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What Can an Inkless Printer Do?

A contest encourages entrants to find new uses for Zink’s inkless printing technology.
June 24, 2009

Zink, a company that has developed a portable inkless printer, will today announce the finalists for its Zero Boundaries design contest. People and companies have been competing to find the best way to make use of Zink’s inkless printing technology–we’ve written about Zink here and here–and I had the opportunity to participate in judging the competition.

As a judge, I got to see all of the 75 entries. Many designers proposed laptops and tablets with integrated printers, business and flashcard printers, and instant cameras with integrated printers. A number of participants thought that small Zink printers would be useful for making large-scale images, such as wallpaper designs and posters. Some concepts included a function that allowed the printer to crawl over a space, heating the surface coated with the same heat-sensitive crystals found in Zink paper. By far, the most unexpected submission was an acrylic nail printer in which fake nails are coated with Zink’s heat-sensitive crystals.

Polaroid might have stopped making its instant film, but Zink, a spinoff of the company, is trying to find its place as a maker of portable instant printers. The challenge isn’t straightforward: today, most people share photos digitally, on the Web or via e-mail and Twitter, and they print pictures only when a special reason warrants it.

Zink launched its competition in April with hopes of spurring interest in its technology, highlighting up-and-coming designers, and inspiring Zink partners to create interesting products. The contest had two components: one called for a product that would appeal to youth, and the other called for a product that rethinks printing completely. All of the finalists can be viewed here, and the public can vote on a favorite. The winners will be announced on July 15.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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