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1/30/2007
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Demo '07: Zink Debuts Inkless Photo Printing

Remember Polaroid's photos? Now there's printing paper based on the same technology.

At the Demo 07 conference in Palm Desert, Calif., today, Zink Imaging introduced a new way to print color images without ink cartridges or ribbons. "Images magically appear on the Zink paper without a drop of ink," the company claims.

Actually, there's no sorcery involved. Zink paper contains dye crystals, which are activated by heat from a Zink printer. This process creates the images, just as Polaroid film does. In fact, Zink was spun out of Polaroid.

Zink Imaging plans to demonstrate two such devices at the conference on Wednesday -- a $99 standalone Bluetooth-capable printer and a $199 7-megapixel camera with built-in printer. The company estimates the paper will cost $19.95 for a pack of 100 sheets, or about $0.20 per sheet. In comparison, regular paper costs roughly $0.02 per sheet.

"Our vision and our strategy is we don't want consumers to pay a premium for Zink technology," says Scott Wicker, chief marketing officer for the company. "But there really isn't a comparable product on the market."

Zink won't be selling its printers and paper directly. Rather, it will license its technology to brand partners. The company says it will identify those partners later this year.

Zink Imaging claims more than 100 patents related to its inkless printing processes. The company says its prints are not only high quality and long-lasting, but also good for the environment.

"Since everything you need is the in the paper itself, there's no waste associated with toner cartridges," Wicker explains. "And the print is recyclable as well," (as plastic rather than paper).

Wicker says Zink's paper feels like high-end photo paper, noting that its texture varies, depending on the kind of application-specific substrate used.

Zink aims to encourage the printing of images that, perhaps for good reason, never get printed such as the billions of camera phone images taken annually around the globe. Should Zink succeed, the ostensible environmental advantages of Zink's inkless paper might be undone by sheer volume. But such a scenario would surely benefit Zink's bottom line.

"It really delivers this magical, simple user experience," says Wicker. "These first two products are just the beginning of a long roadmap."

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