Today’s minilab systems continue to grow more creative and versatile, with features that include faster delivery times, eco-friendly dry processing, double-sided printing and a wide range of print sizes, all available from the same minilab system.
These changes in photo processing reflect the industry’s efforts to meet evolving trends and tastes in consumer photography. Studies from PMA indicate the market value of photo books has grown by more than $175 million since 2006*; and data collected by Photo Imaging News Inc. shows an increase in sales of personalized photo products—rising from a little less than 500 million U.S. dollars worldwide in 2003 to nearly 3,400 million in 2010**.
The following photofinishing systems offer these personalized products (printed in-house) along with many new features designed to expand the boundaries of consumer-based imaging.
DNP Photo Imaging America PrintRushMP
DNP Photo Imaging America offers complete photo printing solutions comprised of DS-series dye-sublimation printers and the DNP PrintRushMP multipurpose retail hub. Together they form a self-service center for retail customers to order prints, photo CDs, personalized gift cards and more.
The PrintRushMP hub combines multiple order stations—usually two or more kiosks—with the high-speed, high-resolution DS-series printers and an expandable product catalog from which retailers can selectively add new ROI services. It can also be approved to launch third-party applications, enabling retailers to offer high-profit-margin products like photo gifts and books.
“PrintRushMP is the future of photo at retail,” says David Oles, senior vice president of Research & Development for DNP. “We designed it to be a multipurpose, multifunction kiosk platform. Our third-party Application Programming Interface (API) allows us to easily add new services and enables our partners to quickly integrate with our order terminals, output devices and self-service payment options, including credit card payment.”
Both the DS40 and DS80 series printers feature a cartridge-based ribbon supply and an exclusive internal print method that safeguards the paper from exposure to dust and other contaminants. The printers measure 12.6x14x6.6 inches and weigh just 30 pounds.
The DS40 outputs three print sizes: 4×6, 5×7 and 6×9 inches, at a maximum speed of 8 to 34 seconds each. The DS80 outputs 8×10- and 8×12-inch print sizes, at an estimated speed of 30 to 60 sec each. Each is capable of printing at 300- or 600-dpi resolution and applies a final lamination layer to resist fading, fingerprints, water, ozone and dust. dnpphoto.com
Fujifilm Frontier DL600 Dry Minilab
The Fujifilm Frontier DL600, a recent 2011 TIPA Awards winner, is the company’s latest dry minilab. Its exclusive piezoelectric inkjet head is designed to maximize the placement of five colored inks (instead of four), while still using the same amount of ink as a four-colored (CMYK) head. The fifth ink, light blue (LB), is added to enhance granularity and gradation in medium-density areas of a print, such as skin tones, blue skies and gray backgrounds.
As with previous models, the DL600 uses Fujifilm’s proprietary image-processing technology, Image Intelligence, to optimize color and open up shadow areas in the prints. A 720-dpi mode is available for standard resolution printing and a 1,440 mode can be used for highest quality prints. Maximum print size is 12×48 inches to accommodate the growing popularity of memory products like poster prints and digital scrapbook pages (12×12 inches).
The DL600’s compact design (47x60x32 inches) conveniently locates all operations on the front and left sides of the printer, so it can be placed in a corner with two sides against the walls. A simplified operations panel allows lab personnel to check ink and paper settings, while an automatic nozzle-check function verifies and optimizes the condition of each nozzle.
The Frontier is optimized for use with Fujifilm’s exclusive inkjet paper, available in both glossy and luster finishes, with a choice of 4-, 5-, 6-, 8-, 10- and 12-inch width rolls. The DL600 is capable of printing 640 4×6-inch prints per hour at 720 dpi. fujifilmusa.com
HP Photosmart ML2000D Dry Inkjet Minilab
First demonstrated at PMA 2010, the HP ML2000D is the company’s first dry inkjet minilab, designed to use three times less energy and to save an average of 800 gallons of chemical and water discharge per year when compared to traditional silver halide photofinishing systems.
In addition to its 16 different print sizes (upped to 20 print sizes when introduced at photokina), the ML2000D can produce high-quality duplex photo books and calendars in one hour, using HP’s closed loop manufacturing process to produce dry-assembly photo books without glue in the binding system.
Single-sided prints range in size from 3.5×5 to 12×18 inches and are printed at a rate of 1,500 4×6 prints per hour, on either HP vivid photo glossy or vivid photo matte finishes. The ML2000D is also capable of producing four borderless, double-sided print sizes for books (6×6, 8×8, 8.5×11 and 12×12 inches), double-sided 5×7-inch greeting cards, booklets and CD inserts, plus double-sided 8.5×11 and 12×12 calendars.
Prints are smudgeproof, water resistant and resist fading for more than 200 years, according to the company. hp.com
Kodak APEX Modular Dry Lab
Eastman Kodak Company launched several new products for its modular dry lab solution—the Adaptive Picture Exchange (APEX)—last year, including a feature-rich software upgrade APEX v4.0 and a more versatile dye-sub printer, the Kodak D4000 duplex photo printer, which is capable of printing borderless premium photo products, such as photo books, calendars and personalized greeting cards. The new products were designed as an integrated package, to increase retailers’ potential for attracting new customers through the Internet and by offering expanded in-store photo products and services.
Among the most notable new features in the Picture Kiosk software v4.0 are: the Social Network Connectivity module, which allows kiosk users to connect directly to Facebook, Kodak Gallery and Picasa Web Albums to access their images for printing; a Kodak Video Snapshots application that allows users to grab and print still pictures from their digital video files; and a Canvas Print Products feature that provides “artistic” printing services traditionally available only through third-party providers. With APEX v4.0, retailers can print their customers’ images to look as though they’re painted on canvas.
The D4000 duplex photo printer, schedule to ship this year, is Kodak’s most advanced addition to the APEX dry printer series, capable of producing two-sided borderless prints ranging in size from 4×8 to 8×12 inches. The D4000 thermal dye-sublimation printer outputs images at 300-dpi (continuous tone) resolution, using Kodak’s new duplex XtraLife photo book paper to produce high-quality, two-sided photo gifts in less than an hour. kodak.com
Mitsubishi Imaging Grace Inkjet Papers
Mitsubishi Imaging is promoting its latest series of inkjet photo media developed for professional and retail labs—Grace Pearlescent photo paper, Inkjet Drylab paper and a dual-sided luster photo paper.
The most recent inkjet paper, Grace Pearlescent has a high-gloss metallic finish similar to silver halide metallic papers, suitable for a range of applications from portraits to commercial and fine art. The metallic finish is reported to produce exceptionally sharp images with vivid color reproduction and exceptional image clarity.
Mitsubishi’s environmentally friendly Grace Inkjet Drylab paper is made from a traditional resin-coated photo-base paper with a microporous coating—producing a wide color gamut, high-density blacks and fade-resistant prints, without the need for photo processing chemicals.
The Grace dual-sided luster photo paper is designed for on-site printing of personalized products like greeting cards, photo books and calendars. mitsubishi-imaging.com
Noritsu America Corporation D1005 HR
Noritsu America Corporation announced an upgrade to its D1005 duplex minilab introduced last year at PMA. The Noritsu D1005 HR dry lab offers all of the flexibility, efficiency and simplicity of its predecessor, with a new higher resolution setting of 1,440 dpi, in addition to the original 720 dpi available on the D1005.
The D1005 HR features an EZ Controller user interface, enabling the operator to register the two resolutions on separate channels; therefore making it simple to switch between them. The 720×720-dpi resolution lays down six gradations per dot while the 1,440×1,440-dpi resolution lays down four gradations per dot, producing less grain, better contrast and improved texture and depth, according to Noritsu.
The D1005 HR also offers two color profiles as standard features—one that emulates the look of silver halide prints and another that uses the full inkjet gamut to produce more vivid colors. The profiles are easily interchangeable to fit individual jobs. Noritsu also incorporated Adobe DNG conversion technology into the EZ Controller, along with its own AccuSmart image-processing technology, to enable the minilab operator to make high-quality prints from RAW image files without using RAW file conversion software.
Both the D1005 and D1005 HR use variable paper advance technology, capable of providing an unlimited number of print sizes up to 18×36 inches, when used with the appropriate combination of roll and sheet papers. This versatile system enables even small photo labs to deliver one-hour custom-size prints and posters, business cards, 12×12 scrapbook pages and duplex (double-sided) products like greeting cards, calendars and photo books ranging in size from 6×6 to 8.5×11 inches. noritsu.com
ZBE Chromira ProLab
Well-know for its advancements in multi-disciplined imaging systems, ZBE Inc. continues to supply professional labs with the Chromira ProLab system—a fully integrated, professional silver halide minilab that provides high-tech automation and premium quality output, while saving energy, money and virtually eliminating material waste.
Among the ProLab’s most notable features is its patented hybrid LED imaging technology, designed to provide exceptionally sharp exposures, and its ability to match colors perfectly, print-to-print, even across a wide range of print sizes. That’s because every print—from 3.5×5 inches to 30 inches x 164 feet—is cut from the same paper roll, so there is no change in emulsion from one image to the next. Prints from multiple jobs are automatically positioned edge-to-edge to prevent paper waste, and after the sheet is output, the ProLab automatically cuts, sorts and collates each job to make sure every print is bagged with the appropriate grouping.
This intelligent automation, along with the streamlined workflow and energy saving features, has been reported to increase efficiency, improve turnaround times, and reduce energy consumption (compared to other silver halide minilabs)—making it a “green” standard in silver halide photofinishing, according to the manufacturer. zbe.com
* 2009, PMA U.S. Camera/Camcorder Digital Imaging Study
** 2011, Photo Imaging News, An Industry Initiative to Drive Photo Imaging Output