Small Explosion, Evacuation at E Ink

A small explosion at E Ink forced an evacuation of the company’s Cambridge, MA, offices and manufacturing facilities near Fresh Pond this afternoon. No injuries were reported, but employees have been sent home for the weekend as the company deals with water damage from the building’s sprinkler system.

The company said in a statement released to Xconomy: “There was a small incident at E Ink today. The incident was contained to a very small space within [the] R & D facility. No one was injured. There is no damage and no interruption of production. The incident was quickly taken care of and E Ink is cooperating with the fire department. Employees were sent home for the day because the sprinklers were engaged as result of the flash and resulting smoke. All employees will return to business on Monday.”

E Ink, which is a division of Taiwanese display maker Prime View International, makes the electrophoretic displays used in e-reader devices such as the Amazon Kindle, the Sony Reader, the Barnes & Noble Nook, and Plastic Logic’s forthcoming Que proReader.

Sriram Peruvemba, E Ink’s vice president of marketing, told Xconomy that the incident occurred in a “pod” or shop area in the company’s R&D operation where an employee was mixing various materials, and that it will not slow manufacturing of the “VizPlex” films used by E Ink’s customers.

E Ink researchers and engineers studying new display technologies routinely work with small amounts of dangerous materials, Peruvemba says. “Basically the research guys constantly get approval form the local authorities to bring in small quantities of different substances, including substances that may be flammable if mixed incorrectly,” he says. “In the next day or two we will know exactly what he mixed and what caused this. All of that will now be investigated by the fire department.”

An arson attack on E Ink’s offices in 2008 caused an estimated $5,000 in damage.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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