New Cosmetic Device Uses Inkjet-Printing Technology

Back in the 1980s, digital inkjet printing technology was first applied to home and small-office printers. Since then, digital inkjet printing has been expanded for applications in photo printing, production printing, textile printing, graphic-arts printing, and most notably, 3D additive printing.

Now, a new cosmetics device developed by Procter & Gamble (P&G), called the Opté Beauty Wand, is using inkjet-printing technology.

The Opté is a handheld “makeup printer for your face.” Here’s how it works: tiny cameras take photos at 200 frames per second. Opté  then scans them for blemishes such as age spots and hyper­pigmentation, then covers them with makeup as the user runs the device over their face, shooting out pigment (three shades are available) with inkjet-based technology. The idea is that Opté only covers skin imperfections, leaving other skin areas untreated for a more natural look.

According to Bloomberg, P&G developed the Opté, which is covered by 25 patents, with Japan-based Funai Electric Company. Funai purchased Lexmark International’s inkjet-printer patents and technology back in 2013 for $100 million. The challenge for both P&G and Funai was to miniaturize the inkjet-printing technology and to make it work not with ink, but with ingredients used in makeup and skincare, such as titanium dioxide.

The Opté will go on sale next year for $599.

Inkjet-Printer Air Freshener?

The Opté isn’t the only device that uses Funai technology. According to I4UNews, in January 2019, P&G introduced an air freshener that instead of ejecting ink droplets ejects liquid scent droplets, the P&G Airia. The Airia uses Funai’s “scent-jet” technology to fire up to 100,000 scent droplets per second. What sets it apart from conventional air fresheners is that 20-micron size scent droplets are propelled up 2,000 feet throughout a home – for what’s said to be far better coverage than with traditional air fresheners. The video below shows how – just like with an inkjet printer – heat is used to propel a liquid (in this case scent droplets, not ink) throughout a home

Our Take

Inkjet-printing technology is now being used for many diverse 2D applications, from the office, to the photographer’s studio, to the print shop. Via inkjet-based 3D printing, it’s also being used for producing everything from manufacturing parts, to houses, to living cells. So why not cosmetics? (With the cosmetics market said to be a sizeable one that’s estimated to reach $69 billion by the year 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 5.2 percent from 2019 to 2025, according to ResearchAndMarkets.com.)

While the idea of adopting inkjet-printing technology to cosmetic applications might seem a little outlandish, stranger things have happened. (And of course, Opté has a built-in revenue supplies stream – the makeup itself – and we can be certain P&G will make sure to note that only authorized P&G makeup can be used, not third-party.)

Ultimately, over the decades, inkjet printing – by some account said to have originated by mistake in a Canon lab – has been successfully adopted for nearly every application it’s been tried its hand with. This may be the next one.

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