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Kodak High-Speed (!) Thermal Printer with Cheap (!) Media Debuts from Kodak
By Mike Pasini, The Imaging Resource
(Saturday, February 23, 2002 - 17:23 EST)

Kodak announces a high-speed thermal photo printing system with very low media costs, aimed at the lab market.

This one will be of great interest to lab and event photography operators: A super high-speed (relatively speaking, anyway) dye-sub printer, with media costs about half of the current going rate. Kodak's new ML 500 "Digital Photo Print System" can crank out up to 270 8x10 prints per hour, with a media cost (ribbon & paper) of only $1 per print. Since it uses a thermal, dry-imaging technology (no chemicals), you can plunk it down anywhere without worrying about plumbing or hazmat disposal. - And while $1 per print is more than the raw cost of chemicals and paper for conventional silver-halide printing, by the time you add up the total maintenance costs, and/or the costs of schlepping images and prints back and forth to a central lab, it could be pretty close to a wash at the bottom line.

Not cheap, at $19,995, but this does appear to take thermal photo printing into a whole new arena. Over a period of years, Kodak has continued to push dye-sub technology further than most anyone else imagined would be possible. Part of their success is doubtless thanks in part to the huge captive supplies market represented by the thousands of "Picture Maker" digital printing kiosks they have deployed worldwide. (About 21,000 in the US alone, by the most recent count.) I have no stats to confirm this, but my hunch is that the Picture Makers represent a very significant portion of the entire world market for thermal photo imaging supplies.

Whatever the case, the bottom line is that Kodak has managed to push thermal photo imaging yet another step further in its competition with "conventional" photo printing. Availability of the new unit is slated for Q2, 2002.

Source: Kodak

Original Source Press Release:

Revolutionary Kodak Professional ML 500 Digital Photo Print SystemPrints 270 Quality 8x10 Photos an Hour In Studio, In the Lab or On-Site

High-Speed System Offers Providers of On-Demand Printing 'Speed Where You Need It'

ORLANDO, Fla., February 23 -- Kodak Professional brings a new level of productivity, versatility and mobility to digital photographic printing technology with today's introduction of the Kodak Professional ML 500 Digital Photo Print System. This revolutionary system prints an 8x10-inch high-quality photo in only 13 seconds, as many as 270 8x10-inch prints per hour, and more than 500 5x7-inch prints per hour. Kodak Professional's new thermal output system operates four to six times faster than standard dye sublimation printers and is similar in productivity to digital photo printers. Because the ML 500 system is based on dry/thermal technology it can be used virtually anywhere. With excellent color reproduction and the ability to produce both matte and gloss finishes, the ML 500 system represents the best available option for speed, versatility and image quality.

Visitors to the Photo Marketing Association show, February 24-27 in Orlando, Fla., can view the Kodak Professional ML 500 Digital Photo Print System in the Kodak Professional booth (#2772).

"Kodak has a long history of leadership in dry, resistive-head thermal printing systems, and once again we are advancing this technology as part of our broad portfolio of imaging solutions to meet the wide-ranging needs of our customers," said Karen Smith-Pilkington, President, Kodak Professional, and Vice President, Eastman Kodak Company. "As digital printing evolves and needs are identified in the areas of on-demand printing and workflow bottlenecks, Kodak Professional will continue to develop appropriate solutions. Our ML 500 print system addresses labs' and photographers' demands for efficient, high-quality, distributed output as they begin to meet the requirements of new and current customers for faster and faster turnaround."

The Kodak Professional ML 500 Digital Photo Print System is an ideal alternative for labs, studios and event photographers with individual, continuous feed / batch printers that produce 500 to 4,000 prints per month. It offers low cost of ownership for a digital printing system its media (paper and ribbon) costs equate to less than $1 per 8x10-inch print, to create photo-quality output at about half the cost of other thermal printers.

These costs also are competitive with the costs for centralized production of AgX prints by traditional labs but with the advantage of immediacy, which is critical in the event business. The demand for immediacy is growing in importance for studios as well, both for proofing and final prints.

For centralized labs, thermal media still represents a premium over current costs for AgX media. But for certain products and applications, Kodak Professional Ektatherm prints from an ML 500 system could prove to be the most cost-competitive alternative when considering labor and other manufacturing-related costs. A single ML 500 system can replace multiple thermal or inkjet printers thereby reducing complexity, providing more consistent output, and requiring fewer operators.

For field use, the system can be mated with a digital camera and appropriate software for a turnkey event solution. Because of its lightweight, dry thermal technology and high output, the ML 500 system allows on-site event photographers to deliver high-quality output immediately. This means they can reduce complexity in terms of workflows and order administration and sell more prints. Customers can see what they are buying and don't have to wait long for additional prints. Because of low operating costs, users will increase their profitability on each print sold.

"We're giving photographers and labs the ability to take high-quality, on-demand photo printing on-site to provide speed where you need it," said Michael Grabel, Worldwide Business Manager, Thermal Output Systems, Kodak Professional. "The ML 500 system prints at speeds that generate images equal in quality to other thermal printing devices, but at half the cost."

The simplicity and versatility of the Kodak Professional ML 500 Digital Photo Print System allows users to take it where it's needed. Whether in the lab to produce service items, in a studio for proofing or immediate fulfillment, or for on-demand processing at theme parks, shopping malls, high school proms and sporting events, the ML 500 system offers high-speed, professional quality output with a modest capital investment and a competitive cost per print.

The system is rack-mountable, and because it is a dry system, it can also be mounted on a cart and easily moved within the studio to where it's needed for convenient proofing, additional processing capacity or the production of lower-volume specialty prints that are not optimized within existing workflows. The ML 500 system plugs into any standard wall outlet and runs on 110-volt A/C power. It requires no other connections, plumbing or HVAC support.

The ML 500 system can operate non-stop and unattended for more than two hours. It accommodates 8.5-inch wide paper rolls and 500-foot long ribbons, and prints all standard photo sizes up to 8x10 inches. Longer prints or banners can be printed and are only limited by the 8.5-inch roll width.

Easy to use, the ML 500 system's front-mounted control panel affords convenient access to operating and diagnostic functions. Image Print Server software queues and manages print jobs, while printer drivers allow printing from any standard application.

Because of its speed, the system requires a dedicated host computer and utilizes an IEEE 1394 Firewire connection to the printer to ensure high-speed communications with greater reliability than other standard industry interfaces. In addition, it is fully compatible with Kodak Professional Digital Print Production Software (DP2 v4.0) as part of Kodak Professional's lab digitization architecture.

The Kodak Professional ML 500 Digital Photo Print System is slated for availability in Q2 of 2002 and has a suggested U.S. list price of $19,995. A fully integrated solution with a dedicated computer and software is available through a network of Kodak value-added resellers and dealers who offer integration, service and support.

Eastman Kodak Company and infoimaging

Kodak is the leader in helping people take, share, enhance, preserve, print and enjoy pictures -- for memories, for information, for entertainment. The company is a major participant in "infoimaging" -- a $225 billion industry composed of devices (digital cameras and PDAs), infrastructure (online networks and delivery systems for images) and services & media (software, film and paper enabling people to access, analyze and print images). Kodak harnesses its technology, market reach and a host of industry partnerships to provide innovative products and services for customers who need the information-rich content that images contain.

The company, with sales last year of $13.2 billion, is organized into four major businesses: Photography, providing consumers, professionals and cinematographers with digital and traditional products and services; Commercial Imaging, offering image capture, output and storage products and services to businesses and government; Components, delivering flat-panel displays, optics and sensors to original equipment manufacturers; and Health, supplying the healthcare industry with traditional and digital image capture and output products and services.

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