For those who decide it's best to begin offering digital services on a moderate scale, Noritsu offers the new dDP-411 Digital Dry Printer. The fruits of a strategic alliance between Noritsu and Seiko Epson, this system is built around a dry seven color inkjet system. The unit can produce prints up to 12 x 18 inches from all types of digital media, and maximum production is rated at 400 3-1/2 x 5 inch prints per hour. The basic system costs $45,000. Optional upgrades include flatbed and film scanning stations, and a CT-1 Consumer Terminal. An unlimited number of these terminals can be networked to the system, to give consumers a self-serve station for placing their orders.
"It's a way labs with optical equipment can also participate in digital services," says Brunson.
Digital Portal has also expanded its ine to offer a full range of digital minilab systems and equipment, all for under $100,000.
Digital Portal's top of the line digital minilab is the DKS-15000, rated at 1550 4 x 6-inch prints per hour. It can print from film negatives or digital image files in all popular formats and can also output files to the web, floppies or disc. It sells for $99,500. Other digital minilab systems with comparable features include the DKS-550 C, rated 555 prints per hour for $64,900; and the DKS-750S rated at 750 prints per hour for $86,500. "All of these systems use a $15 halogen print lamp bulb that's easily installed," says company's Mark Lawrence
For retailers who decide it's best to postpone purchase of a full-scale digital minilab until demand for digital services is there, the company offers a more modest alternative in its DKS Station Lab Pack. This $19,500 digital minilab system is built around dye sublimation printer technology.
At Konica Photo Imaging, Todd Tereshkow, vp for on-site technical services and marketing, suggests minilab owners need to look beyond traditional services to identify the real opportunities with digital. "Many retailers are still trying to figure out 'What does digital bring to me,'" he notes. "They need to start focusing on other services possible with digital imaging, things like putting images on CD, greeting cards, calendars and posters. These are products with higher gross profits," than the norm with straightforward print services.
Konica's latest answer for pursuing that business is the new R1 Super Digital Minilab system. Unlike it's predecessor, the QD-21, the new lab features a modular design with the printer/processor and worktable (with keyboards and flatbed scanning station) housed in separate units. "This gives retailers greater flexibility in how they set up the equipment."
The system is rated at 1000 prints per hour and features Digital ICE for removing scratches and dust spots from film, automatic red eye correction, a quick printing keyboard and one touch CD-R creation. The open architecture design also makes it easy for retailers to expand its capabilities. The system list price is $99,500.
Because of the modular approach of this design, Tereshkow says the printing unit of the R1 can be added to Konica's older 878 minilab systems. "The upgrade replaces the analog printer with a digital upgrade, extending the life of the system and adding new capabilities. In addition, the cost for the retailer to enter the digital world is reduced," he adds.
Konica plans to support its R1 installations with new POP material promoting the capabilities of the system and the digital printing options available to consumers.
"We're going to start seeing more advertising targeting consumers from everyone," he predicts. "We've done a phenomenal job (as an industry) with the digital camera. What hasn't happened yet is consumers taking their film cards in to have their pictures printed."
As that changes, and consumers start looking for digital print services, the most economical digital strategy, long term, is one that has the lab equipped and ready to handle their orders, when they show up at the counter, media cards in hand.