For many minilab owners who did make the early leap into digital imaging it hasn't been easy to decide when to upgrade to a newer system or to add additional systems to meet the growing demand for digital output at retail. Many higher-end digital minilabs still carry a big price tag, so many retailers are looking for other output solutions. One possible solution is the new DKS 900 Thermal Digital Minilab from DigitalPortal that was introduced at PMA 2005. The DKS 900 is compact unit that utilizes the latest in thermal printing technology. The minilab features dye sub rather than silver halide print output but offers the same software as the other labs in DigitalPortal's digital line, the DKS 1510, 1530 and1550. It comes equipped with a Mitsubishi 4 x 6 inch printer for an output of 110 prints/hour.
James Park, owner of ColorTek, a six store chain in New York City , was one of the first locations in the country to install Digital Portal's new DKS 900 digital minilab system. We recently spoke with Park and asked him how the unit has been operating since it was installed a few months ago.
"Customer response has been very favorable," says Park. "The DKS 900 gives us the ability to produce custom print packages, enlargements of any size up to 8 x 12 inches, calendars, greeting cards, ID passport photos and CD-ROMs all onsite."
Park says that since the dye sub printing process doesn't require chemistry, the lab can sit out in the store. "We're able to display it right on the selling floor, which helps to spark consumer interest," he says. "Customers who have had a digital camera for a while are finding it's convenient to come here, and they can get their prints right away."
Park points out that the unit is very easy to maintain. "We come into the store in the morning, switch it on and add paper, the machine does the rest. And, at the end of that day when we close up, we just switch it off. There is no changing filters, cleaning racks or adjusting color balance," he says.
When he was evaluating his digital lab options, Park says his first concern was reliability, followed by quality control, ease of operation, and the cost per print. He reports that the dye sub output offers them a dry, easy-to-use system with a low purchase price and overall operating cost. "Ease of use was also very important to me when I was looking at the equipment. My goal is to train everyone in the store to be a printer, so that they can provide better service to our customers. The DKS 900 is very easy to use. Most of my employees can operate DKS 900 with very little training."
Since the DKS 900 offers dye-sub printers instead of RA-4 chemistry, Park likes the fact that you can expand output by just adding printers. "Currently I have four dye-sub printers connected to the machine. You have the option to add more printers as you need for more speed and productivity. So the system can grow as your print business grows.
"The unit also has great film scanner that can handle 35mm, APS, 120mm, slides. We've used the flatbed scanner and it produces excellent quality print-to-print.
"The DKS 900 has been a great addition, because it handles all our digital needs with easy operation, excellent quality, and very low maintenance cost. My customers are very happy with the quality of the prints and fast service. Most of all my digital business has been growing so much that I now have three kiosks in the store and as well as a high speed digital minilab (DKS 1550) to handle the digital printing.
"It's a good fit for us because we already have fully functional minilabs that are doing our bulk of the film orders, so it was a very economical way to add other digital capabilities. So far it's met all our output needs," he concludes.
Digital Portal's DKS 900 Thermal Digital Minilab at a Glance
• Expandable (Available in 4 versions)
• Offers productivity 110 print/hour and expandable to more than 550 prints/hour
• Outputs 3.5 x 5, 4 x 6, 5 x 7, 6 x 8 and 8 x 12, ID/passport photos, CD
• Hi-Resolution - Hi-Speed Imagus Im-1500 film scanner (optional)
• Exceptionally compact (under 5 square feet)
• Utilizing the latest in thermal printing technology with print resolutions up to 692 dpi
• Bluetooth and USB port for image transfer from digital cameras, camera phones and PDA's
• Handles all popular types of digital flash memory formats
• Price point: $20,000-$46,000 depending on configuration
• Key Features: Designed borders for all print size, Cropping mode, Red-eye removal
Automatic dust removal, B/W, Sepia, Negative conversion mode
One touch template printing (greeting cards, passport photos, etc.)