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 user 2009-08-11 at 12:27:08 pm Views: 48
  • #22591

    Boom in Kodak’s All-in-One printers keeps ink flowing
    Eastman Kodak Co. expects to ship more than a million of its All-in-One printers this year, roughly doubling the number of its inkjet printers found on desktops around the globe.With those, Kodak will hope to sell millions more of its ink cartridges — each one filled with ink made in a pair of squat, beige industrial buildings inside the Rochester-based photo and imaging company’s Eastman Business Park.

    Kodak launched its All-in-One printers in 2007. Since the beginning, its sales pitch has revolved around that locally made ink, with Kodak’s pigment-based ink often being less expensive than competitors’, meaning cheaper costs per page when printing.The idea has gained some traction; through the end of 2008, the company had sold 1.5 million printers, which retail for $130 to $300.”Kodak’s inkjet businesses are the future of the corporation,” said William Napoli, director of Kodak’s imaging chemicals operation. “This is a priority for the organization.”In a presentation early this year before a number of Wall Street analysts, Kodak CEO Antonio M. Perez said the commercial and consumer inkjet businesses were an area receiving the bulk of the company’s investments.

    Each printout from an All-in-One starts in Eastman Business Park’s buildings 103 and 112, where the company formulates and mixes the ink from a tightly guarded recipe. In a room the size of a large restaurant kitchen, chemical operator Chris Coon stood last week in front of an automated mixer attached to two long rows of barrels, each holding a liquid ingredient to the toner.

    Most of the work is done by a computer measuring and pumping the right amounts for the 190-kilogram batch of black, while Coon poured a small amount of additional ingredient by hand. After 30 minutes of mixing, that ink gets filtered into another barrel to be shipped out while the ingredient pouring starts for the next batch of black, cyan, magenta or yellow.Kodak uses the same facility and process, though somewhat different ingredients, for making ink for the Prosper commercial inkjet system that it is in the midst of rolling out.The All-in-One ink is a mix of highly purified water, polymers, pigments and a variety of other ingredients that Kodak buys externally or produces internally, with the company keeping a tight lid on the specifics of the ingredients.

    Even if competitors reverse-engineer the ink to find the ingredients, said Kenneth Kraft, Kodak’s inks business and technical manager, the manufacturing process grew out of specialized small-particle technology that Kodak developed in its film and photo paper business.”The more difficult part comes in the process — ‘how’d you get there?’” Kraft said.As demand for its All-in-One ink cartridges has grown, Kodak has expanded the single-shift manufacturing of that ink to longer workdays and some weekends, Kraft said.

    Once mixed, the All-in-One ink is shipped to China, where it is put into cartridges.As volumes grow, Kodak might set up additional mixing sites closer to customer bases overseas, cutting down on what it has to ship, Kraft said. But Kodak will continue to make the proprietary ingredients at Eastman Business Park, he said.