. Aside from upgrading traditional speaker industry, it can be integrated into energy-saving buildings, electric vehicles, and will be suited to entertainment and medical applications.