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Other Inkjets Follow HP Into the Minilab Market; Dye-Sub Could Take A Hit



Once available, the sales responsibility for the DFX will fall to Kodak for the photo trade and HP for its accounts with Phogenix serving as the supplier to both. Kodak's record for selling minilab equipment in the past has been dismal but there is no denying their success with the Picture Maker. Qualex, with a strong sales and service backup and a huge OSP customer base could be important to the success of DFX. The DFX will be pitched to the minilab trade as a companion to an existing optical lab so a retailer might offer digital services without impacting the work flow of the optical machine. Rated at 250 prints/hour it would not likely be the sole unit in a full service minilab.

With the DFX, Phogenix will be selling a digital-input, inkjet-output minilab at $40,000 plus $10,000 for a film scanner. A new C-41 film processor had been announced by Phogenix in the past and has now been priced at $20,000.

And in This Corner:

The Wily Minilab Veteran

In the other corner of the battle of the inkjets is Noritsu, a veteran, indeed. As new as Phogenix is to the minilab game, Noritsu was there at the beginning and probably has the largest installed minilab base of any firm selling in this country. It's dealers are generally loyal to Noritsu and represent a big opportunity for them whenever they have something new to present. They have a well-seasoned sales and service structure.

Noritsu has teamed with Epson to offer an inkjet minilab, called dDP-411 (for Digital Dry Printer) which was unveiled at photokina and will be first shown in this country at PMA-Las Vegas. According to Harvey Phillips, Noritsu's VP of marketing and strategic planning, there were three operating models at photokina and it is expected that by the end of the year equipment will be in the U.S. for training purposes with shipments scheduled to begin in the Spring.

Harvey said that while the final pricing has not yet been set, the dDP-411 will sell for about $45,000. This would compare with the Phogenix DFX at $40,000. A flat bed scanner and a film scanner will be offered as options.

The system consists of two components that are attached by cable and can be positioned side-by-side or remote from each other:

Operations Manager, OM-1This component is the input station and work center. It consists of a 15-inch touch screen monitor, computer hardware and accepts the usual array of slots for input media while burning CDs and outputting to a variety of other memory devices.

Printer-Processor, DP400Offers a dual magazine system, an upper compartment that will handle two 6-inch rolls at a time, 100 meters in length, and a lower one for widths up to 12-inches for prints up to 12x18. There are seven, 500ml. ink cartridges (yellow, magenta, cyan, light magenta, light cyan, black and light black). According to Harvey, the print heads are long-life and should last up to five years in normal operation.

Together, the system has a footprint of less than three square feet and weighs less than 600 pounds.

The price for ink and paper has not yet been set, according to Harvey. It will come in somewhat higher than silver halide but Harvey said there are offsets in terms of chemical handling and other factors.

Noritsu's CT-1 terminal, a tabletop, input-only unit with monitor, can be networked with the dDP-411 allowing customers to preview and select from their own digital media and take inkjet prints in return. Harvey said that shipments of the CT-1 began in August and that "99% of the digital labs we sell are now being shipped with the CT-1." Price: $7,000.

Only "Matte" Print Output Offered for Now

One element of the Noritsu-Epson system is that only 'N' surface will be available for print output. This could be a serious downside for the model as glossy surface is what most consumers expect these days. I'm told that the use of pigment inks to produce a glossy surface, while achievable, is difficult. Extra ink has to be applied which could effect drying time and, since no laminate is used to protect the surface, there could be a problem with print durability.

Harvey Phillips acknowledges the matte-only situation. "We will eventually have other surfaces available," he said. A necessity.

He said that Noritsu sees the new model as a natural companion for a minilab with an optical system. He feels the small footprint will make it attractive to any location where space is a consideration and will look beyond the minilab market for opportunities: hotels, resorts, etc.


   







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