Zink, the Zero Ink printer company, is coming out of stealth mode and presenting at DEMO 2007 today. The Boston Globe , San Jose Merc, and Cnet have stories on Zink today. Zink is a spin-out from Polaroid's research labs, and is headed by Wendy Caswell, an old friend from our days together at Digital Equipment Corp. I got the inside scoop on Zink way back in 2005 and posted a detailed description in this blog post.
The Boston Globe reports "The first products in the pipeline include a stand-alone printer, about the size of an Apple iPod music player. The printer will contain Bluetooth wireless radio technology, as well as a port for a USB cable, and will be priced at around $100. Zink and its unnamed partners are also planning a $199 digital camera with a built-in printer, that would eject photographic prints in much the same way as an old-fashioned Polaroid camera.
Zink will continue research and development on the printer hardware and software. But the company's main source of revenue will be its unique paper. Zink will mass produce the paper at its Waltham facility, ensuring a constant stream of revenue ."
Here is how the Zink printer system works. Zink "zero ink" means that the printer doesn't have a an ink jet print head. Instead, colorless dye forming crystals are embedded in the photo paper itself. They are "developed" by passing the paper through a Zink printer, which is basically a stationary thermal transfer print head. The print head selectively heats each pixel at a different temperature to create different colors. Each crystal color stays invisible until heated to an exact temperature. Think of Polaroid instant film technology applied to photo printing on paper.
Zink will revolutionize the photo printing business for quick, portable prints. Think about this. There are millions of cell phones with built in cameras. More than 80% of these photos never get printed or sent anywhere because users can't figure out how to do it. Zink has developed a one button printer that easily connects to your camera phone, fits in your shirt pocket, and costs less than $100. There are lots of other possible applications. My bet is this will be a big winner.