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Inkjet Kiosk With a 9-Cent, 4x6 Print Being Shown To Prospective Buyers

Jerry Lansky

How would you like to have an inkjet kiosk that costs about $2,000, outputs 4x6 prints for about nine cents worth of ink and paper, spits out each print in two seconds and takes up less than two square feet of counter or floor space?

It's not a Las Vegas fantasy. There is an actual, operating kiosk that can fulfill this list of specifications being shown to prospective buyers of the components and technology for such a kiosk. Unfortunately, it is being shown by invitation only in a private meeting area supplied for hush-hush sessions like this here at PMA.

A brand new firm, Memjet Photo Retail U.S., Inc., Poway, CA., has been created to be the OEM supplier to any manufacturer wishing to incorporate its Memjet inkjet technology into its own kiosk product. It will not be offering a branded kiosk with anyone's label on it.

The CEO of Memjet U.S. is David Clark, a physics PhD and a veteran of the photo industry having spent time with Kodak as its director for digital research and with the Kodak-HP Phogenix project where he served as chief technical officer until the doors were locked and he returned to Kodak to work on inkjet printer development.

The technology for the Memjet system was developed by Silverbrook Research, Sydney, Australia, described in an independent website article as a "low profile company" which in 2003 "filed more patent applications in Australia than any other organization." The firm claims to hold more than 1,300 US patents.

The heart of the memjet technology, according to David, is a large, four-inch print head which contains 32,000 densely packed nozzles compared to only a few thousand in other inkjet methods. Being the full width of the paper, the head does not move, as in typical inkjet printing systems, but is stable as the paper moves through it, he said. Such a system, he claims, substantially reduces cost.

He said that there are five rows of nozzles per print head: two with cyan ink, two with magenta and one with yellow, and that the proprietary dye-based ink "meets the industry standard of longevity equal to silver halide prints."

As to the quality of the print, I'm no maven, but having served retail customers in my own eight labs for a number of years, the prints looked very saleable. David's description: "It meets the benchmark for consumer photos." Its literature states: "True 1600 dpi print quality."

Memjet Photo Retail has been established to take on the roll of introducing the technology to manufacturers in the photo industry that would incorporate it into their own kiosk design and sell the finished product through their established channels. Memjet will be the supplier of the proprietary ink and compatible inkjet paper to its customers. David said his firm will not offer a kiosk finished product—only the components and technology for others.

David said that the system had been shown to certain prospectives in past months and met with considerable interest. He would not reveal any names at this point but there is a rumor that one manufacturer will be introducing a kiosk here in Las Vegas that incorporates the memjet system.

As to the nine-cent cost for media and ink for a 4x6 and the $2,000 cost for the kiosk, David said that setting the selling prices would be up to each manufacturer as it takes the finished product to market and could vary. However, his presentation to buyers is very specific to these numbers.

Nine cents would bring the 4x6 print cost closer to the magic goal of matching the cost of a silver halide print of about 5-6 cents and is somewhat below existing dye-sub media, in the 12-15-cent range, and the inkjet systems from Noritsu and HP which are a few cents cheaper.

The operating unit being demonstrated in Las Vegas is described by David as "a simple system." It incorporates a 10.5-inch touch screen monitor in a tabletop unit that will accept all common memory cards and PictBridge connection. It measures 10-inches wide and 20-inches deep.

The software approach is also 'simple.' According to David it is designed to have a consumer come up to the kiosk, insert a media card, select which images to print, how many of each image, or print the entire file. The prints start dropping out immediately at the rate of one every two seconds, or 30 per minute. When the order is for the entire file, he said, it prints the last image first and the customer can halt the process at any time.

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