Sunday, November 1, 2009


Thin speakers seem to be a focus of development this year with Warwick University already unveiling their ultra-thin, flexible speakers called Flat, Flexible Loudspeaker (FFL). Now researchers at the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) in Taiwan have created a speaker inside a sheet of paper they are calling Flexspeaker.
ITRI are already well into development of flexible display technology, but they have also turned their attention to ultra-thin speakers that are easy and cheap to produce at any scale. The speaker is made by layering thin electrodes and a prepolarized diaphragm between two thin sheets of paper. Their technology allows a speaker to look and act just like a piece of paper. You can flex, roll, and even fold the sheet and it will still work as a speaker. ITRI already have plans to use the speakers in new cars and to show-off how easily they can scale these devices a three-storey banner will be hung up at a Taipei show next year producing audio for all to hear. The one shortfall is the frequencies of sound it can handle meaning a subwoofer is required to achieve lower frequencies.
At the moment a special adapter is required to plug a music player into the speaker, but ITRI are creating a way for an MP3 player to just clip on to the poster and a wireless solution is also in development. ITRI hope that they can get their speakers inside movie posters, but also see them as a great solution for installing inside LCD displays. The initial goal is for 8.5-inch by 11-inch sheets that cost about $20, but the hope is to produce whole rolls of the stuff in the not too distant future, which will then be liberally applied to the exteriors of movie theaters, the interiors of automobiles, and the sides of the thinnest of thin-panel TVs. An effective range of 500Hz to 20KHz leaves an awful lot of lower frequencies lacking, but perhaps someone will invent a paper subwoofer one of these days. Manufacturing will eventually be done by producing the speakers on a roll therefore lowering the costs even further.

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