Inkjet printers can produce a nice enough colour photo at an affordable price for the home user, but the images are far from stable as you’d know if you’ve ever gotten one wet. Darren Barefoot has tracked down a printer using superior dye sublimation printing process at a fairly reasonable price:
Most home colour printers use inkjet technology. Essentially, this sometimes messy screening process involves shooting tiny dots of ink at a piece of paper. There’s a superior approach to colour printing called dye sublimation. Basically, it involves using a heating element to heat dye impregnated in a ribbon to over 350 degrees, at which point it turns into a gas and migrates into the surface of the specially coated photo paper. Temperature controls how much dye transfers at any point on the paper. One critical aspect of this approach is that the dots on the page can be of variable sizes.
Until now, the cost of dye sub has been restricted to professional printers and photo developers. I read today, via Engadget, about the HiTi 730PS. It’s a dye sub printer for the home, capable of printing images up to 6 x 8 inches. The prints cost about 40 cents each, and the printer starts at US$368. I haven’t actually seen these printers in action, but apparently they offer a vastly superior print quality for a decent price. The printer also includes an LCD display, so that you don’t have to download your images to your computer before printing.