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DRY LAB - an idea whose time has come?


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Is there any dry lab that prints 10x13cm pictures without white borders..?

"Full image" in 15cm width paper is not very nice looking and it is very time taking to crop every image or cut the white borders.

Maybe my next machine will be dry lab, just have to see where they are going..!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have looked at them closely and think the print quality is sub par and prints per hour are extremely poor. I also do not trust the logevity of the prints, I have dye sub prints I produced in 1992 through 2000 that have turned red with no real color left. Keep in mind Kodak claimed these would last 100 years.

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I have dye sub prints that have colour shifted in only months.

Epson pigment ink I trust, I have had several posters and banners in full sun (?when? where? :)) with no sign of fade or shift.

Inkjet technology is obviously driven, but whether it can be applied successfully to a lab situation remains to be seen.

I have several customers from the graphic design side who suggest that litho printing is the way to go.

Personaly I see no problem with Silver Halide. If something works, why change it, unless you can improve on it. I feel it is just pandering to the 'must have the latest' mindset that has been nurtured by the manufacturing industries.

  At one time it was said 'If you do not provide carrier bags at the checkout, no-one will take you seriously as a retailer'.

  This is like 'unless you have kiosks, you are not serious about this business' (to paraphrase another thread).

Now look what is happening about carrier bags.

People point to wet labs and cry 'what about the effluent!!' I urge those people to look to the production of the inks they want us to use, and the environmental cost of constant upgrade of machinery just because someone has come up with a 'better' ink delivery system.

Our industry has just come through (some are still on the way) a period of great change, digital printing, have we all got to start again, just on the wish of the manufacturers?

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  • 10 months later...

We have just updated our Lab printer. After looking at several options and visiting other labs and suppliers in New Zealand and Australia (Business trip!), we decided to stay with Silver Halide printing (purchased a Noritsu 3502).

These are some of my observations/thoughts.

I doubt ink jet prints will last, even though the new inks and acid free/synthetic papers are much better than a year ago, I decided it's not worth the risk for our core business (6x4-8x12). Large format and canvas printing are a separate issue.

The printers in the thermal dry labs suffer the same problems as the kiosk printers. My biggest concern is delamination, I've seen prints less than 2 years old with this problem, I'm waiting to see what problems the scouring of the laminate surface to produce the NEW matt look will reveal. With systems like the Apex, I couldn't see any advantage (to us) over purchasing several Kodak G4 kiosks (that customers could use). Another concern is, from experience, our thermal printers require a lot more care and maintenance than the wet lab.

Having said that I plan to revisit the situation in 3 years, the dry labs are a more environmentally friendly option and the per print cost may become more of a factor as chemical and paper prices increase. Other factors are size and running costs, the dry labs are tiny compared with the wet labs and you don't have to worry about chemical storage, silver recovery or waste disposal. With no chemical to heat or cycle the dry labs cost a lot less to run as well.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not sure how kiosks got dragged into this other than the instant type systems with a dye sub (usually) printer connected.

The kiosk is a reorder station that your customers decide what images to print, how many and do from basic, to more complicated changes to their images.

In the old days with negs these orders were the ones you always put to the back of the box even though you charged a premium for the prints. You spent ages trying to decide if they wanted neg 2 or 2B and you always got the wrong print count at the end of the order. Remember charging 50p a print????

The kiosk makes these orders a doddle, open the file hit print and go and serve a customer.

Wet or dry? we all understand the wet side and its drawbacks, from initial outlay through to effluent, at the end of the day thats the target, for quality and cost that all the young pretenders have to at least get close to, if not match

Print life variable we have all printed images even on conventional paper that have gone bright red, remember photo's on plates and the early canvas bonded prints (Before ink jet) Thank god our customer don't bring them back after 5 or 10 years.

Dye sub, getting better but most majors users (bar Kodak)have moved away because of media costs,

Ink jet My point on these are that ink jet covers a number of different technologies, inks and papers.

Obviously the manufacturer wants you to use the ink & paper that gives the best results on the machine, we all know you can refill cartridges but it no use then complaining that the quality of X brand is no good.

When we all went digital, it wasn't something we all wanted to do the cameras hit the market in the same way as formats like APS did, you have the decision do I cater for that work or stay as I am. The same with digital, if you can not print digital files you will sooner or later have to turn the lights out.

Going Dry depends on your throughput, maximum print size space available and cost of equipment and media.

I was talking to someone the other day who complained that company's like Noritsu and Fuji are confusing the market by still producing Wet and Dry, your a brave man to place a bet for one or the other as I think they will both sell side by side but gradually go dry over a period of 2 - 3 years IMO

Next time Im selling Beans, You want a big can or a small one? ;D

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I doubt ink jet prints will last

Some more food for thought  :) It was not that long back when labs were at a point of considering large format printing.. Lost of questions and lots of doubt, but one by one most have now adopted a large format printer, and are more than happy with the results. Few Mini Labs a few years back could produce anything bigger than a 12x8 or if lucky a 16x12 (In House) No need for a wide paper processor, a dark room, skilled staff, and enlarging equipment.

The dry mini lab is only a small version of large format, which everyone seems happy with....

Just some food for thought  :)

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  • 1 month later...

Interesting this has come down when all other consumables are going up. That Noritsu does make the nicest dry print from all the printers I have seen. With the Fuji and Noristsu coming from the same supplier I'd go for the Fuji. At least you get a free bottle of wine (see press release) when you invest all that money  ;)

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  • 3 weeks later...

You are right Phil, the figures are starting to add up.

I have recently been playing with an old Fuji GSW690II, it would be interesting to see what some of the new 'dry' labs could do with that.

We must bear in mind that the 'populace' is just as likely to take their images to a copyshop for printing, and neither know nor care about Photographic printing, but just want something better than their home printer can give them, which immediately lowers the expectations. This is certainly true localy, with our local copyshop doing around 5 print from prints for my one. It has made me think of offering this as a low cost alternative to silver halide. Better still, D.I.Y. as discussed at the conference (D.I.Y photocopying still commercialy viable).

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  • 7 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Oh, I bet everyone has more thoughts since April about this.

the dry labs are getting better and better and I bet they will start

dominating the market in the next few years. I am going to show

to seriously consider the new models. How about the double sided

printing? I love silver halide, but that is just not going to happen!

Any more thoughts?

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 months later...

Dry Labs are coming into their own, rapidly! Those who are operating older minilabs are incurring more expenses in keeping those labs going.  Low production in labs are giving operators fits keeping chemistry right. ( can you say $$drain and $$refill)

And the costs  on the chemiicals haven't dropped, any less than technician rates.  The "wet" side on the the dry labs seem to have a lower consumables rate that older labs, with much more stable chemistry. As for the dry side like on the Apex.... the scan and print rate is awesome, as is the quality.

For those of you who have the volume, and the technical skill, a silver paper side is still great.  A real plus i see in the dry printing are for digital folk who Don't want to go the self-service route. An experienced eye with the software on the dry printers can correct and print that customers order in no time flat. Not  1 hour... minutes! No wet printer can compare to that rate, a consumer injet won't , and will cost the consumer more in the long run for lower quality prints.

The niche is there for inlab work.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

I have been looking at both Fuji and Noritsu Dry Labs for the past month.  Currently i have a digital RC printer that is now 7 yr. old and needs replacing sooner than later.  I run a full time photo studio doing mostly little league sports and school photos. We can run very high volume (tens of thousands) of 8x10 sheets for 2-3 months then slow for a few months so chem maintenance is a concern.  As I get older, I'd love to shut down for a month during the slow season, then start up again, something that can only be done with a wet lab by 'dump and refill'.

These are my findings so far. If you have different info, please post corrections as the info I'm posting is what I have been told.  

Noritsu offers 2 quality choices, regular plus a premium. Fuji offers only the regular. As a photographer, I found the regular quality to be inferior. Premium was no different in quality from C Prints IMHO.  Premium runs at half the rated speed of regular so as with any inkjet, to get quality, you sacrifice speed.  Some printers run duplex, but everything I have found is manual duplex. You've got to take the paper after side one is done and run it through again by placing it back into the feed hopper.  

The paper also comes in 2 weights. The premium is very slightly thinner than a standard C print but unless you're a photo finisher, you wouldn't feel the difference. Finished prints are waterproof after a short time to allow the ink to fully saturate the paper. That shocked me since these are dye based inks, not pigments.  I tested the prints and it's true but I have not left them in a sink to sit.

The surface is different. I'm interested in lustre, not glossy. The lustre has the tell-tale signs of inkjet finish when you hold and reflect light off it's surface. It also will burnish if you run a fingernail on it. Burnish but not scratch through the ink.  Prints have a bit more curl to them but flatten perfectly when packaged in an envelope.

Noritsu offers a number of choices on their software for saturation and sharpness. The first samples I was shown were way off what I liked and indeed, by making some software changes succeeding prints were very pleasing.  I should note that Fuji has similar but different software and while Fuji's hardware is made by Noritsu, Fuji claims their software is superior.  I personally would not run the either software as I would only run my own production software and dump images into a hot folder.  I only print our own images, nothing from the public.

Speed when running Premium is slow. On the model I want to test run, it's listed as 125 8x10 on 10" roll paper per hour.  I currently run 200 8x10/hour.  The obvious answer is 2 units - now you're 250/hour.  The units run on 120 v. here in N. America and take a small fraction of the space I currently use.  You can fit a unit under a desk - that's small!!! It's also quiet and produces no real heat - see comments on cost below.  I can't work immediately beside my current printer, it's too noisy with the dryer fans running.  Having it beside me would be a real plus.

COSTS: The price/8x10 breakdown that I got from both Fuji and Noritsu are saying US$ .40/8x10.  that's much less than the .50 I had heard.  Then, take into account the cost of electricity to run my current lab and extra air conditioning to cool the business due to heat coming off the unit, even though it's vented.  Now, deduct time for chem mixing, QC tests, maintenance, etc.  Deduct cost of chem discharge de-silvering. I used to make $$$ on that one but not since the demise of C41 chems.  Now factor in the rising cost of chems and photo paper. I've had some major increases this past year and it hurts.  I'm told that as Dry Lab paper increase in use, costs should come down. Even without any decrease, no one can deny that RA4 supplies are going nowhere but up as time goes on.    Finally, factor in the upkeep. Dry labs have very few moving parts. I know what it takes to maintain a digital RC lab and the cost of a breakdown can be very high.  Dry labs in the final analysis of cost are about even - the cost factor is not really a factor -  for me anyway.  If you're competing on very tight margins against Costco, your opinion will be different.  Equipment costs are another factor. Right now, I see nothing selling anywhere.  It's  a great time to buy, the sellers are very motivated to get stock out of the warehouse.

Longevity: I don't trust Epson's testing, plain and simple.  They make the ink, Fuji makes the paper for both units. Noritsu is saying that you should get longer life from Dry prints than RC.  I'll do my own tests, thank you.  To be fair, print longevity USED to be a huge issue for me when I was younger and when couples and families stayed together. Now, life is different.  Photos seem to be made for the moment and discarded way before any chance of fading. I've spent lots of time looking at Wilhelm's results and I agree with most of his work on RC prints. I use Fuji materials because the Crystal Archive lasts WAY longer than Kodak. I've proven that myself. I don't agree with his early inkjet results. I've got Epson prints that were supposed to last a century that were faded within 5 years. Hmmm.  Epson has come a very long way with their inks and I think that i would agree that Dry Lab prints will outlast normal Kodak RC prints.  I asked Fuji if they would outlast Fuji CA prints and the rep was very hesitant to answer. The best I got was 'close'.

I've got a unit supposedly coming in for a test run in a month or so. I will be looking at it very carefully.  There's a few other people who will be looking at my review.  If you have any other info or I'm wrong on something, please let me know.  I will be running enough prints to test the 'real' cost per unit and I'll post results.  Since much of my work is darker, rather than lighter, I expect my costs to be higher. With C prints, it makes no difference and I do not want my cost per print to influence how I photograph.

Doug  info@northlight.ca

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  • 3 weeks later...

One year ago, the laser on my 3011 failed. Replacement costs were anywhere from $18,000 used to $60,000 new on a part that could fail again at any time.

I had enough and bought a Noritsu D701 dry lab.

For those considering a change here is a quick pro and cons list of my last year with the D701.

FYI - I have a full service photo printing retail store in a mall with 4 kiosks.


     •     Staff can easily use it and maintain it

     •     Small footprint

     •     Reduced electricity costs

     •     Customers really do like these higher chroma prints much better than from 3011

     •     Same software but with enhanced feature set (long overdue) from 3011

     •     Newer CPU can load extremely large files much quicker

     •     Customers (and I) like the semi-goss (lustre) paper.

     •     Printer terminal can be on store front desk, printer in back. Very Very Handy.

     •     Quick start up and close down. Not much needs to be done.

     •     An obvious one. No more chemistry!

     •     Low warranty cost


     •     Paper changing OK but not as quick as a magazine switch on 3011

     •     Ink smudging issues is creating more and more loss lately, and unsightly ink smudges on back of prints. Need increasingly regular cleaning of print plate and rollers.

     •     Cost of print hasn't come down in the last year, very little profit in 4x6 printing as a result.

     •     Software can be buggy. ie. if you have too many previous jobs in the "processed" queue, sometimes the software will get lost and you need to remove all, clean up and restart at the worst possible time.

     •     Can sometimes be annoyingly slow between print tasks to start printing again.

     •     Software won't let you write directly  to DVD-R, only CD-R or DVD-RAM

     •     During my Christmas rush I do miss the speed of the 3011 but really not a big issue with a good print process management.

     •     When you are out of ink, you are so screwed! With the 3011 you could still run perfectly with watered down chemicals. My cyan was listed at 25%, 360 prints later it was empty, on a Thursday evening, thus I had to order more ink on the Friday "rushed" for Monday delivery - no printer for 3 1/2 days. Don't believe the ink levels when less than 25% or always have a spare set of inks (an obvious thing but not easy when you only charge 25¢ a print).

     •     Noritsu currently seems to be having some internal problems, service/ordering use to be great but has recently taken an obvious hit. I expect Noritsu may become part of Fuji soon. It is a shame, but maybe the paper and ink costs will come down as a result…. One can be hopeful.

All in all, I would make the switch again.

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Thanks so much for the info.  I especially appreciate the info on ink smearing as the system gets older.

I have also had someone mention to me about the future viability of Noritsu.  The staff in Canada has been decimated, no other word for it.  If Fuji were to take them over, that would be great as I'm a current Fuji user.  It does make the viability of the Dry Lab more of a question though. From what I hear, Fuji is not selling many at all.

I'd appreciate any info you might want to share on your running costs of the Dry Lab after one year. All I have is Noritsu's and Fuji's numbers and I don't trust that too much.

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  • 1 year later...

Anyone noticed how long this thread has been going !

It seems that many of the questions have been answered over time, i know for sure how many Kodak Dry labs are now installed in the UK and believe that this is testiment to the quality and versatillity of the Apex Kodak thermal system.

Additionally it has to be said that the Fuji dry systems are also very popular, i think indicated that both solutions have a place in the market and print finish, sizes, etc are down to preferential choice.

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Honestly, some of this thread is the blind leading the blind:  "Everyone else has a dry printer.  So I must need to get one!"

Do you go with the hype and the marketing, or do you go with the cheapest print that is more archival, has better colors, and is rated at 100 years (unless you use a stabilizer instead of a water wash)?

Printing, professional "photographic" (in quotes because this now counts inkjet/dry stuff, which I personally consider offset print), is down 50% at least in the United States since 2007 according to "Picture Business" think it was the August 2011 issue.

Why switch to the same technology the amateur is using at home and further deminish the professional advantage?  Not only are you hurting your own business's image, but that of this industry as a whole.

Rapid Access #4 is not going anywhere.  The companies want you to buy new printers to make more money, not because they want you to stay in business. . .

Also, I'm not sure how switching to a higher-cost system coupled with a far lower profit margin is a good idea.  If you are having trouble even paying for the ink, sounds like a sinking ship to me!

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