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Old Aug 11, 2004, 11:23 AM   #1
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(From the Photo Marketing Assoc Newslineweb site)

Preserving the memories
Products, proper storage keep consumer color inkjet prints lasting decades

There was a time when making prints of your favorite photos at home required mixing chemicals, printing, processing paper, and more. It was a virtually impossible chore, except for the devoted hobbyist. Today, many households have an inkjet color printer sitting right next to the computer. The ability to create color prints at home is very easy to do ... and many photo enthusiasts are doing just that. When consumers first began making color prints on their home inkjet printers, though, some were shocked to find, within a few months, their photos had faded dramatically

Today, it's a different story. Some color inkjet prints made at home with the latest
paper and inks - and stored in the proper conditions - can last far more than 100 years and are comparable to silver-halide print longevity. So, whereas consumers
were once better off getting their digital prints on traditional photo paper if they were concerned about permanence, today they have many options.Says Joe Paglia, senior manager, Public Relations, Americas Region, Digital & Film Imaging Systems for Kodak: "Today, it is all about consumer choice. Consumers who choose retail or home printing will find print life can be similar. Home printing, in particular, has reached new heights in recent years." Agreeing, Product Manager John Lamb, Canon U.S.A. Inc., New Hyde Park, N.Y., says, "There is so much research being done now in this area that I'm sure inkjet will eventually blow traditional photography away."


According to "A Consumer Guide to Traditional and Digital Print Stability," a guide created by the Image Permanence Institute (IPI), Rochester, N.Y., with support from Creative Memories (available at http://www.rit.edu/~661www1/sub_pages/consumerguide.pdf), the natural process of deterioration starts as soon as a color image is printed. (The IPI is a university-based, independent, non-profit research lab founded 20 years ago through the combined efforts of the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, N.Y., and the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, Springfield, Va.) While this deterioration cannot be prevented completely, consumers can enhance the life of printed images in various ways. Manufacturer's recommendations for handling, displaying, and storing these materials should be followed.

Why does inkjet print longevity matter to consumers? First, it is important to have cherished prints available for sharing or personal viewing in a state that resembles reality. Nobody wants to see a newborn baby's picture five years later with mottled skin or blue hair, for instance, or a white wedding gown turned yellow. Second,
consumers are becoming aware that digital storage certainly doesn't guarantee lasting images. The IPI/Creative Memories guide points out, while being able to save images as files on a computer and to print copies on demand has great appeal, the longevity of these stored files is not guaranteed. Technology changes rapidly, and
equipment fails. Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), Palo Alto, Calif., also cautions consumers, "Though digital information isn't subject to fading, you could lose your images if the disk were damaged."

Fade factors

Color prints made on inkjet paper are relatively new and require a new set of standards. Dr. Peter Z. Adelstein, senior research associate with IPI, has spent his entire career focusing on the longevity of various image media. He is also actively engaged within the ANSI/ISO standard activity towards defining long-term stability of various types of computer output color hard copy. He explains: "Print stability for these new papers is very complicated, because decay can be caused by several factors such as age, exposure to light, liquid water, temperature, elevated humidity, and atmospheric pollution. Currently, we are focusing on writing a standardized ISO test methods to evaluate the effect of the various external factors."

According to Ronda E. Factor, Ph.D., Kodak, who wrote on this topic for Photo Marketing last year, light and heat affect all color photo prints. When looking at inkjet prints, however, humidity and indoor air quality play a significant role. Air pollutants, particularly ozone, can cause dyes in many inkjet systems to deteriorate and fade/change in color. Humidity may cause the dyes to shift, resulting in a loss of picture sharpness and changing colors, according to Factor.

Mechanical abrasion caused by scrubbing or scuffing is another type of color print deterioration, the IPI guide points out. Inkjet images are more susceptible to this type of damage than traditional photo color prints because the image dyes are generally closer to the surface. And even the oils from your fingers, which usually can be wiped off a traditional color photo print, could permanently damage an inkjet print.

All these factors affect inkjet prints, and the IPI points out consumers should be cautious when looking at the predicted life expectancy of imaging materials they buy. "No single life expectancy description could include all these variables. Most published life-expectancy predictions are based only on the results of light-exposure testing, which accounts for only one of the possible causes of print deterioration. Moreover, these light tests are usually performed at a single humidity level, light intensity, and type of illumination; and the test conditions are likely to differ significantly from the actual conditions experienced by prints in real-world situations."

Lamb says, while many companies have invested much research into lightfastness, "gas fastness" or "open air fastness" is the newest area manufacturers are studying. "I think you're going to see a lot of progress in this area," he says.

Made to last

Manufacturers continue to offer inkjet papers and inks promising longer and longer display permanence. To back up their own testing, companies such as HP, Epson and Canon have looked to Iowa-based Wilhelm Imaging Research Inc. to support its claims of decades of fade resistance. Wilhelm has been conducting research on the stability and preservation of traditional and digital color photographs and motion pictures for more than 30 years. The company was not available for comment by press time.

HP says its Premium Plus Photo Paper can create photos that resist fading up to 73 years, in typical home display conditions, when used with the HP printer and inks. The combination of HP photo inks and the special coating on HP Premium Plus Photo Paper resists the effects of indoor halogen and filtered sunlight, as well as common fluorescent and incandescent light, HP says.

Epson created its PictureMate cartridge and paper to help consumers preserve memories for what it says is up to 200 years in archival sleeves in a photo album,
and 100 years when displayed in a glass frame in indoor display conditions. PictureMate works with Epson pigment inks. The ink and paper are engineered to
work in conjunction with each other to achieve maximum image quality and print
longevity. For consumers to get this kind of longevity (and quality) with their prints, theyshould use companies' inks and papers together, regardless of whether the ink is dye- or pigment-based. The simple reason: It's all in the chemistry. Each company
has its own proprietary ink and paper formulations, and these are designed to
complement each other. Lamb cited an article published by PC World in November 2002, which listed results of Wilhelm tests of printers on third-party paper. While the display permanence of photos made on the S9000 Bubble Jet Photo Printer with Canon BCI-6 inks on Photo Paper Pro is 38 years, for example, it was a mere three years on another inkjet paper. Lamb says that comes down to technology; the Photo Paper Pro used to have four layers, now it has seven. Two layers address the issue of permanence in the open air.

Printheads eject a predetermined amount of ink onto the paper. This flow is greatly influenced by ink formulation, and any incorrect quantities dispersed can result in unsatisfactory prints. HP explains: Putting too much ink into the paper fibers will create microscopically bloated fibers and jagged images that are too saturated, and not enough ink means a light image. HP papers are manufactured to optimize how inks respond and are absorbed by the paper. The HP coating technology prevents paper jams, curling, and printed pages from sticking together. Additionally, chemicals in HP ink combine with the advanced coating to form a protective barrier against light. Non-HP papers aren't made for the type and amount of ink that are standard in HP products. Lab testing revealed some non-HP papers actually repelled ink, according to HP.

Others companies in the traditional photo space, like Kodak and Fuji, offer inkjet paper that works with a variety of printers and inks. Kodak, for instance, recently introduced its Ultima Inkjet Picture Paper with ColorLast technology. The paper, which has a nine-layer composition, is designed to work with all desktop inkjet printers. The majority of prints made on this paper, using photo-quality home inkjets printers and quality inks, Kodak says, will achieve 100 years of print life without protection behind glass.

Fuji Photo Film U.S.A. Inc., Valhalla, N.Y., now offers a consumer inkjet paper, Premium Plus Inkjet Photo Paper. The company has conducted its own tests on the paper, and is now working with Wilhelm. Details will be released once Wilhelm has completed its testing.
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