Fujifilm USA has been running regular webinars for its photo specialist customers over the past 12 months or so under the title ‘Fujifilm Business Builders’. Photo Counter sat in on a recent presentation entitled ‘5 Things You Should Know About Converting to a Dry Lab’.
The presentation, by Bing Liem, VP for Sales & Marketing, Fujifilm USA, kicked off with a summary of the benefits of an inkjet lab over silver halide.
The presentation was based around the Fujifilm DL650, which is the Epson Surelab D3000 rebadged by Fujifilm and installed with Fujifilm software.
Dry lab advantages were:
– Smaller space needed to operate a dry lab – freed space can be allocated to other revenue-generating products and services;
– Faster (and easier) start up and shut down – less daily labour cost, less pressure to get in early and leave late;
– Much lower energy cost – Fujifilm USA claimed that the energy costs for a wet lab can be as high as seven times that of an inkjet lab. With Australian power costs reportedly now among the highest in the world and rising,(and the US without the added cost of a carbon tax) this should be a factor for local retailers to consider as well;
– Simpler operation – Paper roll and ink cartridge changing as opposed to chemical handling and mixing reduces the requirement for extensive training/OSHA and operator skill. Replacement of ink cartridges, back printer ribbons and waste paper disposal are simple ‘Plug and Play’ processes;
– Lower maintenance costs – dollar savings are significant and this is even more obvious with ageing silver halide labs;
– Broader colour gamut.
Another benefit was thicker prints. The Epson piezoelectric inkjet technology used in the latest Fujifilm DL650 – and the Epson Surelab – enables use of thicker paper for premium products such as greeting cards – thicker than Fujifilm Crystal Archive stock.
However, choice of paper stock is restricted for inkjet, according to Fujifilm, with just four papers ‘approved’ (ie, use will not void your warranty). With a much broader paper stock selection, silver halide printing has a distinct advantage, especially with metallic-look prints currently very popular. (Another new dry minilab, the Noritsu QSS Green, has an adjustable platen and can accept thicker stocks.)
The presentation then explored break-even-and-better scenarios for an inkjet lab. The ‘sweet spot’, according to Fujifilm USA, is 800 4×6-inch prints per day and very small numbers of other products such as larger prints and enlargements. At this rate of throughput and with Fujifilm’s assumptions on retail prices, a US$30K dry lab will be paid off in two years.
It’s here that the relevance to the local market falls away, as most of the assumptions don’t hold in Australia. For example, labour at US$10/hour, and electricity at 7 cents a kilowatt are way off the mark, and ‘miscellaneous overheads’ such as internet and marketing of just $60 per month seem light on. Moreover, the case study is based on a store being open for the 360 days per year.
For print volume markedly lower than 800/day, Mr Liem said that the best option would probably be a dye-sub instant printer solution rather than a dry lab, while for high volume environments, ‘even though there are advantages as mentioned above, due to cost differentials in inkjet consumables versus silver paper and chemistry, you wouldn’t be able to make up that difference. You’d be better off staying wet.’
However, he noted that there were likely to be changes in the relative costs of silver paper and inkjet in the future. Paper and ink had fallen in price by 10 percent in the last three years while silver halide paper and chemistry had soared by about 30 percent, largely due to economies of scale in manufacturing.
For dry paper and ink the fixed costs will improve and as demand for silver technology drops off, the costs are likely to increase.
Fujifilm USA’s current estimates were that inkjet paper and ink costs were over 50 cents per square foot while silver halide was 35 cents per square foot – 30 cents for the paper, 5 cents for the chemistry.