zink printerZink Imaging is announcing today that it has launched its second-generation technology for printing without ink cartridges.

The move shows that the Bedford, Mass.-based company is making steady progress with a new technology that represents one of the biggest changes in printing since the commercialization of the inkjet printer in the 1990s.

Zink’s new engine for printing allows for bigger paper sizes than the 2 inches by 3 inches that current Zink-based printers use. The new one allows for 3 x 4 inch and 4 x 6 inch paper sizes.

Zink uses paper that is embedded with yellow, magenta and cyan dye crystals. Upon printing, the paper passes through a heated surface and the ink dyes are melted to create an image on the paper. By printing this way, Zink allows for new kinds of printers, including printers that are embedded in digital cameras or portable printers that can be used by traveling sales people or others on the go.

Last week, Pandigital announced the first printer that uses the second-generation Zink engine: the (pictured) Pandigital Portable Photo Printer, available in limited release now and to be distributed nationally in the first quarter. More models will be announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, and printers using the new paper sizes will be available widely in 2010, said Scott Wicker, chief marketing officer at Zink, in an interview.

The 3 x 4 inch format is targeted for mobile consumer and commercial applications, such as printing from a pocket-sized device. The 4 x 6 inch format is targeted for use in home-printing applications. These new printers will feature better print quality and will be smaller than previous Zink devices.

The company was founded in 2005 and has more than 100 people. Zink makes its own paper in North Carolina and licenses its printer technology to various printer manufacturers. The first devices went on sale in July, 2008. Zink-based mobile printers are available from Polaroid and Dell, while digital cameras with Zink-based printers built into them are available from Takaratomy and Polaroid.

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