Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Final Report Summary - SPABRINK (Self-Printing Advertisement Board with Reusable Ink)

Executive Summary:
The global advertising industry is a highly competitive business environment that has been facing considerable technical and geographical shifts in the recent years, which is projected to continue in the future. Considering the out of home advertising sector, there is a clear trend towards dynamic and paperless solutions. However, due to their limited access to investment capital, the implementation of digital technologies has a greater impact on SMEs.
Considering economic and environmental aspects, currently used paper-based billboards have serious impact on the environment due to the extensive use of non-recyclable paper and toxic or polluting inks and glues. On the other hand, digital advertising affects our environment by consuming considerable amount of energy for display.
The aim of the project is to produce a cost effective and environmentally friendly outdoor media tool providing the same visual effect as paper-based billboards by eliminating the use of single used posters and adhesives. Besides, SPABRINK also intended to increase the competitiveness of SMEs within the advertising industry by reducing the time and the cost of advert implementation and at the same time allowing more focused marketing strategies.
SPABRINK is a novel advertising tool combining existing and new technologies in an innovative way in order to fill in the gap between static and dynamic advertising. This ingenious solution provides remotely controlled onsite printing of adverts while allowing the printed images to be wiped off at the end of the campaign. After a short separation process, the ink can be reused. Consecutive adverts can be displayed periodically without creating any waste while consuming energy only during image changing, which means that the system can be also battery operated. SPABRINK could therefore help us to green the advertising industry by reducing waste materials thus saving our fragile environment for the future generations.
Generally, the system operates like a printer utilizing coloured powder deposited onto a special electrostatic surface with unique printing heads designed for solid-state substances. The adhesion force can be precisely controlled so the powder can be easily removed when required. Due to the special nature of the material used for displaying images, neither subtractive nor additive colour mixing can be directly implemented; superb colour rendering is achieved through custom-developed colour scheme. The system also incorporates a web-based user-friendly interface enabling remote content management and actual content monitoring through the in-built camera.
By the end of the project, the consortium developed and built a large-scale prototype with an effective surface area of 2 square meters which was tested in real outdoor environment through an end user of the consortium. The image quality was measured against existing technologies on the basis of the subjective opinion of experts from the media industry.
The SPABRINK product and the related new business strategy will provide competitive advantages on certain markets filling the gap between printed posters and led displays by its quick ad changing capability. Due to its remote operation and continuous monitoring possibility, it can be a great solution on places which are difficult to reach (rooftops, roadsides). The consortium is aware of the current limitations of the prototype and developing corrective actions in order to be able to enter the market as planned.
Project Context and Objectives:
Main objective of the SPABRINK project was to develop a new type of outdoor advertising tool where the image can be changed remotely operated through the internet. The system uses ink powder with electrostatic properties so it can be used for printing onto a flexible foil. Together with a wiping technology the powder can be collected and reused. The aim was to develop a 2 m2 prototype during this project and validate it in real outdoor conditions. This main objective was accomplished by the end of the project. A functional prototype was developed and successfully tested in relevant environment.

The project started on the 1st of September 2013 with carrying out a market survey, an in-depth component search and requirement analysis. The gained experience and the additional inputs provided by the consortium SMEs resulted in system specification.
The overall design specification has determined the main modules needed for proper operation:
• selection of a proper colour model
• definition of a suitable powder attachment technology
• determination of optimal powder deposition
• selection of the most suitable powder removal and separation method;
• definition of the control system and the auxiliary parts including the mechanical parts and the monitoring unit.

The Scientific objectives were in line with the defined tasks:
“To develop a new colour scheme in order to display good quality images using glass powder.
Due to the powder properties neither the subtractive (CYMK) nor the additive (RGB) way of creating images is possible. Therefore a new method has to be developed with as little amount of colours as possible.” and
“To create a knowledge base of the existing products and technologies facilitating the enhancement of the SPABRINK system in order to make it more affordable.”

The technical development started in three research and development areas in parallel: the colour model, the printer technology development and the adhesion to foil issues.

The colour model related scientific objective was achieved by developing a colour mixing scheme suitable for the SPABRINK system. Extensive experimentation and simulation have been performed and based on the results the consortium concluded to use the 7 colour RGBCMYK scheme with 4 brightness levels.

The “printing” or “powder depositing” development had several technology related objectives:
One of the most important issues were relating to the proper paint powder selection:
“The exact material of the ink powder that can be easily deposited and have good colour properties”
To achieve this goal several inorganic and organic materials analysed and tested by CERC and evaluated by the Consortium based on several technical aspects. The objective was successfully achieved by selecting a material having superior colour properties, inexpensive and shows good behaviour in terms of printability and separability.

The printer head related objective was to develop the powder spraying system for the different sized powders allowing perfect deposition rate and reliability.
At first a Digitally Controlled Powder Dispenser unit was developed to prove the working principle of the controlled way of solid particles deposition. Several technical problems were solved and also life-cycle and long term reliability tests were performed. A small scale printer was built with control electronics in the first period of the project for testing purposes.
The final printer head design was completed and documented with the finalization of the powder selection. The printer head driver was developed together with the SPABRINK control system. The powder spraying system with 7 dispensers became fully operational when it was integrated with control unit, communication module and the monitoring system into SPABRINK prototype.

Another crucial research and development area was to solve the powder adhesion to foil and the right printing foil selection.
Results gained from electrostatic development led to a method, where the powder adhesion can be fully controlled by applying high voltage to the electrodes on the substrate. Powder remains on the foil as long as the voltage is applied, and most of the powder can be removed by de-energization. Temperature and humidity hardly has any effect on adhesion force while negligible powder was lost within the planned foil displacement range, showing surprisingly strong adhesion. The selected laminated foil structure is flexible enough to allow the required bending radius while providing proper mechanical strength.
The final powder sticking technology was successfully developed and these objectives were fully achieved.

Having completed the development of the colour model, the printer technology with selected powder and the adhesion with laminated foil design, the team continued their project with the mechanical and electrical realization, including software development.

The technology related expectations included mechanical design of the integrated prototype :
To develop a mechanical system that houses the powder deposition (printing) module, the roll-able printing surface and powder collecting system. T
“To develop a colour separation methodology and if technical and economically feasible develop it so it can be included in the SPABRINK housing.

The core mechanical structure was built from extruded aluminium profiles with standard joints to allow the necessary flexibility required by prototype building. The outer cover, the front door and the back doors were made by bended and welded sheet metal with rubber sealing. The front door equipped with Plexiglas window for good visibility of the printed foil. The mechanical unit includes a novel foil forwarding roller system and paint powder removal mechanism to clean the canvas. The completed prototype integrated powder refilling unit, used powder collecting tray, the printer and the control units as well.
Powder separation technique was developed and implemented based on magnetic separation and sieving. The mix of powder is first separated into two main fraction using the magnetic properties followed by mechanical sieving. A novel rotating drum-sieve mechanism was developed. Based on financial aspects and calculations, Consortium lived with the opportunity not to integrate the separation unit for the time being.

Series of Technological objectives set targets for the control system, hardware and software development tasks:
“To develop a control system that can convert any image into the SPABRINK colour format and can control the printing.
“To develop a low cost wireless communication unit that allows the remote control of SPABRINK.
“To develop visual monitoring so the user can see actual display remotely. “To develop a user-friendly software for uploading new images. The software will be able to recognise the shape and size of the board and process the uploaded image accordingly in real time

The image processing unit and the control system was developed accordingly with all image processing and printing functionality. Although the image conversion time is highly dependent on the image size, the conversion time is less than 60 minutes. The printing time is about 4 hours for a fully saturated image.
The communication module was developed. The system uses standard 3G modem that can be purchased for less than 10 Euros, providing both 3G and 2G connectivity. During and after the integration the wireless communication was tested and evaluated.
The image processing component and a configuration tool software module were successfully designed and developed. The distorted images are corrected within 10 seconds. The monitoring component was tested with the integrated system and was found capable of processing recorded images of onsite printed advertisements.
A web-based user interface was developed. The software allows remote monitoring of all the connected SPABRINK endpoints simultaneously and advert printing can be initiated. The software was tested on the integrated hardware in laboratory and real environment.

Having achieved the Scientific and technological objectives, the SPABRINK prototype became ready for testing and evaluation:

“To build a 2 m2 prototype and test it in real outdoor environments through the end users of the consortium. The image quality will be measured against existing technologies using the subjective opinion of experts from the media industry.”

The SPABRINK prototype design was finalized and materialized. There were laboratory and out-door testing. The image quality was assessed by the Consortium during and after the laboratory tests. The printouts were compared with existing technologies. Consortium members and external media experts found the image quality satisfactory. The most suitable creative types and application areas were defined, where SPABRINK can be competitive to the existing technologies. A public deliverable report was prepared about the testing and validation results.
Project Results:
SPABRINK is a 24 month-long project started on the 1st of September 2013 with carrying out a market survey, an in-depth component search and requirement analysis. Results and experiments were used to define the requirements of the system.
Wide range of pulverisable material was tested and the proper one was selected that provides suitable electrostatic, dielectric and magnetic properties, printing head compatibility and colour gamut. The deposition system was adapted to the selected polymer and the optimal printing nozzle parameters were defined. Beta printing head prototypes were fabricated and long-term tested.
Electrostatic parameters were optimized and suitable reusable printing surface was fabricated, based on extensive research and development work. Adhesion proved to be strong enough to hold the powder securely for a long time. A small-scale demonstrator was constructed for the testing and optimization. Based on the findings, the full-size surface with an active area of 1.2 by 1.8m was designed and fabricated.
The aim of mechanical design was to develop foil forwarding and tensioning system, powder removal and separation unit. The frame and the housing of the SPABRINK prototype was also designed and manufactured.
The principle of powder separation by colours - using physical properties (magnetism and size) - was also proved and demonstrated. 3D CAD models of the experimental equipment were designed.
In early phase of the project powder depositing printer heads were developed including anti-clogging system. They were mounted to an X-Y table to test the printing performance. In parallel, updated printer head driver electronics was developed.
The complete control system based on a low-cost embedded computer was designed together with the image processing software that performs the colour conversion and image resizing. The control system is operated via a web application with an easy to use graphical user interface (GUI). The user management ensures the secure access to the right user roles by user level, using public 3G modem.
A custom-designed printer head-driver card and a communication module makes the link between the printer and the main controller. The communication between the remote server and the SPABRINK endpoint is performed via 3G network.
A monitoring system provides information to the user about the exhibited image and its quality to the user. An intelligent software component processes the board camera images to show the current state of the board surface. The software involves un-distortion and colour correction processing steps on the recorded images before displaying them to the user, who is supported by a setup configuration tool as well..
The simultaneously developed mechanical and electrical components were integrated into the SPABRINK prototype. The printer HW and SW were finalized and powder refilling units were added. The high voltage application for paint particle adhesion was installed. The image window got led strip illumination.
During integration the communication protocol between the main control unit and the server application was tested and fine-tuned. Due to economic and practical limitations (available coloured powder’s physical properties) Consortium has decided not to integrate the separation unit into the prototype.
The SPABRINK was tested in laboratory and live environment. There were several tests prints of various creatives to demonstrate all functionality and gain feedback from features of the prototype. An in-depth market survey (interviews) were conducted at the end of the project. It clarifies the competitiveness on certain markets and supports the exploitation.
By the end of the project, the consortium developed and built a 2 square meter prototype which has been tested and validated in real operating conditions. The research led to the prototype proved the principle of the self-printing advertisement board with reusable Ink. The realized prototype makes colour printing with solid particles adhered to an electrostatic canvas, what can be cleaned and reused. The used powder separation by colours using physical properties was also proved and demonstrated.
SPABRINK’s best fit is the traditional poster types and logos. The colours can be selected and converted properly. The outlook of the images and the low power consumption proved the competitiveness of SPABRINK with CITYLIGHT boards and led displays with certain limitations.

Potential Impact:
The global advertising industry is a highly competitive business environment that has been facing considerable technical and geographical shifts in the recent years, which is projected to continue in the future. Currently used paper-based billboards have serious impact on the environment due to the extensive use of non-recyclable paper and toxic or polluting inks and glues. On the other hand, digital advertising affects our environment by consuming considerable amount of energy for display.
After the two-year long research project, it was concluded that the main market to enter for SPABRINK could be the Billboard segment. The billboard segment can be further divided into static and dynamic sub-sectors. SPABRINK will be an innovative solution bridging the gap formed by these two different advertising methods. Consequently, advertising agents or media owners could use SPABRINK to widen their current portfolio.
The OOH (Out of Home) advertising market is expected to grow and the growth will be supported by innovative technology developments and retail boom in developing countries.
As innovation and sustainability is penetrating the world, environmental considerations are becoming more and more important. “Green marketing” incorporates a broad range of activities, including product modification, changes to the production process, sustainable packaging, etc.
In the billboard advertising sector SPABRINK can contribute to greener advertising by being a paperless advertising tool with reusable ink. In addition, solar panel integration could be provided by SIARQ and by this option, not only the operation cost of the system can be reduced, but also the energy consumption
SPABRINK is an innovative and environmentally friendly technology that directly addresses the costs to society of paper wastage and the disposal of toxic glues and paints into the environment by the printing and outdoor media industries. SPABRINK´s technology strikes the right balance between market competitiveness and environmental awareness.
The key features of the developed SPABRINK system – compared with the currently available main competitions on the market – are:
• No visual pollution
A new study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention concludes that digital billboards attract and hold the gazes of drivers for far longer than a threshold that previous studies have shown to be dangerous.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute and funded by the Swedish Transport Administration, found that drivers looked at digital billboards significantly longer than they did at other signs on the same stretch of road, with the digital signs often taking a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds.
• Low operation cost and power consumption
Power consumption of LED boards is around 300W/m2. Considering one image change per week, the costs of electricity is fifty times less for SPABRINK, while it is not much higher compared to e.g. illuminated roll-ups.
• Paperless solution
Every 2 weeks, over 6 million square meters of poster paper are thrown out. The paper is not recycled.
• No use of toxic glue
• Built-in lightning
According to JCDecaux’s latest report, premium billboards are backlighted which could increase their audience by up to 40%.
Installing backlighting equals to qualitative improvements, which strengthen the advertising effectiveness of the networks and differentiate the product offering to advertisers.
As SPABRINK utilizes reusable ink, powders with special features could be also incorporated into the system thus providing a unique feature for the system. Such application could be the addition of fluorescent dye to the powder together with UV backlight.
• Extra added value
The use of solar powered SPABRINK solution could be also an added value where the creation of an electrical grid could represent an extra-cost and high consumption solutions.
• Less human resources needed for campaign change
• Variable campaign length
Advertising time or campaign length is another relevant variable to divide campaigns. In the outdoor advertising industry we can mainly divide the campaigns into:
Long-term campaigns: the length is 3 or more months. Roadside billboards addressed to indicate where a retail is located are included in this group
Short-term campaigns: the length is usually between 1 and 4 weeks
SPABRINK can be a good solution for both types of campaigns. SPABRINK we will be able to provide an easy and economical way to change its message during the campaign.
The SPABRINK product offers to the market a new printing surface being ideal for a specific niche market of rooftop advertising and roadside billboards.
Although there were different business scenarios, the consortium decided that the most promising way to exploit the SPABRINK product is the way of licensing.
In this scenario the consortium sells the license for manufacturing and exploiting the board and for that, the consortium will receive an agreed fee + royalties on sales. The Licensee will manage the production, etc. The consortium will give onsite and online training during the technology transfer and will keep them up-to-date on the billboard improvements along the duration of the contract. In case of problems with the boards operation, the consortium will guarantee technical support.
The SMEs have devised a detailed plan for the dissemination of Foreground, which allowed both an effective promotion of the technology and the communication of the results to the wider public, as well as to the advertising sector and the scientific community. A number of international exhibitions and fairs were identified and visited that served as optimal ground for dissemination. Towards the end of the project, when the future product became more visible, the most relevant market players were contacted and the SPABRINK was introduced to them. More intense marketing will be started with the lead of SIARQ once the patent application is submitted.

List of Websites:
Public website address:
Contact details:
Exploitation manager:

Informations connexes

Reported by