Anyone who has experienced the college campus printing saga knows how time consuming and often frustrating it can be. From struggling to justify extra expenses to having to create different accounts, or dealing with paper jams and having to transfer files from emails to flash drives and back, the process can be even more stressful than the research paper that needs printing in the first place. While most dorm room occupants have their own printers, paper and ink are still expensive on a college budget, and sometimes they end up having to resort to computer labs as the last option.
Enter Ink, a startup hailing from Nebraska that is focused on revamping and revolutionizing the way that campuses and students go through the printing process. The intention of Ink is to incorporate cloud-based servers with printers to make the daily lives of college students go much more smoothly.
Ink has already raised a total of $15 million in funding after doing a case study in which Ink printer stations were integrated onto a college campus in Nebraska in 2015. The result was 87% less power used, 81% carbon footprint reduction, and 94% less supplies used than the regular Xerox printers the campus originally had. The Ink printing stations also reduced printing time for 10 minutes to about 30 seconds, with a times 3 increase in usage. Paper jams and software errors were also decreased by a 6 times rate, resulting in more effective and reliable printing for students. This caught the eye of investors from SQN Venture Partners, Invest Nebraska, VTF Capital, and NE Angeles, as well as Tony Hsieh from Zappos and Greg Silverman from Warner Brothers, who backed Ink initially.
The libraries on most college campuses have computer labs that come equipped with law-office scale printers that are designed to be able to work with different computer brands. The printers are then connected to an Ethernet terminal or have wireless capabilities that connect to its corresponding computers. Students then login to said computers, plug in flash drives or dig up email attachments, and then send the file to the printers. While waiting in line for their own work to print, the student must have their school ID to swipe at the printers and pay for whatever it is that was printed. Most times the connection gets disrupted, or everyone prints at once and the printers get backed up. Ink eliminates almost every single one of these frustrating steps and outcomes.
Ink has two different products designed for printing documents. The first one is SmartStation, which is essentially a large touch screen. Since Ink partnered up with HP on the SmartStation, those printers only work with that brand. However, the isolation to a single brand reduces software and internet connection errors.
The other product Ink came up with is inkTouch. This innovation works with existing printers through inkiOS that provides the cloud based services like that of the SmartStation but able to work with a wider variety of printers,
And then the easy printing process happens. Essentially, the student’s campus ID will still be the most valuable and main component of being able to print. They simply swipe the ID to authenticate and can then access Google Drive, Dropbox, or any other sort of cloud storage service the student uses. The storage files then show up on the Ink product touch screens where the student can select the files needing to be printed. The need to plug in flash drives or dig around for email attachments is then eliminated and the chance of not having saved or sent the work is reduced.
To add to all this, the Ink devices then create an individualized keychain for each student that will house itself in the student’s ID. This way, the need to login is no longer needed, and the printing process is again sped up.
Students can also scan pages with the touch screen and store them in their cloud files or email them directly to recipients. There is also the option of scanning and signing things or editing and printing photos. Ink products will also reduce the price of printing by giving campuses machines for free and charging students or leasing machines and having the campus decide the prices. With these Ink products, the printing possibilities are endless.
Ink plans on having their machines be deployed to 30 different campuses by the end of the year. Stay up to date and see if your campus makes the list!