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Show HN: Paperd.ink – an open-source e-paper development board

paperd.ink (https://paperd.ink) is an open-source e-paper development board. We wanted to build something with e-paper given its low-power nature and beautiful, high contrast display which complements your environment and is easy on the eye. Thus, we started working on something to be developed along the lines of Arduino, Raspberry Pi’s open-source ecosystem.

paperd.ink has a 4.2” e-paper display comes mounted on the PCB which we have designed to be a general-purpose development board suitable for your projects and applications. You can sync calendars, set up your home IoT dashboard, get to-do lists, and notifications, display art, etc. We have used an ESP32-based microcontroller with WiFi, Bluetooth, and microUSB connectivity. The board can be programmed in Arduino IDE, micropython, or ESP-IDF, you can check out the documentation at docs.paperd.ink. paperd.ink is designed to be low power so you can charge the battery once and go on for months on it depending on the refresh rate. It’s suitable to display low to medium latency or static information. Every paperd.ink comes with a hand-polished, 3D-printed external enclosure.

The first paperd.ink prototype was first posted on Show HN (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=22340398) and other related communities (Reddit, Hackaday, etc) a little more than 2 years ago. We had a landing page, a short video of the prototype, and a user survey form asking a couple of questions along with a “Would you like to be a part of the waitlist?” question in the end. We got quite an interest from everyone on it so we decided to move ahead.

After receiving a positive response to the prototype, the next step was to figure out how to actually bring the product to the real world. We had no upfront capital required for manufacturing so we decided to do a crowdfunding campaign (finding a platform supporting our country India was another issue). At the same time, the pandemic happened which delayed everything because of unfeasible component prices, supply chain issues, and lockdowns everywhere. After researching thoroughly and formulating a production plan and figuring out unit economics, we launched the crowdfunding campaign roughly last year and had the 2nd Show HN post (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=27331311). In the course of promoting the campaign, we got in contact with FOSS United which is a non-profit foundation that aims at promoting and strengthening the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) ecosystem in India. FOSS United offered us a grant and that’s how we survived despite failing to achieve our crowdfunding target goal (we had ~40%).

After accepting the grant, we tweaked the PCB a bit and redesigned the external enclosure to make it ready for production. Scouted for manufacturers, suppliers, and shipping agents. Samples were ordered and tested. Test criteria and SOPs were exchanged. Vacuum casting (or any other method of manufacturing) of the enclosures was out of the question given the high NRE cost and high quantity needed to be manufactured, so we 3D printed them. Finally, the first batch was ready in the inventory to be shipped. All the orders received until now have been shipped and users should start receiving them shortly. Thanks to the HN community and our early supporters for everything. And special thanks to Daniel (moderator) for helping with the post. We plan to get feedback on the first batch and then decide on how to move forward. Please feel free to ask any questions!

  • 195 points
  • 7 days ago

  • @robertlangdon
  • Created a post

Show HN: Paperd.ink – an open-source e-paper development board


@paulcole 6 days

Replying to @robertlangdon 🎙

> “ Overall, this is very close to what I've wanted…”

Sometimes I wonder if companies make up their testimonials. This is not one of those times.

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@snvzz 6 days

>powered by an ESP32 module

Immediate questions raised include "Which one?" and "Why aren't you telling me which one in the first place?!". Particularly so for a product that is supposed to be open source.

There's major differences between ESP32 modules. E.g. only some of them are on RISC-V CPUs. The others use a CPU which is less common and less well-supported by open toolchains.

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@mrlinx 6 days

I've tried looking, but can't find a good battery for it. Could you maybe link a few examples in the FAQ?

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@vbezhenar 6 days

Sorry for nitpicking, but why MicroUSB instead of USB-C in new projects?

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@mastazi 6 days

I know that this is completely off-topic but I need to know: how do you make a HN post that has a link _and_ text at the same time? Seems like this form[1] does not allow that.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/submit

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@denkmoon 6 days

Wow that looks fantastic. Sadly I have to cut back on buying dev toys that I never end up using, but I wish you all the best.

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@user_7832 6 days

> failing to achieve our crowdfunding target goal (we had ~40%)

Fwiw what I've heard regarding crowdfunding isn't so much that you put your product on a crowdfunding website to raise money, as much as you already have a marketing plan with enough people on your email lists etc who're willing to pay money, and once the Kickstarter/indigogo is live, these people come to the site. That's also how apparently those "2000% funded in 2 days!" stuff happens, which isn't surprising if you look at how shady some of them look.

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@IshKebab 6 days

Looks like a nice case. How does it compare to the Inkplate? They offer colour and touchscreen versions with bigger screens for barely any more money (though you pay extra for a case).

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@alejoar 6 days

This looks really nice. Does it contain a touch screen? I'm assuming not since I can't find mention of it.

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@SrGMC 6 days

This looks really nice! And congrats on the grant!

The product comes already assembled or it is a kit? If not, do you plan to sell it in kit form? For us that can't 3D print or build PCBs but want to tinker with it.

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@bambax 6 days

> paperd.ink has a 4.2” e-paper display

If your target market is the whole world, please also provide dimensions using the metric system. For most of the world, inches don't mean anything.

4.2” is approx. 10.7 cm.

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Congratulations on the launch!

You posted paperd.ink on needgap(My problem validation platform) about 2 years ago[1], It feels amazing that you were able to deliver your product.

I understand the difficulty in building hardware products out of India without access to the crowdfunding platforms, As I've myself dabbled recently to host crowdfunding on my own website for a hardware product and it's easy to imagine how it would have gone.

So, My appreciation to the folks at FOSS UNITED for funding paperd.in and my best wishes for the success of the project.

[1] 'Affordable E-Ink large external displays' - https://needgap.com/problems/43

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@sxp 6 days

An ESP32+eink is a fun gadget. I got a https://shop.m5stack.com/products/m5paper-esp32-development-... before it went out of stock and it makes a nice weather station/status display that pulls info down from an in-house web server.

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@edent 6 days

It looks like a lovely project - and congratulations on the grant!

How much did they cost backers to buy? It's such a shame that eInk screens are so expensive.

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@teekert 6 days

This, but then somehow (close to) plug an play with Home Assistant... That would be very cool.

I guess, since it is a development board, I just have to wait for someone to do it (or wait until my own retirement to find the time ;))

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@xd1936 6 days

Yes! The world needs more ePaper dev boards. I've been playing with an InkPlate 10[1] which is a similar concept and I'm very excited by the potential.

1. https://www.crowdsupply.com/press/inkplate10

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@robertlangdon 6 days

(OP here) Update: We sold out the first batch of paperd.ink! Thanks to each one of our supporters, we managed to pull this off because of you. As next step, we would love to talk with the users once they have paperd.ink in their hands. And for those who missed out, you can drop your emails or keep a track of our social media to be updated. Thanks again!

PS: I will reply to the pending comments shortly. Sorry things have been busy here (our website crashed twice in the last 5 hours).

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@ajsnigrutin 6 days

Why this instead of eg. M5Paper [0]?

Similar price, been thinking to buy something like that, but delaying the decision, hoping PineNote[1] comes out soon :D

[0] https://shop.m5stack.com/collections/m5stack-new-arrival/pro...

[1] https://www.pine64.org/pinenote/

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@xd1936 6 days

I wish there was a good 30"+ sized ePaper display with driver that didn't cost $1,000+

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