Caution on Buying Artpro Nail Printers (or any nail printer for that matter)
After seeing the printer at the CES show, did you consider buying an Artpro Nail Machine? Or leasing the Nail Tat'z Machine (its the same machine as the Artpro Nail printers, they are the US distributors of the machine)? How about being a GlamourNail Franchisee (they don't use Artpro Nail Printers but a branded Fingerstar machines) ? What about becoming a Fingernails2go owner (uses Artpro Nail Machine)? Well, think again. After spending a year with these machines and doing many years of research, I can tell you they are not worth the expense or consideration.
What do these printers do?
Simply put these printers can print any image you desire directly on your fingernails. Prior to printing, nails are prepped with a coat of white nail polish than a specialty nail polish ( that helps the ink stick to your fingernail). Once the nail polishes dry, you place your finger in the machine and print. When the machine works, its simply amazing to see a small detailed picture printed on your fingernail.
Examples of the Machines in Use
The Following Videos show various nail printers in action: Guangzhou Taiji Electronics' Artpro Nail Printer (Video 1 - 3), D&Tech's Fingerstar Nail Printer (Video 4), Generic Chinese 5 Finger Printer (Video 5), ImagiNail (Video 6), Mattel's Barbie Printer (Video 7), Atlus' Nailmore Machine start at 0:40 (Video 8), Fingers2go (Video 9), & GlamourNail Promo Video (Video 10)
Business Viability - Very Low
While nail printers seem like a "cash cow" on the surface. If you look deeper, you'll quickly realize they are more like "money pits." Three major companies, over the past decade, have tried to make money off of nail machines but failed terribly; due to nail printing services being too time consuming, too prone to failure, and lack of technical support. Plus there are a bevy of USA, Australian, European, and Latin American companies buying cheap unstable Asian nail printers in bulk, re-painting them with their logo, hiring high pressure sale reps, and hitting trade shows to dupe business owners in buying these machine. In the headlines below, I'll go into specific detail on how and why these companies failed, why you should be skeptical of local Asian nail printer distributors, and why you shouldn't try to get into this very problematic industry.
Japan Tried the Mall, it failed
In the late 90s, Atlus, a Japanese company world renowned for their video games and innovated automatic entertainment solutions, came up with NailMore. A self serviced machine that can print images directly to fingernails, one nail at a time. NailMore was the first nail printer specifically made to place in Japanese Malls, Arcades, and other public spaces; costing $3 for one print. The machine launched in July 1999 in Japan, later that year it launched in South Korea and Hong Kong. Although the machine was cute and well marketed, Nailmore failed to catch on as anticipated and was phrased out in the mid-00s. Since NailMore was the most viable nail printer ever produce, it was highly imitated by Korea and Chinese companies; D&Tech's Fingerstar Machine, as well as Australian based Glamournail vending machine, are complete ripoffs of Atlus' NailMore machine.
The NailMore wasn't the only nail art machine in Japan, in 2003 Plenty Inc introduced the Nail Art Club Machine. It worked less like an inkjet printer but more like a huge Konad Stamper. It uses dies cuts to make design impressions and squirts ink on the die; the ink is similar to nail polish. After the ink passes over the die, the impression is placed on a stamp that stamps on top of a finger. For $3, you can get two fingers done. There were 100 machines placed in the Kanto and Kansai area of Japan. It was promoted in the magazines, news, and even featured on a major teen interest site but the nail art machine failed to catch on.
Why did the Japanese nail art machines fail? While, it can't be because the machines weren't well made. Japan is known for being leaders in the self-serving vending world by making highly intelligent vending machines.Both companies had a team of talented engineers who test-marketed the product very carefully. It can't be due to lack of promotion. Again, both companies had strong media contacts and got their machines routinely featured in the tv shows, the news, popular magazines, and placed in high traffic areas. Atlus teamed up with a famous actress, at the time, to help promote their machines.
The main problem was and will always be the time factor. Nails have to be painted with a few coats of white nail polish and then topped off with a clear polish that allows the ink to stick to the nails. It takes about 10 - 15 minutes to apply the polishes and let them dry. After nails are ready, it will take around 2-3 minutes to get one nail printed; all 10 nails would take 25 - 30 minutes. And that's only if all the nails printed right on their first try. In total this process can take 45 - 60 minutes to complete. In a mall kiosk or arcade environment, that's way too much time to waste. So most people tried the nail machines once, purely for novelty, but failed to come back.
ImagiNail tried the Nail Salon, it failed
In the late 90s, Mark Mombourquette and his friends sought to create a nail printer that would revolutionize the nail industry. Their work created the Imaginail, a printer made for Nail Salon Owners that could print on five nails at a time. A company formed around Mombourquette's invention lead by an ambitious entrepreneur with dual bachelor degrees and an MBA.
The company hit the nail convention scene with gusto in the early 00s, impressing many with great tech demos. They were featured on the Today Show, Tech TV, and other talk shows around the world.Nail salon owners who felt intimidated by doing handmade nail art, were very impressed with the machine. A few took out small loans to get one; machine was priced at $7,000. It takes about 15 - 20 minutes (prepping and painting the nails, waiting for the nails to dry, setting the hands into the machine, finding a design, and etc) to get a set of 10 nails done. Unlike the mall, the time factor wasn't a big deal since nail salons patrons are more patient than the general public.
Example of Print on Nails
However, Imaginail failed to catch on. Why? The nail printer has a steep learning curve and requires expensive proprietary materials to operate (ink cartridges, ink receptor nail polish (this makes the ink stick to the fingernail), and will need specific machine parts or repair in case of failure/repair). Overall, it's cheaper for salon owners to attend nail art workshops (or watch nail art videos on Youtube for free) or hire a nail artist than buy the Imaginail printer. A decent nail artist can charge $2 -$5 per nail; using the nail art is an add-on service to a $20 manicure. For nail techs that aren't artistically inclined, there is Minx; high resolution pre-designed nail wraps (stickers) applied to nails via heat. Minx training isn't expensive nor time consuming (about 2 hours) and a salon can charge $60 to get a full set of Minx done. Finally, most nail patrons found the whole digital nail art ugly (some images would come out looking distorted or fuzzy) and generally like simple designs placed on their nail.
Imaginail sold their company to Salonique in 2006. The inventor of the nail machine went on to start a Flatbed printer company, Belquette. While the Imaginail has been re-branded as Salonique Nail Jet Pro and is still available for sale.
Mattel tried at home, it failed
In late 2009, Mattel launched their Barbie Dolled Up Nail Printer. The nail printer was made by Lexmark, a billion dollar printer company, specifically for Mattel.
Mattel brought the machine to the 2009 Toy fair, where it impressed convention visitors. After the toy show as over, the Barbie Doll up Nail Printer was placed on every major publications' 2009 Christmas Toy List; ads were run on tv and featured in magazines. Sure it was costly at $199.99 but it was the first consumer nail printer introduced to the US market. The nail printer sold relatively well but returns were rampant for the printer, customers inundation Mattel's customer support service for help, many complained of the ink's price ($29.99 + $3.99 for Mattel Parts Direct site), and it garnered low reviews online. The machine was quickly discountinued in 2011.
Why did it fail? Much like Japan's nail printer machines, Barbie's nail printer was created with an impressive amount of tech know-how. So the machine wasn't faulty. The problem is: Natural Fingernails, unlike computer paper, comes in different shapes and sizes. So it takes trial and error to get nails printed properly with this or any nail machine. In order to get the perfect print, you must understand how to properly align your fingernail with the nail printer. Depending on a person's attitude and tech savvy-ness it can take hours, days, or weeks to master. For those who get the hang of the machine, they enjoyed it immensely. However for the average Barbie consumer, girls 8 - 12 years old, the learning curve was way too high. So the printer failed.
Selling as "business opportunities," fail
Being a US Distributor for Artpro Nail and other Asian Nail Printers
Artpro Nail Printers are the most popular nail machines carried by US distributors. Compared to the other nail printers, they look the most presentable, are more stable, and are relatively cheap ($2,500 each). Guangzhou Taiji Electronics, the Chinese company that makes the machine, is very active on the US trade show scene and very friendly to Western buyers. They will give "exclusive" territory partnership to anyone who buys a lot of machines from them and re-brand them with the company name. However, the "branded" printers really give you no edge and the "exclusivity" is only limited to small time sales. As all the distributors machines look identical to each one in every way and Guagzhou Taiji Electronics will still sale directly to customers wishing to buy 10+ machines at one time. Finally, Guangzhou Taiji Electronics will give you little to none post sale support. So when your customers' machines won't work anymore, you're basically on your own.
In fact, every US distributor who sold Artpro Nail machines has gone out of business. The nail printers are somewhat easy to sell but hard to provide support for. The amount of man hours needed to solve the various problems with this machine, without the aid of the original manufacturer, eats up any profits one would get from selling it. The latest "exclusive" US distributor of the Artpro Nail Machine is Nail Tat'z. Fingernails2go, or FN2G, distributes their branded version of these machines in UK. Nail Tat'z will lease units ($200 per month, locked into a four year lease agreement) or sale units (approx. $6,000). FN2G wants to sell you a franchise license rather than have you buy machines individually. Their licenses start at $20,000 to $100,000. However seeing at what the Artpro Nail printer sells for used (which you can get used for $300 - $750 on eBay or Craigslist) doesn't seem worth it. Nail Tat'z and FN2G aren't household names. Both companies don't own the patents to nail technology and do not offer much post-sale support. So, you're better off buying used Artpro nail machines on eBay or buying new ones directly from Artpro Nails company for $2,500. As there is no added value in buying from these distributors.
D&Tech's Finger Star Machine cost around $3,000 - $5,000. This machine is a rip off of the Atlus' Japanese Nailmore machine (made in 1999). They are generally owned and distributed to Koreans or Korean-Americans in the US. I'm unsure of their support but I do know that South Koreans tend to be very supportive of their own. You may have seen these machines in Korean Town shops. There was one in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo Mall (now owned by Korean-Americans) but has since been removed from the mall. These machines are designed to be self-serviced with an cash and/or debit card receptor on board. However, they are better manned as its hard for new users to figure out how to get a good print. These machine are mostly sold to Korean-Americans to put in their stores or in a mall kiosk.
However in late 2011, Glamour Nail Vending company began franchising their branded version of the Fingernail machine to Western audience. By investing $20,000 - $100,000, this Hong Kong registered but Australian based company promised "territory" rights for their nail machines.This is a MAJOR RIP OFF, considering that you can buy the finger star machine, which aside from a few cosmetic changes is identical to the Glamournail machine in every way; from a Korean contact for about $6,000 with plenty of room for negotiations. I'll expand more on the business practices of Glamournail and its eerily similar counterpart Fingernails2go, later on in this article.
Flat bed nail printer
Maple Nail Art Printer, goes by others names but that one is the most common, costs $800 (without LCD screen) - $1600 (with LCD screen). It works similar to the Imaginail printer as it can printer five nails at a time. However unlike the Imaginail printer, it can also print on small objects like cellphones, flowers, and etc. This machine, like all nail printers, is frothed with mechanical problems and instability. It can work but not in a constant manner to build a business off of. Also, the manufacturer is a nameless Chinese company who offers no support whatsoever.
If your business relies on a machine, than you want to be sure that you have the support of the company who makes it. So if the machine breakdown or runs out of supplies, you'll know exactly who to go to. Well when you are dealing with Asian Nail Printer manufacturers that type of support doesn't exist. If a distributor can't get decent support from the manufacturer, then they will be unable to give support to their customers. If they are unable to offer support to their customers, they will go out of business.
For Party Rentals, not worth the time
Renting or using nail machines for parties, isn't a bad idea. Nearly everyone who owns a nail machine ends up doing this, as its the only real way to make some sort of money off those machines. I-Nail Mall Kiosk and The Painted Nail salon do this in California.
However, getting an adequate print to show up on nails takes a lot of practice. So you'll need to have an experienced assistant (or guest if you are lucky) help others print their nails. In the videos above, the patrons that got the best prints were guided by an expert. A new person trying out the machine for the first time won't be that lucky. As you can imagine someone all dressed up for the party, coming off disappointed because their nail didn't print right; like being off centered like the picture shows to the right or blurry like the one in this link.
Also, the more you move the printer the more likely you will need to re-align it. Re-aligning the printer is a pain and the nail machines with a large LCD display weighs over 80 lbs. You'll also need to have more than 1 machines to rent out for parties with assistants available to man the machine. You'll need a lot of machines because people will tend to rent them on weekends or long holidays. You'll need to provide an assistant because only those who've spend a proper amount of time will know how to get the best prints from it. Having a few assistants, a nice number of machines on hand, and being available to work every weekend and holiday is going to eat into your profits. For the time and money invested, you can find an easier and more profitable way to make money in the nail business.
Nail Printer Franchises: Empty Promises - Glamournail, Fingernails2go, and other future nail printer franchise companies
The names may change but the modus operandi stays the same. The Nail Printer Franchise's business model goes as follows: Buy a few generic Asian nail printers at $1,000 - $3,000 a piece , re-brand them as their own, create flashy marketing materials to woo buyers, go to conventions and hire attractive women to walk around the place modeling fingernails prints, then sell franchises to bedazzled entrepreneurs for $20,000 or more. Nail printers make great tech demos. So its so easy to understand why this business model works initially. However, its destined to fail in the long run for the franchisor and franchisee.
As I explained earlier, there are a many problems facing the nail printing entrepreneur. For the franchisor, their franchise licenses don't offer much value. Here's why:
- Franchisors don't own or license the patents for nail printing technology. This makes it easy for them to be sued by the original copyright holders or make it easier for competitors to enter the nail printing market.
- Nail manufacturers are willing to sell bulk machines directly to anyone willing to pay. Anybody who can spend $10,000 can can enter the nail printing machine market.
- The nail printers are made from altered 3rd party software, secondary generic parts, and modified HP printer parts. Since this machine was built with hodgepodge parts, randomly occurring program glitches are plentiful with no explanations on how to resolve them from the manufacturer. They don't know because they haven't fully tested out these machines. So a franchisor needs to be savvy enough to learn how to diagnose and handle printer problems on their own. However, nail franchisers often have a sales or beauty industry background; which means they deeply lack the engineer skills needed to successfully repair and maintain these machines for others. Again, these machines are not plug and play devices.
- The franchise business model relies on deception to sell machines. The truth is nail printers are not the self-serve "easy money" solutions they are sold to be. They are costly too maintain, too time consuming for the kiosk customer to appreciate, and are too faulty to build a business off of. After a few months of low sales and a nail printer malfunction, franchisees will quickly become disillusioned and voice their criticism about your company being a scam online.
Subsequently, Glamournail vending company went out of business in early 2013. Most of it was due to fraud allegations, in which franchisees say the owner took their money and never gave them a machine. Funny thing about nail printing franchise companies is outside of beauty conventions, its rare to see their machines in the real world. Maybe because they know that nail printers aren't the money making machine they market them to be. If these machines were indeed money makers, they would all be owned 100% by a huge company (who would seek ownership of all the nail printing patents and proactively sue competitors) and no franchise licenses would be not be available. Think about it. Outside snacks, candy, and drinks, unique and successful vending ideas are extremely rare. So when a unique vending idea became a success, they are never franchised (ex. Redbox and Coinstar) .
Fingersnails2go, started by a person duped by Glamournail, eerily mimics Glamournails marketing strategy. This company is based in the UK and started in 2013. Like Glamournail, they are interested in selling franchises for territory rights. Unlike Glamournail, there has been at least 1 real world sighting of the machine, in Westwood shopping center in the UK. So if you give them some money, you'll probably get a machine. The odds of you making huge sums of money off of it, is very slim. This company uses Artpro Nail Printers which have been built into a kiosk custom stand. Here's a Video Demo-ing Fingernails2Go machine. If you live in the UK and are interested in the viability of this machine, its worth a visit to Westwood to see it in person.
Artpro Nail Printers Specific Problems
Artpro Nail Machines are the most popular nail printing machines that independent distributors sell. They do work but they don't work consistently enough to build a business off of. A bad utility program, low accessibility to supplies, its weight, software glitches, and zero tech support are the major problems with this machine.
Managing the Printer: The back end utility programs is not user friendly. Aligning the printer is tedious. The instruction manual's directions are pretty clueless and the on-screen adjustments aren't very clear. This is a critical operating system flaw because if your printer is misaligned than its won't print properly on nails. This makes aligning the printer an endless trial and error game full of frustrations, time, and wasted ink. When the printer won't align, you have no idea of knowing rather its because of a software glitch, a defective ink cartridge, or hardware problems. A few lessor but equally annoying utility problems are: the ability to "nozzle check" without the option of "head cleaning" and the inability to check current cartridge's "ink levels."
Finding Ink Cartridges:The Artpro Nail Printer uses HP ink cartridges that you can buy at any store. That's true if you live in China. American HP cartridges will not work in that machine and you will have to rely on the US Distributor to carry these cartridges. If the distributor goes out of business, which many of them do within a few years, you are out of an ink source.
Weight: With printers getting smaller and smaller, it doesn't make any sense why these printers weigh 80+ lbs. Most of the weight is due to the steel case the printer sets in as the insides of the printer itself is relatively bare. The printers unnecessary weight makes it difficult to move around easy and costly to ship for support issues or to sale. It's also amazing to me that the Artpro Nail printer has been out for almost 10 years but yet there has been no major attempts to update the machine's form or software.
Software glitches: The low amount of memory in the printer causes a lot of software glitches. Getting images off memory cards that carry 1MB or more can cause the machine to crash. Re-installing and installing new images permanently on the machine can cause it to crash . Doing 8 "nozzle checks" in a row can cause the machine to run out of memory and crash. So can test printing (for re-alignment) 10 times in a row. Uploading 8+ images, temporarily, and attempting to print all 8+ in one go, will cause it to crash as well.
Zero Tech Support:Finally, when your machine messes up, the only tech support offered is through a phone call and parts fedex'ed to your address. Unless you have engineering skills, installing new parts is going to be a bit of a challenge. However, its rare that you will receive help of any kind. As the nail printer company (and its US distributor) have never properly tested these machines (in the real world). So they are probably just as clueless as you on how to fix the machine's most complex problems.
Potential Legal Issues
If you search for nail printer patents on Google, you'll quickly find Atlus' (NailMore machine creators) , Belquette's (Imaginail Nail Printer makers), Mattel, and Casio (another Japanese company) US patents. Their patents even mention or reference each other. But you will not find patents from Guangzhou Taiji Electronics, Glamour Nail, Fingernails2Go (FN2G), or any Chinese / Korean nail printer company. A Belquette rep informed me that those companies did not own or have a license for US patents on any nail printing technology and their machines were copyright infringing on the true patent owners. If those companies do own or license patents for nail printing technology in China, Korea, or Australia, its only valid in those countries. Non-US companies wishing to sell patent protected tech in the US, must file for a patent here. Otherwise, they are open to suits by those who own or license the patents in the United States.
Nailmore vs. Glamournail
Therefore, if you were to buy these Asian nail printer knockoffs and by some miracle turned them into a great success. The people who own the patents for nail printing technology, would sue you in the US. So would HP and Lexmark because these Asian nail printers use an illegally modified version of each companies' printer. The same thing goes with the Glamournail machine, which copyright infrignes on Atlus' NailMore Machine through and through. In all honesty, it doesn't matter if these company win or lose when suing you. They will cause you to waste an extreme amount of time and money in defending their suits.
The bottom line is there is no "easy money" in nail printing services. Many companies led by very smart and ambitious people have tried but cash in on it but all have failed. Japan tried the mall and it didn't catch on there; a country that loves technology as much as they love Nail Art. Imaginail tried the nail salon and failed; because selling Minx or hand made nail art is far more profitable in a salon. Mattel tried selling personal home machines but failed; because nail printers aren't exactly "plug n play" devices. Being a regional distributor is a failure due the cost of supporting these machines are frighteningly high and the manufacturer's willingness to sell directly to others (competing against you for major sales). Using nail machines as a party rental is too time consuming. Finally, the only people who profit by selling nail machines are the Asian Nail machine manufacturers. Their business model is to sell others the nail machines, built using the cheapest materials, without offering any type of support.
If you were able to manufacturer, promote, and distribute nail machines for home use towards tech savvy 18 -34 year olds. You could make money but that would require millions of dollars worth of development, a legal team to buy or license nail printing patents, having a large marketing campaign, and having a team of knowledgeable customer service reps. All of the things that the average entrepreneur doesn't have.
- Atlus of Japan releases Nail More, 07/1999
- Nail-art machines from Japan to hit H.K. in Dec
- Atlus' latest offering fueling fingertip fetish
- Japan's Nail Art Club Machine
- A Blogger's Experience with the Nail Art Club Machine
- ImagiNail Sold to Salonique, after operating for only 4 years
- Inventor of Imaginail Printer
- E Solutions Develops Software for ImagiNail(TM) Corporation's NailJet Pro(TM) Nail Decorating System
- Minx Nail Trend
- Former Artpro Nail Distributor's Experience
- Nailing a New Idea, Texas based Company makes mall kiosk with Artpro Nail Printers
- Alibaba list of Generic Chinese Nail Printers Sellers
- Digital Nail Printers Considered Tacky
- California Company has Mall Kiosk and does Party Rentals using Fingerstar Machines
- Glamournail Vending Scam
- Lash Girl's A- Review of the Barbie Nail Machine
- eBay prices on Artpro Nail Printer (Used) - July 2012
- Craigslist Post for a Artpro Printer - $399
New Guestbook Comments
newproductguide on February 22, 2017:
My daughter is setting up a nail business here in Wales.
Thank you for this informative article.
I'll pass it on the here.
Meshi saada on July 17, 2015:
Hey, I want to buy this . How I do it?