The Future of Home Printing

Despite all the incredible advances in home technology in recent years, nobody has quite cracked the laborious task of printing, particularly photos or other colour documents.

There was a time when everyone had a home printer sat in the corner of their office, back when computing was first in full force but portable media wan’t around. Everything from travel directions to endless forms had to printed off. Soon as the digital camera took off we tried printing our photos at home too, often at great expense.

In recent years though, as document printing became more redundant, photo printing also took a back seat as everyone was desperate to shift over to digital media (remember those awful digital photo frames?). Slowly, though, the tide has turned and people are realising the beauty of physical prints again. Heck, even Polaroid is making a comeback.

But printing at home isn’t fun. The short lifespan and cost of inks is still as massively prohibitive as it ever was, and the quality and user-experience of the equipment just isn’t good enough for most people to bother with. No-one wants to be dealing with blocked nozzles and empty inks when they are in a rush.

Unfortunately the home printing market has been completely crippled by the actions of the major printer manufacturers over the last decade. The decision to sell printers at rock bottom prices and then charge extortionate prices for paper and inks has lead to consumers often buying machines which then sat unused after the initial few weeks of purchase.

At the situation’s worst point, it was unbelievably cheaper to buy a new desktop printer, complete with ‘free ink cartridge’ than buy new ink for your existing machine. Of course, the manufactures then squeezed the market even further with the advent of ‘start-up’ cartridges, only containing a small amount of ink. The result? A complete step-backwards for the whole industry.

Three years ago product design and development company Artefact released a concept video for a ‘See What You Print’ home printer, that looked totally brilliant. It’s a shame that still we are nowhere near this in the consumer market.

Unbelievably, the choice for the consumer has changed little in the last decade. If you need photos printed, your best option is still an online company or popping to your local store with a Kodak booth. The user experience still isn’t great either way, and the end product far from satisfactory.

In a world where 3D printing is making technological leaps and bounds, it’s a shame that an industry that has been around for so long is so stuck in the dark ages. And in the end it’s the home consumer that unfortunately suffers.