My color inkjet printer does about four or five photo quality sheets a minute. Not too shabby, although it occasionally tries my patience.
Imagine a machine that could print over 2,000 photo quality sheets a minute using inkjet technology. The velocity of the microscopic ink droplets and the complexity of the drive mechanisms is mind boggling to engineers like myself who are still fascinated by the basic Xerox copier. Still not impressed? How about if each page could be customized on the fly… at that same velocity.
That’s exactly what Kodak has bet the farm on… a continuous high-speed inkjet process it has appropriately code-named "Stream". As Bill would point out, this is technology, not manufacturing… Kodak has already taken a left turn to follow the outsourcing lemmings and is no longer a real manufacturer. And although Kodak has acquired all kinds of supporting companies, I doubt that building an in-house manufacturing competency is part of this equation. But the technology itself has the potential to revolutionize high-speed printing… and the "quality" of your junk mail.
Traditional printers of direct mail are already getting excited. Imagine a Lands End catalog that is personalized just for you… your sizes and color preferences for example. Most of us would still probably use it to wrap fish, but if it increased the response rate from infinitesimal to slightly better than infinitesimal, then I guess it would be worth it. BusinessWeek claims this could be as "important an evolution in printing as movable type allowing for mass customization on unprecedented scales." That is probably embellishing it just a bit, but it is pretty impressive.
It reminds me of Minority Report, that Tom Cruise movie where retina scanners would determine your identity and immediately display personalized ads as you walked through public areas. One piece flow production of individually customized junk mail. Just what we need.
But someday I still want to see the heads on an inkjet printer that can create photos at twenty four miles an hour.