Zink’s Mobile Photo Printer Hits Stores This Weekend

7/2/08Follow @wroush

Back in January we profiled Zink Imaging, a Bedford, MA, startup breathing new life into an inkless photo printing technology first developed (pardon the pun) at Polaroid before that company’s bankruptcy and dismantlement. This weekend, the first commercial printer based on Zink’s technology will reach consumers—and ironically, it bears the Polaroid brand.

The Polaroid PoGo will go on sale this Sunday, July 6, at Best Buy stories nationwide, Zink announced yesterday. The $149 device, which was first unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, is about the size of a cell phone, and it grabs photos from camera phones and digital cameras via a BlueTooth wireless connection or a USB cable.

The PoGo can create a 2-inch-by-3-inch color print in about 60 seconds by applying brief pulses of heat to Zink’s special paper as it passes under the device’s print head. Each pulse is timed to melt crystals embedded at different depths in the paper; as the crystals melt and re-solidify in an amorphous form, they turn yellow, magenta, or cyan, producing a color picture.

Zink makes the paper for the PoGo at its own plant in North Carolina, and plans to charge $3.99 for a pack of 10 sheets and $9.99 for a pack of 30. The marketing campaign around the device is targeted at teens and twenty-somethings, and the hope is they’ll tote the PoGo with them just as they do with their cell phones (the name stands for “Polaroid-on-the-go”) and make and share prints on impulse, almost the way they might use a photo booth or an old-fashioned Polaroid camera.

Polaroid PoGo mobile instant printerAnd if they do, the paper business could become quite lucrative for Zink—just as film cartridges for popular Polaroid cameras such as the SX-70 were that company’s cash cow for decades.

“We at ZINK Imaging are extremely excited with the availability of the Polaroid PoGo,” Zink president and CEO Wendy Caswell said in the company’s announcement. “Through this partnership, consumers will now be able to experience the magic of Zink Zero Ink digital printing, allowing printing where it’s never before been possible.”

Target stores will begin selling the PoGo on July 20, two weeks after its debut at Best Buy. But while the device bears the Polaroid name, Polaroid itself doesn’t manufacture much of anything these days. In 2005, Minnetonka, MN-based Petters Group Worldwide bought what was left of the company after bankruptcy proceedings. It puts the Polaroid name and logo—which is still associated with instant imaging in many consumers’ minds—on consumer electronics devices assembled by contract manufacturers such as Alps Electric Co. of Japan, which makes the PoGo.

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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