Why Inkjet Images May Vanish Over Time?

Printing digital photos at home has become a common thing. We capture moments of our life with a camera, print them in vivid color with an inkjet printer and share them with our friends. To say “Look how much fun we had at the party” is all most pictures are for. “Look what precise, bright and shiny colors my printer can print” is what you may say if you’re a bit on geek side.

Most of us are not really concerned about how long the photo will last. But some people are.

The thing is, inkjet prints dominate photography now, and there’s no a standard for testing the permanence of inkjet prints and interpreting the results. Variety of inkjets on the market makes it harder for experts to give advice, so customers face a hard task purchasing an inkjet printer that would definitely produce durable photos.

Current situation with color inkjet prints implicate many factors. Initially, inkjet were designed to print graph-and-chart kind of things, something not intended to last more than one day or so. Photo inkjet paper usually is coated to prevent the ink from soaking into its fibers, so ink remains on the surface, where it’s subjected to light, scratches, etc. Finally, the dye-based inks providing vivid color, don’t add to permanence of prints.

Printer makers approached Henry Wilhelm to develop a system of accelerated testing to estimate how the prints would get along over years. So he run many for lots of printers, assuming that photos framed under glass are more exposure protected compared to those that are not. The results of the tests vary from model to model, of course

“Framed under glass, Wilhelm estimates that prints made on a Hewlett-Packard Photosmart 475, a dye printer that produces snapshot-size photos, will last 82 years. Unframed and exposed to fluorescent light, that drops to 42 years. With other models, the gap can be more drastic.”

Wilhelm himself believes that using years for measure units doesn’t provide clear information for customers. Instead, he offers evaluations in human language:

“At the bottom, he said, would be “terrible,” followed by “pretty good, it will be around in a few years but we’re not really sure if it’s going be there for your grandchildren.” And, finally, “excellent” for products that, presumably, in exchange for durability will be more expensive or troublesome to use.”

Read the full article by Ian Austen

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