Wednesday, August 29, 2007


A while back, I wrote about a company E Ink that's developing a "'digital screen that looks, bends, and folds like paper'". This technology may eventually make it possible for someone like me to actual enjoy turning the pages of an e-book. Someday.

Now there's Zink.

Zink, which stands for Zero-Ink, is a new technology that will enable you to print "without ink, ribbons or toner". Think of it. No more shaking the printer cartridge to try to eke a few more pages out of it. (Okay, it's for colored printing, not b&w, which is 99% of the printing that I do. But I'm sure it's just a matter of time...) No more - I'm guessing - weird, "off" colors when you get down to the bitter end. No more big, bulky printers taking up all that desk space.

The footprint can be incredibly tiny, and a Zink printing system will be able to be embedded in small devices - like your cell phone, so that you'll be able to print out all those pictures you're snapping away. How cool is that?

Zink will also be embeddable in larger devices - like your PC or TV. How cool is that?

There's a video on their web site that shows a portable printer - it's about the size of a book or a video. How cool is that?

Here's the not-so-tech talk on Zink:

The key to this process is the patented ZINK™ Paper, an advanced composite material with dye crystals embedded inside and a protective polymer overcoat layer outside. ZINK™ Paper is durable, colorful, and affordable.

Before printing, the embedded dye crystals are colorless, so ZINK™ Paper looks like regular white photo paper. The ZINK™ Printer uses heat to activate and colorize these dye crystals. The printing process is now radically simple. Just add paper and press "print". The result is high quality, long-lasting, durable, and affordable images

How incredibly cool is that?

Zink is based in Waltham, which is just outside Boston. And E Ink is in Cambridge. Is it any accident that the Athens of America would have companies that are focusing on the technologies that are going to facilitate reading, writing, and printing in the 21st century. I'm such a homie.

It's also heartening to us local bleeding hearts that Zink is a spin out of Polaroid, which is not surprising, given how Polaroid's worked - all that printability in a camera.

I'm old enough to remember the earlier Polaroid cameras, one of which - surprisingly - my father bought somewhere around 1959 or 1960. I say surprising because my father was not by any stretch of anyone's imagination an "early adopter" (or whatever such folks were called in the good old days). We didn't even get a colored TV until the 1970's, since my father refused to consider one until the color was in his judgment "as good as a Technicolor movie," a day which my father did not live to see.

But he did bring home a Polaroid camera, with it's miracle "print itself" film, which had to be coated by a ghastly-smelling chemical that came on some sort of pink sponge that came in the package with the miracle film.

I remember sitting around on Christmas Eve at our house the year my father bought the Polaroid. After my father figured it out - with a major assist from my cousin Charlie the engineer - he spent a good part of the evening taking family pictures. Most of the pictures were terrible - half exposed, too dark, too light - the technology wasn't all that advanced. But what a miracle when the camera spit out the picture. You had to wait a minute of so for the picture to "gel" (or whatever it was doing), then you'd peel off the facing paper and treat it with the chemical.

And there you had it: a miracle of modern technology. How cool was that?

I'm happy to hear that Polaroid is still at it.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------Thanks to Maura Welch over at Boston Filter for the tip.

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