Title of Invention

A DIGITAL PHOTO-PRINTING VENDING MACHINE AND METHOD THERE OF

Abstract A thermal printer is disclosed which includes a plurality of thermal print heads, each of the plurality of thermal print heads being operable to print a distinct one of a plurality of colors. The plurality of thermal print heads may print output at a plurality of spatial resolutions. The thermal printer may include dot size varying perceived levels of color printed by the thermal printer by varying sizes of dots printed by the plurality of thermal print heads. The printer may perform various image processing steps on an image to be printed, such as tone scale adjustment, thermal history control, and common mode voltage correction, to improve the perceived quality of the printed image. The thermal printer may be incorporated into a digital photo-printing vending machine for printing images provided by a customer.
Full Text

The present invention relates to a digital photo-printing vending machine
and method of use thereof.
This invention has been divided out of Indian Patent Application No.
1483/KOLNP/2003
Reference is made to U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 09/872, 424, filed
on May 30, 2001, entitled "A High Speed Photo-Finishing Apparatus", which is
hereby incorporated by reference.
Reference is also made to the -following commonly-owned patent
applications, each of which is hereby incorporated by reference:
A nonprovisional application (Attorney Docket No. C-8540) entitled
"Technique for Printing a Color Image", filed on February 19, 2002; application
Serial No. 09/817,932 filed on March 27, 2001, entitled "Digital Halftoning";
application Serial No. 09/934, 703 filed on August 22, 2001, entitled "Thermal
Response Correction System"; and provisional application (Attorney Docket No.
C-8490) entitled "Method and Apparatus for Voltage Correction"
BACKGROUND
A variety of photo-printing booths are known in the art. Coin operated,
booths, having fixed-lens cameras, are well known. Such prior art photo-printing
booths take a series of photographs or a single photograph of an individual or
group of individuals sitting in the booth at a fixed location in front of the
camera. The photographs are then developed within the booth and dispensed to
the user. The booth enclosure provides a controlled background and lighting.

The booth also serves to constrain the position and poses of the user, as well as
limiting the number of persons within the field of view.
Illustrative systems of automatic photography equipment can be found in U.S.
Pat. Nos. 3,820,133; 3,864,708; 4,072,973; 4,089,017 and 4,738,526. The photo-
printing booths disclosed therein use self-developing equipment to allow for the
adjustment of flash intensity and for coin actuation.
Other previous photo-printing systems have been developed to accept 35 mm
film from a customer and develop it. A number of chemical processing fluids
need to be used to develop and stabilize an image on photographic film. These
processing fluids become less effective as the chemical components are
consumed and, additionally, have a limited lifetime. Spent fluids must
eventually be disposed of, either by pouring down a drain, by placing in a
storage tank for later transportation and disposal, or by incineration. The
principal component of these fluids is water. The photofinisher must either
provide a drain and water supply, or deal with transporting large volumes of
spent photographic waste to a proper disposal site. In an unattended apparatus,
moreover, it is difficult to control the amount of chemicals being used. In order
to ensure that the appropriate amount of processing solution is always available,
an excess amount of the solution is typically provided. This, however, increases
the amount of effluent that must eventually be disposed of.
In contrast to conventional photographic cameras, digital cameras do not use
film to capture an image. There is, in this case, no need for any chemical
processing to occur in a photo booth or photo vending machine. The analogous
component to the negative of a conventional film camera is, in a digital camera,

For the foregoing reasons there is a need for a high-speed digital photo-
printing vending machine that will produce images of excellent quality at low cost.
There is also a need for a stand-alone unit that customers can use without
assistance, and which requires less support in the form of supply replenishment
and waste disposal than conventional photo vending machines.
SUMMARY
Indian patent application No. 1463/KOLNP/2Q03 discloses a thermal
printer comorising : a plurality of thermal print heads, each of the plurality of
thermal print heads being operable to print a distinct one of a plurality of colors ;
and dot size varying means for varying perceived levels of color printed by the
thermal printer by varying sizes of dots printed by the plurality of thermal print
heads, wherein a first one of the plurality of thermal print heads has a first
number of thermal elements that is energizable at a first rate, wherein a second
one of the plurality of thermal print heads has a second number of thermal
elements that is energizable at a second rate, the first number being different
from the second number, and the first rate being different from the second rate.
That specification also discloses a method of thermal printing with said
thermal printer.
The thermal printer may further comprise means for performing tone scale
adjustment on an image to be printed, means for performing thermal history
correction on the image to be printed, means for performing resistance profile
correction on the image to be printed, means for performing dithering on the
image to be printed, means for performing halftone dot location adjustment on

theimage to be printed and means for performing common mode voltage
correction on the image to be printed.

The present invention provides a digital photo printing vending machine
comprising ; image data input means for receiving at least one input image from
a customer; payment means for receiving a payment from the customer for
printing the at least one input image ; output means for printing the at least one
input image from the customer the output means comprising a plurality of
thermal print heads ' and dot size varying means for varying perceived levels of
color printed by the thermal printer by varying sizes of dots printed by the
plurality of thermal print heads ; wherein 3 first one of the plurality of thermal
print heads has a first number of thermal elements that is energizab!e at a first
rate, wherein a second one of the Plurality of thermal print heads has a second
number of thermal elements that is energizable at a second rate, the first number
being different from the second number, and the first rate being different from
the second rate.
The at least one input image may comprise a plurality of input images,
and the digital photo-vending machine may further comprise image file
preparation means for converting the plurality of input images into a plurality of
standardized images sharing a standardized file format. The image file
preparation means may comprise image file initial standardization means for
processing the plurality of input images to produce a plurality of initial
standardized images, image file enhancement means for processing the plurality
of initial standardized images to produce a plurality of enhanced images, and

image file final standardization means for processing the plurality of enhanced
images to produce the plurality of standardized images.
The digital photo-printing vending machine may further comprise a
customer interface which may comprise data entry means for receiving input
from th6 customer, and display means for dispiayino output to the customer. The
data entry means and the display means may he implemented using single
touch screen.
The digital photo-printing vendina machine may further comprise a
plurality of image data input means, means for receiving from the user a
selection of a particular one of the plurality of image data input means, and
means for using the selected image data input means as the image data input
means for receiving the at least one Input Image from the customer.
The at least one input image may comprise a plurality of input images,
and the digital photo-printing vending machine may further comprise output
selection means for receiving a selection from the customer of a subset of the
plurality of input images. The output means may comprise means for printing
the selected subset of the plurality of input images.
The digital photo-printing vending machine may further comprise client
means. The client means may comprise the image data input means, the
payment means, image file preparation means for converting the at least one
input image into at least one standardized image having a standardized file
format, and means for communicating with server means according to a client-
server protocol. The server means may comprise image file processing means

for processing the si lEAST one standardized Imaoe to produce at least one
processed image, and means for transmitting the at least one processed image
to the output means for printing. The digital photo-printing vending machine may
include the server means. Each of the client means and the server means may0
be implemented on distinct processor.
The output means of the digital photo-printing vending machine may
further comprise roil-fed printing means for delivering a receiver element to the
plurality of print heads, and cutting means for cutting the receiver element after
the output means prints the at least one Input Image from the customer. The at
least one input image may comprise a plurality of input images, and the cutting
means may comprise means for cutting the receiver element between each of
the plurality of input images.
The cutting means may comprise means for separating a section, of the
receiver element between each of the plurality of Images, and the output means
may further comprise means for disposing of the separated sections of the
receiver element.
The output means may comprise means for printing information other than
the at least one input image on a first section of the receiver element using fewer
than all of the plurality of thermal print heads, and means for printing the at least
one input image from the customer on a second section of the receiver element.
The first section may precede the second section on the receiver element. The
information other than the at least one input image may comprise, for example, a
receipt for the customer and/or promotional material.

The present invention also provides a digital photo-printing vending
machine comprising : image data input means for receiving an Input image from
a digital carnera provided by a customer output means for printing the input
image to oroduce a digitai photograph dot size varying rneans for varying
perceived levels of color printed by the thermal printer by varying sizes of dots
printed bv the plurality of thermal print heads ; wherein a first one of the plurality
of thermal print heads has a first number of thermal elements that is energizable
at a first rate, wherein a second one of the plurality of thermal nrint heads has a
second number of thermal elements that is energizable at a second rate, the first
number being different from the second number, and the first rate being different
from the second rate ' and means for providing the digital photograph to the
customer.
The image data input means may comprise a receptacle for receiving the
digital camera, the receptacle including an electrical connector for connection to
an output port of the digital camera. The image data input means may comprise
a wireless receiver for receiving the input image from the digital camera over a
wireless connection. The digital photo-printing vending machine may further
comprise means for withholding the digital camera from the customer
subsequent to printing the input image. The digital photo-printing vending
apparatus may further comprise disabling means for preventing the digital
camera from capturing additional digital photographs.

The disabling means may comprise means for identifying the number of
digital photographs stored within a memory of thG digital camera, means for
determining whether the identified number of digital photographs exceeds a
maximum number of digital photographs, and means for preventing the digital
camera from capturing additional diaital photographs if it is determined that the
identified number of digital photographs exceeds the maximum number of digital
photographs.
The disabling means may comprise means for identifying an amount of
time that the digital camera has been in use, means for determining whether the
identified amount of time exceeds a maximum amount of time, and means for
preventing the digital camera from capturing additional digital photographs if it Is
determined that the identified amount of time exceeds the maximum amount of
time.
Further this invention provides a method for use in a digital photo-printing
vending machine, the method comprising steps of:
(A) receiving at least one input image from a customer;
(B) receiving a payment from the customer' for printing the at least one
input image ; and
(C) printing the at least one input image from the customer using output
means, the output means comprising a plurality of thermal print heads ;
wherein said step of printing includes a step of varying perceived levels of
color printed by the thermal printer by varying sizes of dots printed by the
plurality of thermal print heads ; and

wherein a first one of the plurality of thermal print heads has a first
number of thermal elements, wherein a second one of the plurality of thermal
print heads has a second number of thermal elements, the first number being
different from the second number, and wherein the step (C) comprises steps of
(C) (a) energizing the first one of the plurality of print heads at a first rate
and
(C) (b) energizing the second one of the plurality of print heads at a
second rate, wherein the first rate differs from the second rate.
Finally the present invention provides a method for use by a digital photo-
printing vending machine the method comprising the steps of:
(A) receiving an snout image from a digital camera provided by a
customer
(B) printing the input image using a plurality of thermal print heads to
produce a digital photograph,
wherein said step of printing comprises a step of varying perceived levels
of color printed by the thermal printer by varying sizes of dots printed by the
plurality of thermal print heads ; and
wherein a first one of the plurality of thermal print heads has a first
number of thermal elements, wherein a second one of the plurality of thermal
print heads has a second number of thermal elements, the first number being
different from the second number, and
wherein the step (B) comprises the steps of:
(B) (a) energizing the first one of the plurality of print heads at a first rate ; and

wherein the first rate differs from the second rate:and (C) providing the digital
photograph to the customer.
These and other features and embodiments of the present invention will
be more readily apparent from the following detailed description and the
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE ACCOMPANYING DRAWINGS
FIG. 1A is 8 block diagram of s high speed digiltal photo-printing apparatus
according to one embodiment of the present invention ;
FIG. 1B is a dataflow diagram illustrating the operation of the digital photo
printing apparatus of FIG. 1A according to one embodiment of the present
invention ;
FIG. 2 is a full sectional side elevational view of a first embodiment of the
output means of the digitai photo-printing apparatus of FIG. 1A ;
FIG.3 is a block diagram of one embodiment of-the image file preparation
means of the digital photo-printing apparatus of FIG. 1A ;
FIG. 4 is a block diagram of one embodiment of the image file processing
means of the digital photo-printing apparatus of FIG. 1A ;
FIG. 5 is a block diagram of an embodiment of the printer controller of one
of the thermal print heads in the photo-printing apparatus of FIG. 1A; and
FIG. 6 is a perspective side elevational view of an integrated photo-
printing apparatus according to one embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION
In one. aspect the present invention features a high speed digital photo
printing apparatus that utilizes a plurality of thermal print heads. In one
embodiment, the digital photo-printing apparatus is a customer-operated, stand-
alone vending machine. Such a vending machine may be less expensive and
easier to maintain than conventional photo-printing vending machines thereby
enabling small retail establishments to enter the digital photo-printing business.
The apparatus may print digital images at high speeds, such as about 20-60
pictures per minute. These high speeds may be obtained by using a thermal
transfer printer with multiple thermal print heads, each head printing a separate
color. The photo-printing apparatus may also have multiple Input means so that
a user may input images from a variety of sources. The photo-printing apparatus
may include a housing to substantially contain the various components that the
apparatus uses to perform the functions described herein.
Referring to FIG. 1A, in one embodiment of the present invention, a digital
photo-printing apparatus 100 is provided. The photo-printing apparatus includes
photo-printing image data input means 110, output selection means 120,
payment means 130, image file preparation means 140, image file processing
means 150, and output means 160.
FIG. 1A illustrates components of the photo-printing apparatus in the
sequence in which such components operate in one embodiment of the present
invention. Referring to FIG. 1B, a dataflow diagram is shown which illustrates
the flow of data through the photo-printing apparatus in one embodiment of the

present invention. The ohoto-printing apparatus 100 may for example be a
vending machine which conducts a transaction with a customer 162.
The photo-printing apparatus 100 includes a customer interface 178 for
interacting with the customer 162. The customer Interface 178 may include data
entry means 182 for receiving customer interface input 170 from the user and
display means 180 for displaying customer interface output 168 to the user. As
described in more detail below, the customer interface 178 may interact with
other components of the photo-printing apparatus 100 and permit the user to
make various choices during the transaction. The customer interface 178 may,
for example, allow the user to select a desired image data Input means and
payment means, and to exercise options with respect to Image selection, number
of prints, image processing, and output formats. Features of the customer
interface 178 may be implemented In software executing on a processor (not
shown) within the photo-printing apparatus 100.
The display means 180 may, for example, be an interactive video monitor
for displaying instructional order information which is used by the customer 162
for entering appropriate order information. The display means 180 may also be
used for various other functions as described later herein, for example, but not
by way of limitation, the display device may be used to preview images prior to
printing of the images, and used as a touch screen for customer order
selections.
The data entry means 182 may be any means for receiving input from the
user, such as a keyboard, touch screen, mouse, card reader for reading a

previously issued Customer order card (which could include customer photo
printing preferences) of any combination thereof. The data entry means 182 and
display means 180 may be implemented using a single component, as in the
case where both the data entry means 182 and display means 180 are
implemented using a single touch screen.
As shown in FIGS. 1A and IB, In one embodiment the customer 162
possesses an input image medium 164 containing one or more input images
(e.g., digital photographs) to print. The input image medium 164 may be any of a
variety of kinds of input media, such as PCMCIA cards, ZIP disks, compact flash
cards., Smart Media, Memory Sticks, CDs, floppy disks, photographic negatives
or prints, or a digital camera.
If the input images are stored electronically on the input image medium
164, each input image may be stored in a separate file. File formats suitable for
storing digital Images include but are not limited to JPEG, TIFF, and BMP. One
or more of the input images may be compressed into a single file (such as a ZIP
file) on the input image medium 164.
The first step of the transaction between the customer 162 and the photo-
printing apparatus 100 is for the customer 162 to provide the input image
medium 164 to the photo-printing apparatus 100 using the image data input
means 110. The image data input means 110 extracts the input image(s) from
the input image medium 164 to produce input image data 172.
The image data input means 110 may include any of a variety of data
storage/retrieval devices, including but not limited to CD drives (such as CD-

ROM,CD-R, and CDRW drives),PCMCIA card slots floppy disk drives,zip disk
drives scanners, smart media readers and compact flash media readers.
The image data input means 110 may also include a wireless device that
is capable of communicating with a camera, computer, or hand-held device over
a wireless (e.g. infrared of radio) connection. The image data input means 110
may include one or more devices that communicate over a direct physical
connection such as a cable connection to a camera scanner internet or other
device or network.
Although the input image medium 164 may be any of various kinds of
media, certain kinds of image data input means 110 may only be capable of
receiving certain kinds of media, if, for example, the image data input means 110
is a CD drive, the input image medium may be a CD.
When the image data input means is a camera, the function of a "single-
use" film camera may be mimicked. !n this case, a special disposable digital
camera may be sold to the customer 162 at retail. After taking up to as many
pictures as will occupy the memory provided within the camera, the customer
may deliver the camera to a receptacle in the photo-printing apparatus 100. The
data may then be transferred from the camera to the photo-printing apparatus
100 by direct electrical or wireless connection, allowing the apparatus 100 to
deliver printed pictures to the customer 162. The camera may be
preprogrammed to become inoperable after a preset number of photographs
have been taken, after a preset time, after a preset amount of camera memory
has been filled or after a predetermined number of photographs have been

printed
camera unit may be reprogrammed or remanufactured allowing reuse of of optical
components and reducing the cost of a camera. Altenatively the photo-printing
apparatus 100 of the present invention may disable the camera, by some
mechanical or electrical means, after printing a predetermined number of
photographs, after determining from digital information in the camera that a
preset number of photographs have been taken or printed, or that a preset
period of time has been exceeded, or that a preset amount of memory has been
filled. Means of disabling the camera may include, for example. electrically
rfamnninn a critical link nr mmnnnpnt in the electric3' rims lit Hi^ahlinn a shiittpr
or lens system, or r'ermanenih/ changing configuration information stored in the
camera. Prior to disabling the camera, it may be a function of the kiosk to offer
the customer an. option, to store the digital photographs on a storage medium
such as CD-ROM, using one of the output means 160, or to transfer the digital
photographs to an accessible network location for iater use.
!n another embodiment, the camera may be reusable, and may be
provided to the customer 162 on a loan or rental basis. In this embodiment, the
camera is designed for contro!!ed-use rather than single-use. The camera may
be preprogrammed to allow use only with selected photo-printing booths, and/or
to limit the number of photographs, the total number printed, the total memory
usage, or the amount of time for which the camera will be operable, thereby
enforcing terms for the loan or rental that may lower the transactional cost. In
this embodiment, the camera is temporarily disabled when the limits of use have

??ft nnp of trip lis^r-.^plpsctsnlci fi jncfinnp. of the nhnto-nnpf^nn gnovir?!?! is 100 Prior
to disabrlno th© camera it msv be a function of the kiosk to offer th© custorner an
option to store the dioital hotonraDbs on a storage medium such as CD-ROM.
usino ons of the cutout means 160, or to transfer the dioital photoora^hs to an
accessible network location for later use;.
The onoto-nnntinQ soosratus 100 mav Include muHiole Imao© data inn!^
means. For example, the photo-printing apparatus 100 may include readers for
compact flash memory and/or Memory Sticks®, a scanner, and/or a floppy disk
or CD drive. The customer interface 178 may prompt the customer 162 'usino
ihp> Hic;r>!a\/ mP3n nhntn-nrintinn arinarafi m1
image data input means through which to provide the input image data 172.
Aitprnativpiiv beinn trinn|ered for example bv insertion of the media into one of the ima**1^ d^ta
input means 110. The customer 162 may select an image data input means
using the data entry means 182 and then input the input image data 172 using
the selected image data input means 110. The customer interface 178 may
confirm whether the input image data 172 was successfully loaded.
The photo-printing apparatus 100 may store the input image data 172
(e.g., in one or more files on a hard disk drive) for further processing. Although
the customer 162 may provide the input image data 172 on the input image
medium 164 in a format that is suitable for direct transmission to and storage by

£[email protected] thst the ohoto-DnntinQ anosrstus 100 rnsv perform sorns nrrsrigc.ciipH
on the imaoe data provided bv the customer 162 In the nrocess of receivlno su~h
data and storina It as snout Image data 172. !f, for example, the Ima^e data input
means 110 Is a scanner, the scanner may scan the imaqefs) on thp
f'hotOQrsohlc negative or print for other output medium^ Provided by the
customer 162 and convert such Imaoes Into a digital electronic format suitable
for Qtorp,np P. •-" ~o~ ■"- ■■-i '-•■ — »— ~ ■ •
The output selection means 120 may perform the following steps. !n one
embodiment of the output selection means 120, the customer Interface 178 uses
thi= r!i«;nisri/ rne^nc; ISO fn Hj^nlsv fr, thf
the orintable olctures contained within the Input Imaoe data 172. These pictures
may be pictures which the customer 162 has preselected from a!! pictures In the
Input image data 172 using a protocol such as digital print order format (DPOF).
The customer interface 178 may allow the customer 162 to use the data entr^
means 182 to select which pictures to print and to specify the number of copies
of each selected picture to print. The customer interface 178 may also prompt
the customer to select the size(s) of print he or she desires. For example, the
customer 162 may choose one large image or four small images, each being 1/4
the size of the former.
Alternatively, the customer 162 may elect to print one or two copies of
every available picture in the camera memory in a standard size (typically
approximately 4" by 6"), thereby giving the customer the same output as he or

The ngvmGni means 130 msv oerforrn thG foHowino st6os. The navment
means 130 msy enable the customer 162 to soecifv a desired ng\/ment method
uslno the data entrv means 182. Selectable payment methods may include, for
example, debit card, credit card, cash, e-cash, or electronic cash transfer. The
naympnt rnp.«n 130 msv rp>r and nrnrp^R naympnf from thp r.i i^fnrnpr 1R9
The oayment means 130 ma'1', for exsmole, be GOUDISC! with the housino of the
photo-printing apparatus 100.
In one embodiment, the oayment means 130 includes a credit card reader
which includes a slot for receipt of a credit card. In an alternate embodiment the
n3yrosot mechanism is capable of receivinq cash oayment. It should be
appreciated that credit card payment and cash payment are described herein
rn«=rplv »Q ey^fTiDlp^ constitute limitations of the present invention.
!n the event that the payment method requires authorization, the payment
means 130 determines whether payment is approved or declined. To perform
such authorization, the payment means 130 may, for example, establish a
network connection to a payment authorization service, such as a credit card
authorization service, which may approve (or alternatively may decline)
authorization for the customer's offered payment.
If the payment means 130 determines . that the customer's offered
payment is not authorized, the payment means 130 does not allow the customer

the customer to proceed with the transaction in compliance with th6 instructions
of th© customer interface 178
!n ORG embodiment. th.9 nhoto-nrintino apparatus 100 includes network
ronnficf'fin mpsns (not shown ^ that enables the vending machine 100 tn nprforrn
the following functions! 3} authorize the customer's oavment; b) ootionalh' store
the customer's Image data at a remote site; c) provide maintenance and/or
media ren!enishment Information to a remote monitor. The network
communications means may establish a network connection over anw tv/oe of
network, such as the Internet, a Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS') network,
an ISDN network, a fiber ontic network, or a wireless network. The network
communications means may. for example, be a standard modem or network
interface card. The customer 162 may connect a PC or other networked device
to the photoprinting apparatus 100 through, a locally accessible network.
In one embodiment, the image file preparation means 140 and image file
processing means 150 process the input image data 172 provided by the
customer 162 in order to improve the perceptual quality of the input image data
172 when printed by the output means 160. The image file preparation means
140 and image file processing means 150 may operate in a manner that
depends on the particular output means 160 utilized by the photo-printing
apparatus 100. Particular embodiments of the image file preparation means 140
and the image file processing means 150 are described hereinbelow in reference

[email protected] hereby incoroorsied b^ reference herein in their entireties.
As described above- in on& embodiment the cutout means 160 is a
thermal transfer printer havino multiple thermal print heads. Such printers
achieve a hioher throughput than the more common.!' used therms! printer
desions in which a sinole therms! head is used snd the colors are pnnted one*
after another Therms! printers having multipie thermal nrint hesds are ws'l
known in the art. For example, U.S. Patents Nos. 4,385,302, 4,447,818, and
A RAO QQ9 Hocr-rih© \/rcinn fj R Pafant-s K!Q« 5 285 "?2^ 3nd 5 711 fi?Q rte«Cr|ho mi ■IfLhoari thermal
printers for use with a single-sheet, direct thermal medium, rather than a two-
sheet thermal transfer medium. In this case, one color is fixed by exposure to
ultraviolet or visible radiation before the next is printed, with the result that the
medium is photosensitive. The two-sheet, thermal transfer printers described
above have the advantage that the media used in. such printers are not
photosensitive.
One embodiment of the output means 160 for the vending machine is
illustrated in FIG. 2. Referring now to FIG. 2, there is a receiver element 210, fed
from a roll 214. Although the path of receiver element 210 is shown as straight in
FIG. 2, it should be understood that other paths, for example curved or arcuate
paths, may also be used. The receiver is translated past three thermal print
heads 216, 218 and 220, opposed by platen rollers 222. The first thermal print

the next orint icb by therms! —rint hssc! 216 Is a section of receiver element 2^n
onto which no custorner-SDeclflc full-color imsoe may b9 printed. This section of
receiver element 210 may either b6 nrinted1' with non-customer-specific
Inforrnation (for example promotional materiah or with monochrorne or blcbrorne
customer-specific data (for example, a receipt). In either case the output may be
delivered to ths customer ordering the sscond of the two nnnt lobs describe-^
above. Alternatively this section of receiver element 210 may be directed into
the receptacle for later disposal
Donor elements 226, 232 and 238 may comprise ven' thin substrates (of
thir.knpsc; h/niraHv in the rannp 2 5 - R mir,xnmptp.rs\ nntn whirh ih donor materia! has been coated. In the case of dye diffusion thermal transfer the
donor materia! is typically a dye incorporated into a polymer binder, as described
for example in Hann, R.A. and Beck, N.C., J. Imaging Techno!., (1990\ 16(6238-241 and Hann, R.A., Spec. Pub. R. Soc. Chern. (1993), 133, 73-85.
!n the case of thermal mass transfer, the donor materia! is commonly a
dye or pigment formulated with a wax or resin (or a combination of the two) as
vehicle, as described for example in U.S. Patent number 5,569,347.
In one embodiment of the present invention, however, thermal mass
transfer imaging is used wherein the donor element is such as is described in
U.S. patent application serial number 09/745,700, cited above.

"'Hf* dnno" mS'^e^a* u-c-SO fh'JS ?Cf dv© diffusion thenTial trsnsfsr 'i'h© fpc©'^^'
ej^pnpnt 910 hp..s?rc 3 noh/mpr CAati nn for accent inn the transferred dvps ac;
described in Hann, R.A. and Beck, N.C., J. Imaging Techno!., (1990), 16(6), 238-
241 and Hann, R.A.. Spec. Pub. R. Soc. Chern. (1993), 133, 73-85. For thermal
mass transfer, the receiver element ma^ bear a micronorous laver, ss described
for exsmole in U.S. Patents Nos. 5.521 626 and 5,897.254 or a softenlno laver
as described for example in U.S. Patent No. 4,686,549. As described for
examole in U.S. Patent No. 5,244,861, the receiver elements 210 used for
thermal transfer media of either tv/pe are desirably compliant and of uniform
One example of the receiver element 210 for use in conjunction with a
thermal mass transfer donor element according to the invention is described in
U.S. provisional patent application serial number 60/294,528, cited above.
Receiver element 210 may be opaque or transparent, in the case where
receiver element 210 is transparent, and a reflective print is the desired output,
substrate 242 is desirably opaque, and the final image is viewed through receiver
element 210. In the case wherein receiver element 210 is opaque, and the
materia! transferred by element 240 is transparent, the final image is viewed
through the materia! transferred by element 240. The image printed in one case
is the mirror image of that printed in the other.
Variation in level of color in an image produced by thermal transfer
printing may be achieved by means of two general methods. In the first method,

co\'©r306 vanes sccordlno to tn© amount of ensrG"' suDr>|j©d bv ins Drinf n^ao tn
that ^articular pixel. This method is hereinafter referred to as "variable densiti/'
orintinQ. and is common?*' ^ractic-Gd in dye diffusion thermal transfer !*~ second method, the size of dots within the area of one oixe! varies accordinn in
enernv cynnlien bv fhp orint hpari these dots r-.ontaininn Qn>\> P5?spntia!l\/ a density of d^e (de facto, its maximum density , The dots are so small tha* the^
cannot be individually di^tinouish^d bv the naked eve ^nd cm thp m/prpii IP\/PI nf
color is nerceived as an averane of the almost total absorntlon of iinht in thp
proportion of the viewed area occupied by dots, and the almost complete
(diffuse) reflection of liaht In unorinted areas. This technique of thermal transfer
printinn is known hereinafter as "variable dot" printing
In one embodiment of the present Invention, the donor elements
described above are used in combination with the receiver described above, and
the variable dot method is employed.
As described in the above-referenced patent application entitled
"Technique for Printing a Color Image," in a multi-head thermal transfer printing
system a serious problem of misregistration may occur in the color images
produced by superimposed dot patterns. Such, misregistration may occur as a
result of print head misalignment, speed variations in the media transport,
stretching of the media and other mechanical problems that are difficult to control
with adequate precision,and may result in moire patterns or other visible artifacts

!nfpntinn??M'-0— in 8 HOV©! sno nQTViCV- iisr mianngr to
achieve Imaae ODtimization. In a oarilcuiar embodiment a first thermal nrjnt head
has a first number of thermal elements eneroized at a first rate and a second
thermal print head has a second number of thermal, elements eneroized at a
second rate. The numbers of thermal elements and rates of energization are
selected to cause a pattern of intentional misreQistration at a hioh snatia!
frgnnQpcA' which is' snnoticesble to the naked eve of a viewer of the irna^e. and
which masks the unintentional misalignments caused by mechanical
mjsalionment and other factors noted above.
•n one embodiment of the above-referenced patent application entitled
"Technique for Printino a Color Image/' thermal Imaging is used and the surface
nnto whir.h nrintinn is nerfnrmed is a receiver substrate. The substrate is tvoicallv
a web and is reeled in a first direction at a first speed. First, second, and third
thermal print heads are displaced from each other in the first direction and are
each fixedly mounted relative to the moving receiver. The first head includes a
first predetermined number of elements linearly and regularly displaced over a
fixed distance in a direction parallel to the surface and perpendicular to the first
direction. This fixed distance defines one dimension of a field of view of the
image. The second head includes a second predetermined number of elements
linearly and regularly displaced over the fixed distance within the field of view
and in a direction parallel to the surface and perpendicular to the first direction.
The third head includes a third predetermined number of elements linearly and

ink donor ribbons In the colors of cyan, maoenta snd ve-low are used with the
[email protected] orint heads. Any order of printlno of the colors msy be used. However as
described in the above-referenced oalent application entitled "Technioue for
Printino a Co;or jmsoe." the visibie effects of misreoistrstion occur chief lv as a
result of misreoistration between maoenta and the two other colors. Therefore in
8 three head svstem, the resolution of the sprint heads used to orint yellow 3nd
cyan may be the same, whereas the resolution of the print head used to print
maoenta roav be different from the resolution of either the print head used to
print yellow or the nrjnt head used to print cyan. When a fourth head associated
with black is included, resolution of that fourth head may differ from resolutions
of the three remaining heads
In yet another feature of the above-referenced patent application entitled
"Technique for Printing a Color Image," there Is a first predetermined distance
between dots along a first direction (the direction of media transport) and a
second .predetermined distance between dots along a second direction
(perpendicular to the direction of media transport), and the first and second
predetermined distances are controlled in the following manner. A clock
generator generates a plurality of timing clock pulse trains. A computer-
controlled pulse generator is operatively coupled to the clock generator and
provides a plurality of outputs of excitation pulse bursts in timed sequence with at
least one of the clock pulse trains. The first predetermined number of thermally

number of thermal' controlled onni hGac! elements of ths SGeond nrint hssci arp
oDGratiyerv' couole-d to ORB or mors outputs from the ouSse Generator. ThG third
^redetermined number of thermally controlled print head elements of the third
nrlnt head are operative!'"/ ooupiGd to one or more outputs from the ^uise
n6nerator. The srsacinn of dots alonci the first dir6ction is determined bv the time
intervals between Dulse bursts. As discussed in thG above-referenced r,aient
annlic^tinn pniitf^rl 'Tpchnim IP for Prinfinn a P.nlQr !msnp " the firne intprvpK fnr
the head nrintinn yellow mav be made the sarne as the time intervals for the
hpsr! nrintlnn rx/^,n insnfsr as thprp is ij-uaHv nnlv minor snprtrp! OVPT!PP
hptu/op'n fhpfip two Hvpc;
In a particular embodiment of the above-referenced patent application
entitled "Technique for Printing a Color Image," which may be used to Imnlemenf
output means 160 of FIGS. 1A-1B of the instant invention, each element of the
cyan-printing head and each element of the yellow-printing head deposit 400
dots per inch on the surface within the field of view of the image, with each
respective one of the 400 dots per inch from the yellow-printing head intending to
be deposited upon its corresponding one of the 400 dots per inch from the first
print head. Since there is minima! spectra! overlap between these colors,
although being subjected to a dot-on-dot procedure, precise registration of the
yellow and cyan dots is unnecessary. Each element of the print head which
prints magenta is controlled to deposit 266 dots per inch on the surface

of 266 dots per inch Dattern over the field of view In this msnnsr has ^h^ nron»rtv
of enhancing color uniformity of th© imaoe for the viewer, each one of the Hot?;
bsina individually indlsiinou'lshable to a naked eve of the viewor Other r.oinrc;
3nd combinations of numbers of dots rnav be u-S6d.
Tumino now to FiG. 3, there is illustrated therein in more detail on&
embodiment of th6 imsoe file oreoaraiion rnesns 140 cf FIGS 1A-1R imanp
data innut means 110 'FIGS. I.A-IEn includes imaoe file retrieval means 302
which allows ima^e data to bo read in any of a number of ima*""3 fiif» formats from
any of various kinds of media, as described above.
Imsoe tils oreparstion means 140 includes imaoe file initial
standardization means 304, which receives the input image data 172 as in^ut
from the image file retrieval means 302. Image file initial standardization means
304 performs initial standardization functions on the input Image data 172 to
produce Initial standardized Image data 306. The image file initial standardization
means 304 may, for example, perform the following operations on each Input
image file within the input image data 172: file decompression (if needed), image
cropping to a standard aspect ratio (typically 2:3), file format conversion to a
common image file format, such as JPEG or GIF (if needed), and downsizing to
standard pixel dimensions (typically 1248 by 1872 pixels) if the input image
file has larger dimensions than this. If an input image file is smaller than the

The im3Q© Quality of the outout rendered b*-' the output mesns ifin nf
FIGS. 1A-!B is principally defined by four image parameters: imaoe sharDness
Qraininess, tonal rendition and color rendition. The four orincinal imaoe
oarameters niav be Quantified fa»' objective metrics and described bv
characteristic data. For example the sharnness of an imaoi.no device ms" be
characterized bv its modulation transfer function, its Granularity bv its Wiener
spectrum, its tona! renroduction by its density response characteristic, and its
color reproduction by a color difference metric such as AE" of the CIELA.B L* a".
b* color snec-iflcation system, as described for example in "Color and its
Reproduction" by Gary G. Fie!d, GATFPress . Pittsburah. PA, 1Q99. (CIELAB Is
the second of two systems adooted by C!E - the Comission !nternationa!e de
I'Eclaira^e - the Internationa! Commission on Illumination.) The system and
methods of U S Patent 5 ^9^ 484 may be used to nenrate nrnrAQ^inn
operation parameter Information, such as the defining parameters of sharpening
and noise reduction filters, from the characteristic data of the input component
and the output component, as we!! as an overa!! system objective metric. When
the input component and the output component are known in advance, the
generation of the processing operation parameter information can occur
separately (for example during the design of the photo-processing system) from
the image processing. Once the components are known, their characteristics can
be obtained and device profiles can be constructed in the manner described in

incorporated bv reference herein, if the incut devices are not known as In the
ess© of an Inout dsts file from s computer readable medium the inout device
spatial characteristics mav be obtained uslno the methods of U.S. Patent
6.069,982 to Reuroan, S. R., entitled "Estimation of Frequency Dependence and
Grev-Leve- Deoendence of Noise in an Image," issued on Msv/ 30, 2000 which
Is hereby a'so Incorporated by reference herein, snd of U.S. Patent application
Ser. No. 09/409,459, entitled ~Method and Apparatus for Estlmatino the Snatla!
Frequency Response of a Distal Imace Acauisition Svstem from th^ imanpc; it
Produces," S. R. Reuman, filed on Sept. 3D, 1999, which Is hereby also
incorporated bv reference herein.
Tonal rendition may be performed by executing a mapping from output of
the image file Initial standardization means 304 (an sRQB file) to a file suitable
for printing within the limitations of the output means 160 of FIGS. 1A-1B. This
mapping includes tone scale manipulation. Tone scale manipulation not only
smoothly compresses the tone scale of the image(s) in the initial standardized
image data 306 into the dynamic range available to the output means 160 of
FIGS. 1A-1B, as specified by its black and white points (maximum and minimum
densities of each color), but also allows for local manipulation of the contrast.
The methods of U.S. Patent No. 5,809,164 to Hultgren, Bror O. I!!, entitled
"System and Method for Color Gamut and Tone Compression Using an Ideal
Mapping Function," issued on September 15, 1998, which is hereby also

a
Usina the above referenced systems and methods, the parameters of the
processinq ooeration ngrformed bv the IrnaoG file enhancement means 306 roav
be determinsd so that the orocesslna vields processed data that leads to
osYC-hovisuslh' enhanced outnut when rendered b1' the output means 160. The
Irnarifa rirr.f'ps^irrn ?tpn? n'^^rnhpri ahnvp mav hp rnprip nn*ir>nsi n'oripnr-fiiin nn
the customer's ^references in addition, the customer mav choose oniv r:p>ripiri
processing options rather than ai! of them.
Referrino again to FIG. 3, imaoe file final standardization means 312
receives the enhanced imar>e data 310 and chances the size of anv files
contained therein which were initially smaller than the standard size to the
standard size. The image file final standardization means 312 outputs
standardized ima^e data 174. AH Images In the standardized Imaae data 174
have the same file format and share other properties as a result of the
processing described above.
As shown in FIGS. 1A-1B, the standardized image data 174 output from
image file preparation means 140 is sent to image file processing means 150.
Although image data input means 110, output selection means 120, payment
means 130 and image file preparation means 140 may all include processes
running on the same CPU, this is not a requirement of the present invention.

on s first processor which sets ss a client. Th© ims^e fi!® nrocessino means 1-^n
^v.o. w^\!^'w^i.fevJ U- i O. Ow-w^i r^ of O' vv i ;!u; £ a^'.j oo c-; -J-^E uwi . I ; i^v ISI^L C?,E :^ oCuu: ICi 'JE uo
mav be connected to each other via a network within or external to the ohoto-
printino arsnarstus 100. More thsn one client msv be connected to the sen/er,
and these clients mav be configured identically to or differently from one another.
For exs^ioie one client mav hsndie input from a scanner while wnofhpr mau
handle innut from a CD-ROM reader.
The first (client) CPU may transmit the standardized Image data 174 to the
Qs the
standardized imaas data 174 as described above to oroduoe orocessed imaae
data 176. The sen/er CPU may transmit the processed image data 176 to a
nrinter controller within the output means 160. The printer controller may
Incorporate a third processor, which may be a Field Programmable Gate Array
(FPGA). The Image file processing means 150 may be implemented solely by
the server CPO or may be distributed between the server CPU and the FPGA,
as described below. It should be understood that the architecture described
above is only one of many alternatives, as will be readily apparent to one of
ordinary skill in the appropriate art. In particular, the client and server need not
each be implemented on a particular CPU. Rather, each of the client and server
may be implemented using any appropriate combination of hardware and/or

F'G 4 shows thp nnerafinn of one f~rnhndirpen'i' of imsnp file ncnr.&^.lnn
means 150 of FIGS. 1A-1B In more detail. In neners>, Ims^e flie processing
means ISO processes the standardized. Iman© data 174 to oroduce processed
lman6 data 176. The Imaoe file nrocessino means 150 orovides the processed
irnaoe data 176 to the outout means 160. which orints the irnaoefs) contained
within the processed Imaqe data 176, thereby producino dlolta! ohotos 166 orran
output medium. The photo-printing apparatus 100 provides the digital photos 166
to *h\@ c! i^tompr Ifi? —.U.. .i^ A—. ^~. .->.> .*■—.. .1 ir«. -
Operation of the imane fite processinc HIBBHS 150 accordIno to the
embodiment Illustrated in F!G. 4 wl!i now be described In more detail AJt^nnnh
the image file processing means 150 performs the following ste^s for each
standardized image fiie in the standardized image data 174, operation of the
image file processing means 150 wil! be described with respect to a single
standardized image file in the standardized image data 174 for ease of
explanation. Image file processing means 150 includes color plane separation
and resampling means 402, which separates the standardized image file into
yellow, magenta, and cyan color planes, and which separately resizes each said
color plane to new pixel dimensions. The new numbers of vertical and horizontal
pixels depend upon the resolution of the print head to be used for the particular
color and the number of steps in the direction of transport of the receiver

Irnaoe fii6 orocessino means 150 also incjuctes monochrom© irnaop
nrocsss^no and ^r!nt6r control rneans 404-a-c each of which nppmtpc on ^
particular one of the thre© color planes ^reduced bv the color plane senaratiop
qpo rsss-HinSIno rnssns 4-02 Each of ths monochrome imao© nrQp.oc-cinn anri
nnpipsr control means 404a-c transforms the 8-bit ni*©! ' yahips ip th^
QQrrggnondino color n'3ne Into a new 10-bit value that is an incisx in^o ^ Innkuf"*
table which wil! later be used in ths generation of a particular ou!s© Pattern to bo
sent *o a. correspond ino print head
Fp.ch of *he? monochrome irnsne Drocesslnn anri nrlntpr roptrol rneans
404a-c performs a correction for thermal history on the corresoondino color
nisne Thermal printers are known to produce substantia^ deviations from
intended irpaoe densities as a result of imperfect coollna foHowino nmviousiv
printed patterns. In addition, heat may diffuse laterally within the print head
itself, resulting in printed densities that are dependent on the temperatures of
neighboring print head elements.
!n one embodiment, monochrome image processing and printer control
means 404a-c perform a method of thermal history control in which a numerical
model of heat diffusion and a model of the response of the thermal printing
medium to a given input of energy are combined to correct for the
abovementioned effects. An example method for compensating for the effects of

Inventors Suhail Sa^uib and William T. VetterllnQ. which is assionen to thp>
assionee of the instant sonjication and which, alono with a!) of its Incorporateo-
bv-reference Patents and n3.t©nt applications, is herebv incorooratpd h«'
reference herein in its entirety
Monochrome imaoe orocessincj and printer controi means 4Q4a-c ma*-'
also oerforrn a second correction on the correspondinc? color olanss for ' lack
of uniformity of resistance of the thermal elements within the nrint head, it is
common nractice in thermal printing to modulate the on-time of a nrnds ir.p. different nra-,/ IPA/PIS VA/hpn this; rr,pt hnril ic; i i«?pr! fn nrint nhntr^rpnhir
imanes nonuniforms!1./ of head resistance wi|! lead to streaks in the nir.fs of course, possible to stipulate a tioht tolerance on the resistance variation
across the print head at the time of manufacture. However, this increases the
cost of the print head, and may reduce its useful life if changes in the resistance
of elements occur as a result of use.
Various embodiments of the present invention may therefore measure the
resistance profile of the print head and compensate for nonuniformities in printed
output. Such a measurement may occur within the photo-printer itself.
Alternatively, the resistance profile of the print head may be measured prior to its
installation in the photo-printer, and the data stored in an appropriate memory
location. In one embodiment, this compensation is performed concurrently with

The result of the forenoina, calculation Is. for each nixel. B number
reoresentinQ the level of excitation required in order to obtain the ap'Toonate
printed de.nsit*-' for that pixel. Each of these numbers mav be converted to a
dinits! niirnhp-r mnrASPntinn the number of niil.qpc in hp annlior! to thp
(-.nrrp^nonriinn nrinf hpsr! element to best approximate tho nprp^sarv Ipypi nf
excitation. It will be aopreciated by those skilled in the art that within the time
allotted for printlnn each line of the imaoe, there are a limited number of nu!se
intervals available, and this ieads to a constraint on the number of different levels
available for printinci. if the number of these levels Is insufficient, the transition
from one tone value to the next may be visible In the image as steps or contours.
A method for increasing the apparent number of tone scale values is known in
the art as dithering. The dithering method Is effective In overcoming tona! steps
and contours resu!tin° from a limited selection of tone values.
Examples of the foregoing method are described in greater detail In U. S,
Patent Application Ser. No. 09/817,932, filed March 27, 2001, entitled "Digital
Half toning," having inventors Dan Bybell, Jay Thornton, and Dana Schuh, which
is assigned to the assignee of the instant application and which, along with all of
its incorporated-by-reference patents and patent applications, is hereby
incorporated by reference herein in its entirety. As is known in the art, the
dithering described may be accomplished with the use of dithering matrices that
are combined with floating point image data to produce the required digital

vsiues for each oixs!. =n on© embodiment of the Instant invention tng dith^rinn
The forenoino stens msv be-carried out in software running-on the serve?"
described above'1. The data thereby generated may, In one embodiment be sent
to the FPGA described above via a memory buffer interface. The FPGA
performs the functions of a pattern generator and a clock. The lookun index
value whose Generation was described above is used, in conjunction with
predetermined oaffems Stored in 3 InokijO table to Generate th pattern to be sent to the nrint head. The pulse pattern for a ^articular color is
then sent to its associated print head at a rate determined by the FPGA clock.
The rates at which the f-u'se Patterns for each color plane are sent are such that
each monochrome image is the same length when printed. Temporal offsets
accounting for the physical separation between print heads are added to the
start of the processes of sending the pulse patterns for each color, so that each
monochrome Image overlies the others as accurately as possible in the final
print.
In one embodiment, one function of the pattern generator is the
performance of halftone dot location adjustment to improve the perceived quality
of printed images. This technique is described in the above-referenced patent
application entitled "Digital Halftoning." Consider, for example, two adjacent
halftone pixels, each of which contains a halftone dot. The two halftone pixels
share a common pixel boundary. The two halftone dots may be located within
their respective halftone pixels such that the two halftone dots abut the common

some or all of ths halftone oixels In the Irnso© to be Dflnted. x/grini;«
embodiments of this technioue and the advantaoes thereof are described in
detail in the above-referenced oatent amplication.
FIG. 5 gives more details of the logic for one print head accordinq to one
embodiment of the "resent invention. Storage means 510 serves to store static
values such as !ookun tables, which are configured upon system initialization !n
oarticular, pulse nattern lookup table 513 Is contained within the storaoe means,
•n addition, processed image data 176 may be temporarily stored in storage
means 510 nrior to the Generation of the pulse sequences needed to drive the
Tint head, as indicated by dynamically stored image data 511.
Dynamically stored image data 511 is first, transferred, iine-bv-flne, into
line buffer memory 512. The contents of each line are pointers to be used in
conjunction with pulse pattern lookup table 513 to produce pulse patterns stored
in pulse pattern memory 514. Under the control of clock generator means 520,
the stored pulse patterns are serially transferred to the print head. As they are
transferred, duty cycle correction means 516 monitors the number of
simultaneously active print head elements and adjusts the length of the print
head strobe signal accordingly, as described in the above-referenced provisional
patent application entitled "Method and Apparatus for Voltage Correction." This
corrects for the fact that the voltage across any single resistor depends upon the
total number of print head elements being powered during a particular print
head cycle. The correction is made by counting the number of resistors being

IncrBaslna ih© hsstino tlms ss more oixeis are enerQizsd.
Reference number 518 of FIG. 5 5 refers to a dloltai ohsse-locked !OOD
fPLL\ which msv be used to synchronize the orintin^ operation with the motion
of the web of media oassina through the printer. This synchronization ma'"' be
accomplished via s rotary encoder coupled to a component of the web transnort,
for example s orinter n!aien or a motor advancinn the web. !n an alternative
embodiment, an interna! oscillator with a feedback looo may be used to oerform
the same function as the diolta! PLL. Synchronization slonals from the digital
PLL, or alternatively sionals from the interna! oscillator, are provided to clock
Generator means 520, which derives the clock signals necessary to transfer
dynamically stored data 511 between the storage means 510 and line buffer
memory 512, convert line buffer memory data to pulse pattern data stored In the
pulse pattern memory 514, shift the pulse patterns in a serial fashion into the
print head, and anr>!y the Tint head data loading and strobe signals required for
printing, as is known to those skilled In the art. Distributed clock signals are
indicated by dashed lines in FIG. 5.
FIG. 6 illustrates a mechanical configuration of one embodiment of the
instant invention. Enclosure 602 provides a protected environment in which
photo-printing may be carried out. Ventilation fan 604 provides cooling for the
processors, power supplies, motors, and print head assemblies contained in the
enclosure 602, while filter 606 (which may, for example, be a high efficiency
particulate arresting (HEPA) filter) filters the air to remove particulates capable of
causing defects in the output prints. Within the printing chamber are four print

pocorTin-y R1r) nrint k'c\^- thrpp »v ^trsnnvg nnnfiSry colore. HI/P-A rr^n^nt^ snr;
^GHO'VV in 3. predetermined ordsr. Each of these print heads is associated with
two spools. For nrjnt head assembly 612 the spools are indicated by 608 and
610. Soool 610 carries a supply of monochrome donor materia! of one of the
three colors. S^oo! 608 is a take-up spool that winds up the used donor sheet
after if has nassed under the orini head. The fourth print head assemble 614
applies an overcoat to the finished print just before it enters a cutter 616 that.
separates the images. Following separation, the images are deposited in an exit
tra^ 618 for access by the user. Beneath the print head assemblies is a
compartment containing a spool of receiver materia! 620.
!t is to be understood that although the invention has been described
above in terms of particular embodiments, the foregoing embodiments are
provided as illustrative only, and do not limit or define the scope of the invention.
Various other embodiments, including but not limited to the following, are also
within the scope of the claims.
Elements and components described herein may be further divided into
additional components or joined together to form fewer components for
performing the same functions.
The techniques described above may be implemented, for example, in
hardware, software, firmware, or any combination thereof. The techniques
described above may be implemented in one or more computer programs
executing on a programmable computer including a processor, a storage

speciaiiy-deslgned ASICs (application-specific integrated circuits). A. computer
can generally also receive programs and data from a storage medium such as
an interna! disk (not shown) or a removable disk. These elements will also be
found in a conventional desktop or workstation computer as well as other
computers suitable for executing computer programs implementing the methods
described herein, which may be used in conjunction with any digital print engine
or marking engine, display monitor, or other raster output device capable of
producing color or gray scale pixels on paper, film, display screen, or other
output medium.
Printers suitable for use with various embodiments of the present
invention typically include a print engine and a printer controller. The printer
controller receives print data from a host computer and generates page
information. The printer controller transmits the page information to the print
engine to be printed. The print engine performs the physical printing of the image
specified by the page information on an output medium.

We Claim:
1. A digital photo-printing vending machine (100) comprising:
image data input means (110) for receiving at least one input image from a
customer;
payment means (130) for receiving a payment from the customer for printing the
at least one input image; and
output means (160)for printing the at least one input image from the customer, the
output means (160) comprising a plurality of thermal print heads (216);
wherein a first one of the plurality of thermal print heads (216) has a first number
of thermal elements that is energizable at a first rate, wherein a second one of the
plurality of thermal print heads (216) has a second number of thermal elements that is
energizable at a second rate, the first number being different from the second number, the
first rate being different from the second rate.
2. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 1, wherein
the output means (160) has dot size varying means for varying perceived levels of color
printed by the thermal printer by varying sized of dots printed by the plurality of thermal
print heads (216), and preferably wherein each of the plurality of thermal print heads is
operable to print a distinct one of a plurality of colors.
3. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 1, wherein
the image data input means (110) has means for receiving the at least one input image
from a digital electronic storage medium, and preferably wherein the image data input
means (110) has means for converting at least one analog image provided by the
customer into the at least one input image, wherein the at least one input image has at
least one digital image.
4. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 1, wherein
the at least one input image has a plurality of input images, and wherein the

digital photo-vending machine has image file preparation means (140) for converting the
plurality of input images into a plurality of standardized images sharing a standardized
file format.
5. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 4, wherein
the image file preparation means (140)has:
image file initial standardization means (304) for processing the plurality of input
images to produce a plurality of initial standardized images;
image file enhancement means (308) for processing the plurality of initial
standardized images to produce a plurality of enhanced images; and
image file final standardization means (312) for processing the plurality of
enhanced images to produce the plurality of standardized images, and/or
wherein the image file initial standardization means (304)has means for cropping each of
the plurality of input images to a standard aspect ratio, and/or
wherein the image file initial standardization means (304) has:
means for determining, for each of the plurality of input images, whether the
dimensions of the input image are greater than standard pixel dimensions; and
means for changing to the standard pixel dimensions the dimensions of only those
input images whose dimensions are determined to be greater than the standard pixel
dimensions, and/or
wherein
the image file initial standardization means (304) has means for assigning RGB color
values having a common bit depth to pixels in each of the plurality of input images,
and/or
wherein the image file initial standardization means (304)has means for rotating each of
the plurality of input images into a standard orientation and/or
wherein the image file initial standardization means (304)has means for converting each
of the plurality of input images that is not stored in a predetermined image file format
into the predetermined image file format, and/or
wherein the image file enhancement means (308)has means for sharpening each of the
plurality of initial standardized images, and/or

1
wherein the image file enhancement means (308)has means for performing exposure
correction on each of the plurality of initial standardized images, and/or
wherein the image file enhancement means (308)has means for performing color balance
correction on each of the plurality of initial standardized images, and/or
wherein the image file enhancement means (308)has means for performing color
matching on each of the plurality of initial standardized images.
6. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 1, wherein
a customer interface (178) has:
data entry means (182) for receiving input from the customer; and
display means (180)for displaying output to the customer, and preferably wherein the
data entry means (182) and the display means (180)has a single touch screen, and/or
wherein the digital photo-printing vending machine (100) has:
a plurality of image data input means (110);
means for receiving from the user a selection of a particular one of the plurality of
image data input means (110); and
means for using the selected image data input means (110) as the image data input
means (110) for receiving the at least one input image from the customer, and/or
wherein the at least one input image comprises a plurality of input images,
wherein the digital photo-printing vending machine (100)has output selection
means (120) for receiving a selection from the customer of a subset of the plurality of
input images; and
wherein the output means (160)has means for printing the selected subset of the
plurality of input images.
7. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 1, wherein
the client means has:
the image data input means (110);
the payment means (130);
image file preparation means (140) for converting the at least one input image
into at least one standardized image having a standardized file format; and

means for communicating with server means according to a client-server protocol,
the server means comprising image file processing means (150) for processing the at least
one standardized image to produce at least one processed image, the server means has
means for transmitting the at least one processed image to the output means (160) for
printing, and preferably having the server means, and preferably wherein the client means
has a first processor and wherein the server means has a second processor.
8. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 1, wherein
the output means (160)has:
roll-fed printing means (214) for delivering a receiver element (210) to the
plurality of print heads (216, 218 and 220); and
cutting means (248) for cutting the receiver element (210) after the output means
(160) prints the at least one input image from the customer.
9. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 8, wherein
the at least one input image has a plurality of input images and wherein the cutting means
(248) has means for cutting the receiver element (210) between each of the plurality of
input images, and/or
wherein
the cutting means (248)has means for separating a section of the receiver element
(210) between each of the plurality of images, and wherein the output means (160)has
means for disposing of the separated sections of the receiver element.
10. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 8, wherein
the output means (160) has:
means for printing information other than the at least one input image on a first
section of the receiver element (210) using fewer than all of the plurality of thermal print
heads (216); and
means for printing the at least one input image from the customer on a second
section of the receiver element, and/or
wherein the first section precedes the second section on the receiver element, and/or

wherein the information other than the at least one input image comprises a receipt for
the customer, and/or wherein the information other than the at least one input image
comprises promotional material.
11. A digital photo-printing vending machine (100) comprising:
image data input means (110)for receiving an input image from a digital camera
provided by a customer;
output means (160) for printing the input image to produce a digital photograph;
and
means for providing the digital photograph to the customer.
12. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 11, wherein
the image data input means (110) has a receptacle for receiving the digital camera, the
receptacle including an electrical connector for connecting to an output port of the digital
camera, and/or
wherein the image data input means (110)has a wireless receiver for receiving the
input image from the digital camera over a wireless connection, and/or
has means for withholding the digital camera from the customer subsequent to
printing the input image.
13. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 11,having
disabling means for preventing the digital camera from capturing additional digital
photographs.
14. The digital photo-printing vending machine (100) as claimed in claim 13, wherein
the disabling means has:
means for identifying the number of digital photographs stored within a memory
of the digital camera;
means for determining whether the identified number of digital photographs
exceeds a maximum number of digital photographs; and

means for preventing the digital camera from capturing additional digital
photographs if it is determined that the identified number of digital photographs exceeds
the maximum number of digital photographs, and/or wherein the disabling means
comprises:
means for identifying an amount of time that the digital camera has been in use;
means for determining whether the identified amount of time exceeds a maximum
amount of time; and
means for preventing the digital camera from capturing additional digital
photographs if it is determined that the identified amount of time exceeds the maximum
amount of time.
15. A method implemented in a digital photo-printing vending machine, the method
comprising:
receiving at least one input image from a customer;
receiving a payment from the customer for printing the at least one input image;
and
printing the at least one input image from the customer using output means (160),
the output means (160)comprising a plurality of thermal print heads (216);
wherein a first one of the plurality of thermal print heads (216) has a first number
of thermal elements, that is energizable at a first rate, wherein a second one of the
plurality of thermal print heads (216) has a second number of thermal elements that is
energizable at a second rate, the first number being different_than the second number the
first rate being different from the second rate.
16. The method as claimed in claim 15, wherein the printing comprises:
varying perceived levels of color printed by the thermal printer by varying sizes
of dots printed by the plurality of print heads (216, 218 and 220); and/or
wherein each of the plurality of thermal print heads (216) is operable to print a
distinct one of a plurality of colors.

17. The method as claimed in claim 15, wherein the at least one input image
comprises a plurality of input images and wherein the method comprises:
converting the plurality of input images into a plurality of standardized images
sharing a standardized file format.
18. The method as claimed in claim 17, wherein the converting the plurality of input
images comprises:
processing the plurality of input images to produce a plurality of initial
standardized images;
processing the plurality of initial standardized images to produce a plurality of
enhanced images; and
processing the plurality of enhanced images to produce the plurality of
standardized images.
19. The method as claimed in claim 17, wherein the converting the plurality of
input images comprises cropping each of the plurality of input images to a standard
aspect ratio and/or wherein the processing the plurality of input images to produce a
plurality of initial standardized images comprises:
determining, for each of the plurality of input images, whether the dimensions of
the input image are greater than standard pixel dimensions; and
changing to the standard pixel dimensions the dimensions of only those input
images whose dimensions are determined to be greater than the standard pixel
dimensions and/or
wherein the processing the plurality of input images to produce a plurality of
initial standardized images comprises assigning RGB color values having a common bit
depth to pixels in each of the plurality of input images, and/or wherein the processing the
plurality of input images to produce a plurality of initial standardized images comprises
rotating each of the plurality of input images into a standard orientation, and/or
wherein the processing the plurality of input images to produce a plurality of
initial standardized images comprises converting each of the plurality of input images

that is not stored in a predetermined image file format into the predetermined image file
format and/or
wherein the processing the plurality of initial standardized images to produce a
plurality of enhanced images comprises sharpening each of the plurality of initial
standardized images and/or
wherein the processing the plurality of initial standardized images to produce a
plurality of enhanced images comprises performing exposure correction on each of the
plurality of initial standardized images and/or
wherein the processing the plurality of initial standardized images to produce a
plurality of enhanced images comprises performing color balance correction on each of
the plurality of initial standardized images, and/or
wherein the processing the plurality of initial standardized images to produce a
plurality of enhanced images comprises performing color matching on each of the
plurality of initial standardized images.
20. The method as claimed in claim 15, comprising:
receiving input from the customer; and
displaying output to the customer, and/or comprising:
receiving from the user a selection of a particular one of a plurality of image data
input means (110); and
using the selected image data input means (110) as the image data input means
(110) for receiving the at least one input image from the customer, and/or
wherein the at least one input image comprises a plurality of input images, and wherein
the method comprises:
receiving a selection from the customer of a subset of the plurality of input
images; and
printing the selected subset of the plurality of input images, and/or comprising:
converting the at least one input image into at least one standardized image
having a standardized file format; and
communicating with server means according to a client-server protocol, the server
means comprising image file processing means for processing the at least one

standardized image to produce at least one processed image, the server means comprising
means for transmitting the at least one processed image to the output means (160) for
printing.
21. The method as claimed in claim 15, wherein the printing at least one input image
comprises:
printing information other than the at least one input image on a first section of
the receiver element (210) using fewer than all of the plurality of thermal print heads
(216); and
printing the at least one input image from the customer on a second section of the
receiver element, and preferably
wherein the information other than the at least one input image comprises a receipt for
the customer, and preferably
wherein the information other than the at least one input image comprises promotional
material.
22. A method implemented by a digital photo-printing vending machine, the method
comprising:
receiving an input image from a digital camera provided by a customer;
printing the input image to produce a digital photograph; and providing the digital
photograph to the customer.
23. The method as claimed in claim 22, wherein the receiving comprises receiving the
digital camera into a receptacle, the receptacle including an electrical connector for
connecting to an output port of the digital camera, and/or
wherein the receiving comprises receiving an input image from a digital camera
over a wireless connection, and/or comprising:
withholding the digital camera from the customer subsequent to printing the input
image.
24. The method as claimed in claim 23, comprising:

preventing the digital camera from capturing additional digital photographs, and
wherein the preventing comprises:
identifying the number of digital photographs stored within a memory of the
digital camera;
determining whether the identified number of digital photographs exceeds a
maximum number of digital photographs; and
preventing the digital camera from capturing additional digital photographs if it is
determined that the identified number of digital photographs exceeds the maximum
number of digital photographs, or
wherein the preventing comprises:
identifying an amount of time that the digital camera has been in use;
determining whether the identified amount of time exceeds a maximum amount of
time; and
preventing the digital camera from capturing additional digital photographs if it is
determined that the identified amount of time exceeds the maximum amount of time.
A thermal printer is disclosed which includes a plurality of thermal print heads, each of
the plurality of thermal print heads being operable to print a distinct one of a plurality of
colors. The plurality of thermal print heads may print output at a plurality of spatial
resolutions. The thermal printer may include dot size varying perceived levels of color
printed by the thermal printer by varying sizes of dots printed by the plurality of thermal
print heads. The printer may perform various image processing steps on an image to be
printed, such as tone scale adjustment, thermal history control, and common mode
voltage correction, to improve the perceived quality of the printed image. The thermal
printer may be incorporated into a digital photo-printing vending machine for printing
images provided by a customer.

Documents:

280-KOL-2005-(05-12-2011)-ABSTRACT.pdf

280-KOL-2005-(05-12-2011)-AMANDED CLAIMS.pdf

280-KOL-2005-(05-12-2011)-CORRESPONDENCE.pdf

280-KOL-2005-(05-12-2011)-FORM-1.pdf

280-KOL-2005-(05-12-2011)-FORM-2.pdf

280-KOL-2005-(05-12-2011)-FORM-3.pdf

280-KOL-2005-(05-12-2011)-FORM-5.pdf

280-KOL-2005-ABSTRACT 1.1.pdf

280-kol-2005-abstract 1.2.pdf

280-kol-2005-abstract 1.3.pdf

280-kol-2005-abstract.pdf

280-kol-2005-amanded claims 1.3.pdf

280-kol-2005-amanded claims.pdf

280-kol-2005-assignment 1.2.pdf

280-kol-2005-assignment 1.3.pdf

280-KOL-2005-ASSIGNMENT-1.4.pdf

280-kol-2005-assignment.pdf

280-KOL-2005-CLAIMS.pdf

280-kol-2005-correspondence 1.3.pdf

280-KOL-2005-CORRESPONDENCE 1.4.pdf

280-kol-2005-correspondence 1.5.pdf

280-KOL-2005-CORRESPONDENCE-1.1.pdf

280-KOL-2005-CORRESPONDENCE-1.2.pdf

280-KOL-2005-CORRESPONDENCE-1.3.pdf

280-KOL-2005-CORRESPONDENCE-1.5.pdf

280-kol-2005-correspondence.pdf

280-KOL-2005-DESCRIPTION (COMPLETE) 1.1.pdf

280-kol-2005-description (complete) 1.2.pdf

280-kol-2005-description (complete) 1.3.pdf

280-kol-2005-description (complete).pdf

280-KOL-2005-DRAWINGS 1.1.pdf

280-kol-2005-drawings 1.2.pdf

280-kol-2005-drawings 1.3.pdf

280-kol-2005-drawings.pdf

280-KOL-2005-EXAMINATION REPORT-1.1.pdf

280-kol-2005-examination report.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 1 1.1.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 1 1.2.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 1 1.3.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 1-1.2.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 1-1.4.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 1.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 13-1.1.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 13-1.3.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 13.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 18.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 2 1.1.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 2 1.2.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 2 1.3.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 2.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 26.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 3-1.2.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 3.1.1.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 3.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 5 1.1.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 5-1.1.pdf

280-kol-2005-form 5.pdf

280-KOL-2005-FORM 6.pdf

280-KOL-2005-GPA-1.2.pdf

280-kol-2005-gpa.pdf

280-KOL-2005-GRANTED-ABSTRACT.pdf

280-KOL-2005-GRANTED-CLAIMS.pdf

280-KOL-2005-GRANTED-DESCRIPTION (COMPLETE).pdf

280-KOL-2005-GRANTED-DRAWINGS.pdf

280-KOL-2005-GRANTED-FORM 1.pdf

280-KOL-2005-GRANTED-FORM 2.pdf

280-KOL-2005-GRANTED-SPECIFICATION.pdf

280-kol-2005-others 1.2.pdf

280-kol-2005-others 1.3.pdf

280-KOL-2005-OTHERS DOCUMENTS.pdf

280-KOL-2005-OTHERS.pdf

280-kol-2005-pa 1.1.pdf

280-KOL-2005-PA.pdf

280-KOL-2005-PRIORITY DOCUMENT.pdf

280-KOL-2005-REPLY TO EXAMINATION REPORT 1.1.pdf

280-kol-2005-reply to examination report.pdf

280-kol-2005-specification.pdf

280-kol-2005-translated copy of priority document.pdf


Patent Number 252346
Indian Patent Application Number 280/KOL/2005
PG Journal Number 19/2012
Publication Date 11-May-2012
Grant Date 09-May-2012
Date of Filing 06-Apr-2005
Name of Patentee Senshin Captial,LLC
Applicant Address 2711. CENTERVILLE ROAD, SUITE 400, WILMINIGTON, DE 19808, USA
Inventors:
# Inventor's Name Inventor's Address
1 BUSCH BRIAN D 582 PEAKHAM ROAD, SUDBURY, MA 01776, USA
2 BOUCHARD ALAIN 27 PARK DRIVE, APT.12, BOSTON, MA 02215, USA
3 BYBELL DANIEL P. 40 WARREN STREET, MEDFORD, MA 02155, USA
4 DEYOUNG ANEMARIE 6 RAYMOND STREET, LEXIGTON, MA 02420
5 LAWRENCE SANDRA B. 20 ARMORY STREET, BROOKINE, MA 02446, USA
6 REISCH MICHAEL L. 53 NATHAN LANE, CARLISLE, MA 01741, USA
7 SAQUIB SUHAIL S. 33 TROWBRIDGE LANE, SHREWSBURY, MA 01545, USA
8 SCHUH DANA F. 16 PARTRIDGE ROAD, WINDHAM, NH 03087, USA
9 TELFER STEPHEN J. 40 COLLEGE AVENUE, ARLINGTON, MA 02474, USA
10 THORNTON JAY E 56 LINCOLN STREET, WATERTOWN, MA 02474, USA
11 VETTERLING WILLIAM T. 35 TURNING MILL ROAD, LEXINGTON, MA 02420, USA
12 VIOLA MICHAEL S. 2 MCCARTHY DRIVE, BURLINGTON, MA 01803, USA
PCT International Classification Number B41J 002/37
PCT International Application Number N/A
PCT International Filing date
PCT Conventions:
# PCT Application Number Date of Convention Priority Country
1 09/872,424 2001-05-30 U.S.A.
2 10/080,883 2002-02-22 U.S.A.