The system, developed in the SPABRINK project and now being refined in a follow-up initiative, uses a specially designed printer and reusable coloured powder to print and re-print display advertising on an electrostatic surface. The self-contained billboard unit is entirely remotely operated, enabling advertisements to be changed and new images uploaded over the internet.
“Paper-based billboards have a 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 such as LED panels affect our environment by consuming considerable amounts of energy,” says Alexandra Tóth-Flink, the SPABRINK coordinator at Ateknea Solutions in Hungary. “SPABRINK is an innovative and environmentally friendlyPtechnology that strikes the right balance between market competitiveness and environmental awareness.”
The SPABRINK system sits between the two existing billboard advertising solutions, offering many of the advantages of both but at lower financial, labor and environmental cost. With SPABRINK billboards, there is no wastage as the colored powders are reused, and no physical human intervention is needed to change the displays, making them particularly suitable for hard-to-reach locations such as alongside motorways or on rooftops.
Energy consumption is around 50 times lower than that of LED billboards as electricity is only consumed when the display is being changed and the printer is operating. Consumption is so low that the researchers are exploring the possibility of connecting the billboards to their own solar panels, resulting in an entirely self-sufficient solution. Energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs could also be added to back light the display, creating novel features in combination with ultraviolet-sensitive powders.
By the end of the project, the consortium had built a large-scale prototype with an effective surface area of two square metres which was tested in real outdoor environments by a group of end-user businesses.
Building on that work, the SPABRINK team are launching a follow-up project with support from the European Commission’s funding scheme for Key Enabling Technologies pilot lines, for which new partners have joined the consortium. These include Clear Channel International, a leader in the urban advertising market; VTT, a Finnish firm specializing in electronic printing technologies; and Vega Vizyon, a Turkish manufacturer of urban billboards.
“The aim is to reach a level of technological readiness at which the SPABRINK system is suitable for commercial deployment in the near future,” Tóth-Flink concludes.