ZINK (Zero-Ink) – the inkless printing technology

Updated: 2021-04-27

Have you ever wanted to print a photo, but you didn’t want to spend the money on ink? Luckily, there’s a  technology called ZINK (ZeroINK) or inkless printing, which allows you to print a photo without having to spend any money on ink. Inkless printing has been around for some time now and, honestly, it’s revolutionary printing technology. 

What is inkless printing and how does it work?

As more and more people opt for digital cameras in their cell phones as a way of capturing images and saving them, one trend that has emerged is the concept of zero ink. And that is it – inkless printing doesn’t use ink at all. Instead, it uses a special paper that is infused with colorless crystals (amorphochromic crystals). These color layers of crystals are the same kind of dye crystals that are used in inkjet photo printers today, which means that when you print a photo on this paper, you get an image that looks just like a photo printed with ink. The crystals begin to melt at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit, so the paper must be warm when it passes through the printer and the chemical reaction turns the colorless crystals into puddles of richly colored dye resulting in a full-color print.

Messy photo developing processes are a thing of the past with this disruptive technology.  The user can take a photo with their smartphone or point and shoot a camera. The user then selects the photo and prints it. This is done right from the home screen of the smartphone that connects to the photo printer via Wi-Fi network or Bluetooth. All you have to do is download the ZINK app, and you can print pictures immediately.

The ZINK paper dries instantly and is smudge-proof, so it’s perfect for sharing and sticking on your fridge. ZINK is ideal for printing live photos, instant party photos, memorable group photos, and selfies. 

ZINK Digital Imaging technology demo

What are some advantages of inkless printing?

First, you don’t have to waste time setting up ink cartridges and printheads, as you do with inkjet printers. The zero-ink process requires no ink, which means there is no ink cartridge to replace or refill. 

While most of the pictures we capture these days are digital, we still print them out. The advantage of printing out photos as opposed to simply viewing them on a computer or even on a digital photography frame is that we can put them in our wallet, have them sit on our coffee table, or keep them in the photographic album. However, traditional photography printers are costly and use toner cartridges, which are expensive to purchase and run out quickly.

ZINK prints are dry and smudge-proof, so you don’t have to waste time fixing them, which is especially useful if you have young children. It’s completely safe to carry around in your pocket or purse and stays vibrant until you are ready to display it. 

What kind of paper is the ZINK paper?

ZINK paper was invented by Zink Imaging Inc. (now Zink Holdings LLC). The company (with their strategic partners) owns 100+ patents in this field. Their paper is a thermal paper with multiple layers, specifically designed for use in compatible Zero-Ink printers. It provides a number of benefits, including the ability to print photos without an ink cartridge or ribbons, making it truly zero ink. Beyond that, though, there are a number of other unique benefits that set ZINK paper apart from other forms of photo paper.

For example, ZINK thermal paper (comes in various paper sizes) is designed to be resistant to water and heat, using physical properties instead of chemicals to prevent water and heat damage.

Combined with its heat-resistant coating, this makes ZINK paper ideal for printing on-the-go, as you can leave it out in the sun or near a campfire to dry without fear of damage.

But, like all new technologies, there is a downside to using a new product, and ZINK white paper is no exception. This technology isn’t quite as durable as printing with ink, and you’ll find that photography printed with ZINK paper will fade over time. This process, known as water fading, makes the image become less vibrant and colorful as it ages.

Can ZINK zero ink paper be erased and reused?

ZINK paper is one-time-use only and cannot be erased, so it is not meant for printing photos you will save or share.

Is ZINK paper waterproof?

ZINK paper is durable enough to be printed with a home printer. It’s waterproof, tear-proof, and smudge-proof, so you can display your photos without needing to protect them from UV damage.

The piece of paper itself is surprisingly thin, and you may not even notice that you’re looking at a photograph. The ZINK printer is small enough to fit in your pocket.

Is inkless printing slow or fast?

As more people use inkless compact photo printers to print their photos, some people who have never used one are growing concerned with how long it takes to print them. This is a valid concern, but you can easily print a 4×6 photo in as little as 30 seconds, or a wallet photo in about a minute. 

Is inkless printing expensive? What is the printing cost of ZINK? 

In the last few years, the introduction of high-quality wide-format inkjet printers has revolutionized inkless printing, and now the cost of such printing is becoming increasingly affordable. Traditional portable photo printers have been the go-to technology for printing photos at home for years, but the cost of ink for these devices can be prohibitive. 

The portable printers are small, standalone machines that you can buy directly or get as a bundle with your camera or phone. The cheapest inkless mini mobile photo printers cost around $50. 

The ZINK paper is not cheap but still quite affordable.  A pack of 10 prints will cost you $6.99, a pack of 25 will run you $14.99, and a pack of 50 will cost you $24.99.

Is the new Polaroid PoGo a ZINK photo printer?

Polaroid PoGo is a fancy compact photo printer from the legendary camera brand. It combines Polaroid instant printing with the ZINK no-ink technology. No matter what your style – classic, nostalgic, artsy, or playful – the Polaroid ZINK photo paper lets you make unforgettable memories with the classic Polaroid look, wherever you are.

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