A printer without ink from Zink

It's a printer without ink cartridges.

Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Michael Kanellos is editor at large at CNET News.com, where he covers hardware, research and development, start-ups and the tech industry overseas.
Michael Kanellos
2 min read

Zink wants to take the printer off of your desk and put it in your pocket. The question now is whether you'll want it.

The Waltham, Mass.-based start-up has created--with help from Polaroid--a way to print photographs or documents without ink or an ink cartridge. Without an ink cartridge, the printer can be reduced to the size of an iPod or smaller, CEO Wendy Caswell says. The controlling factor when it comes to printer size is whether you want 2x3 pictures or 4x6 prints.

A camera-printer combo the size of an iPod Zink

The first two products likely will be a standalone printer, and a camera with a built-in printer. The company is showing off the technology this week at the technology conference Demo 07, taking place this week in Palm Desert, CA (Sonny Bono and Gerald Ford territory).

The trick is the paper. In conventional machines, print heads squirt ink in a meticulous pattern onto a sheet of paper, which gets affixed through heat or other means.

In Zink's system, images are created when a heated printer head comes into contact with a sheet of specialized paper. The paper--which is actually a polymer but feels like ordinary photo paper--contains three crystalline layers. The three layers are clear until heated. When heated, the material turns amorphous and changes colors: one of the crystalline layers turns yellow, the middle one goes magenta, while the final one turns blue. The layers are activated at different temperatures and require different cooking times.

The first printer will cost about $199. Sheets of 100 pieces of paper will go for $19.95.