Xerox has invented a way to make “erasable paper” whose printed text or images last only a day – so that the paper can be used again and again.
The experimental printing technology, a collaboration between the Xerox Research Centre of Canada and Palo Alto Research Center, could someday replace printed pages that are used for just a brief time before being discarded.
But don’t expect to use it any time soon. The technology is still in a preliminary state. There’s no indication when it might be ready for primetime.
The challenge Xerox faces, as The New York Times reports, is to find a market for a new paper printing technology in an era when information is increasingly being viewed and read on electronic displays of all types.
“I worry that this would be like coming out with Super 8 just before the video camera,” said Paul Saffo, a Silicon Valley researcher who has been a consultant to Xerox. “This would have been a bigger deal 10 years ago. These days there’s so much getting read online I wonder if time hasn’t passed this by.”
Of the 1,200 pages the average office worker prints per month, 44.5 percent are for daily use – assignments, drafts or e-mail, The New York Times reports. New research has found that 21 percent of black-and-white copier documents are returned to the recycling bin on the same day they were produced.
“Despite our reliance on computers to share and process information, there is still a strong dependence on the printed page for reading and absorbing content,” said Paul Smith, manager of XRCC’s new materials design and synthesis lab. “Of course, we’d all like to use less paper, but we know from talking with customers that many people still prefer to work with information on paper. Self-erasing documents for short-term use offers the best of both worlds.”