Zink: Inkless Printing

It seems today that there are few technologies that surprise or delight me. When this one was shown at Demo last January, it was because it was close; perhaps it’s because of my prepress and publishing background that I took more notice than most; or maybe it’s because it’s simple to see the opportunity. Regardless, this is one amazing technology that’s worth you thinking about and watching as it develops.

I subscribed to the Business 2.0 “New Disruptors” video podcast (the now defunct Business 2.0) and Erick Schonfeld (now of TechCrunch and I hope he keeps doing these disruptor segments) did a segment on this company, Zink, that is close to delivering printing without ink:

ZINK is a breakthrough technology that produces on-demand color images and photos – without ink, ribbons or toner. The ZINK Technology enables a new category of color printers and paper that work as a system to print in a whole new way.


The key to this process is the patented ZINK Paper, an advanced composite material with cyan, yellow, and magenta dye crystals embedded inside and a protective polymer overcoat layer outside. The printing process is now radically simple. Just add Paper.

While I also was enamored by the Foveon chip (an innovative RGB image sensor), I realized early on that unless this chip was embraced by camera manufacturer’s it never would go anywhere. Sigma, Toshiba (with one camera) and Polaroid are the only OEM manufacturer’s who’ve used the chip to date and it’s effectively dead, in my opinion. Could Zink’s fate be tied with their ability to cajole, persuade and sell to OEM printer product companies?

Perhaps. But this article from July shows how they’re hedging their bets: Late last week, the company announced it completed a deal that sees it taking control of a manufacturing plant in North Carolina that previously belonged to Konica Minolta. With the purchase, Zink can now speed up the development of both its Zero-Ink printers and supporting Zink paper.

Though Zink has more than 100 patents on this inkless printing process, competition looms from Xerox, though the latter’s technology is focused on being an erasable one. This concerns me since so many of our artifacts (e.g., photos!) are digital and in considerable jeopardy of being lost. The archival quality of Zink’s approach gives me warm fuzzies about creating things that future generations may be able to hold in their hands.

Regardless of what happens, who wins, or what technology we end up using, the fact remains that in a short time we’ll have options for high resolution printing that will no longer require we buy expensive consumables, chop down trees or process pulp to create printed artifacts.

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  1. Marc on September 28, 2007 at 4:56 am

    It should be interesting to compare the environmental impact of Zink and of traditionnal laser or inkjet printing.

    I suspect this paper, if consumed as much as plain white paper is consumed today, to be hugely devastating in terms of production cost and waste treatment.

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Podcasting hit the mainstream in July of 2005 when Apple added podcast show support within iTunes. I'd seen this coming so started podcasting in May of 2005 and kept going until August of 2007. Unfortunately was never 'discovered' by national broadcasters, but made a delightfully large number of connections with people all over the world because of these shows. Click here to view the archive of my podcast posts.