One man’s journey...
...through business photocopiers, printers, and MFPs
I first started using business printers as a director of a charity back in the early 1990s and a lot has changed. The Xerox photocopier was a massive, expensive thing that served several organisations in the same building, literally just copying documents and images, occasionally enlarging or reducing sizes, and generating a lot of heat.
A lot of heat. The staff had the window open almost permanently. This is because laser photocopiers use heat to fuse toner powder to the paper to produce the text or image printout. That is also why you have to wait for around 20 seconds for a laser printer or copier to heat up before you can begin printing, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
As computers and print processes advanced, I acquired a Hewlett Packard (now HP) 386 PC with an 85MB hard drive (that was a lot of capacity back then, yes really!), Windows 3.1, and a small Canon bubble jet printer that connected to my PC and was ideal for producing a few pages of print. However, if I needed to replicate them for meetings or seminars, I still walked down two flights of stairs to the photocopier.
Then came the digital world of the 20th Century, and I was connected to a Local Area Network (LAN) with other users and the new generation of networked photocopiers. I could now print text and graphics, in mono (black and white) or colour, straight to the photocopier. Over time, we used Canon, Toshiba, Sharp and Konica Minolta photocopiers. They were convenient, increased the amount of printing we could do in-house, and probably the amount of printing everybody did overall. Environmental concerns were left to a few prophets of doom.
Photocopiers became faster, the network connections more reliable, and we all did more printing than ever. We added a booklet finisher that could fold and staple multiple pages together to form a professional looking booklet, ideal for training sessions, information leaflets, etc. We had the option to add more paper feed trays for different sizes or types of paper, and even a bulk feeder to cater for larger print jobs.
Soon, we were able to scan text or an image and send it back to our PCs. Next, we were able to connect the fax line to the photocopier and send faxes direct from the machine. Photocopiers had been transformed into multifunctional devices (MFDs). Then came the internet via a stable always-on broadband connection. Now you could print to the photocopier from a different city!
Security was now an issue too. The more connectivity you provided, the more opportunities for bad actors to steal information from your MFD via those connections. Information is stored on the internal hard drives of your photocopier even after you have collected your printed pages from the machine. Many devices now allow you to store commonly used forms and documents on the hard drive too. GPDR made it your responsibility to protect all of that data and encryption was added to combat the problem. However, even today, not all devices are fully protected and that is worth investigating when you next replace your printer or MFP.
Cheap inkjet printers from Epson, HP, Canon, Brother, and many others now dominated the domestic print market (today, HP accounts for around 48% of the domestic desktop printer market), but they weren’t a patch on the quality or speed of our desktop laser printers or office photocopiers. A few early attempts to introduce inkjets to business faltered on both speed and quality.
Then I moved across the table, working for businesses selling printers and photocopiers. I have since worked on campaigns promoting Epson, Develop, HP, Lexmark, Kyocera, Oki, Sharp, and Toshiba. Many manufacturers changed the MFD to MFP, as “device” was seen as too generic and, and at their heart, these machines were printers that were capable of many other functions too. Therefore, we now call them Multifunction Printers, or MFPs, unless you occasionally slip back to calling them copiers or photocopiers.
Today we live in a digital world of streaming services and emails, and two of the more recent developments are in digital management of the print fleet and the digital documents the scanners produce.
As I mentioned previously, the greater availability has meant an explosion in printed pages, but how many of those lie uncollected on the printer and end up in the bin? So no sign of the much talked about paperless office, yet. However, management solutions, such as MyQ and PaperCut, allow businesses to actively manage their print fleet, setting rules and defaults that are both cost saving and conscious of the environmental impact of printing. Printers can be set to default to double sided printing, saving paper, or printing in mono rather than colour, as this is usually cheaper.
Other options might include print release, where pages are not printed until the person types their pin into the printer or swipes their ID card, if that function and hardware has been added. PaperCut claims that up to 2022, print release in the various editions of PaperCut had saved the equivalent to 280,000 trees from being cut down for paper.
The solutions also offer the capacity to rollout printer updates remotely, monitor and produce reports on print fleet activity. Reports may include the whole print fleet, a specific group or department, individual machines, or even individual users. This level of specificity also allows usage to be charged back to a department or person and is widely used on university campuses to charge student usage back to a prepaid card.
The other digital solution I mentioned was document or content management. When I scan a document, it creates a PDF, a digital version of that document, and sends it to a USB memory stick, or to my work email account, or via the LAN to a folder on my my laptop or the company server. Now we're getting technical, and, yes, I eventually progressed from a desk bound PC to a laptop. Now I can even work from home, though that is sometimes of dubious benefit. I digress. I can scan in many other document types as well, including JPEGs, often used for images like photos and graphics.
However, my team and I scan so many documents that finding where we eventually stored them can be a time consuming problem and that is where software solutions like DocuWare and Square 9 come in. They are digital management systems that can organise all your digital documents and other digital content, such as photos, graphics, music tracks, videos, etc. These are often referred to either as Document Management Solutions, or as Enterprise Content Solutions, depending on how global the content being managed is.
Documents can be scanned with Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which turns your document image into something that can be searched for words and phrases. These can be used both to organise your digital documents and to allow your staff to perform very rapid searches, perhaps for customer information, invoices, statements, or reports. The result can be a significant increase in productivity and lead to improvements in both staff and customer satisfaction rates.
Today, much of my work centres on the new generation of business inkjet printers by Epson. Yes, I know I said the first generation of business inkjet printers were not fit for purpose, and that is still true of manufacturers who use that technology. However, the Seiko Epson Corporation have a long history of innovation using crystals in technology, starting with their watches, where running a small electric current through a quartz crystal caused the movement that powered the hands of the watch.
The new generation of Epson business inkjet printers use Epson’s PrecisionCore™, the latest version of that technology, to shoot quick drying ink at the paper from thousands of minute nozzles. Using ink, rather than toner, means there is no fuser to heat up and no heat used to fuse the toner to paper. This Heat-Free technology is at the heart of a whole new range of business inkjet printers, from desktop printers to office MFPs and 100 page per minute production print systems.
No heat means no waiting for the MFP to warm up. That means they use up to 83% less energy than a laser printer or photocopier. Ink instead of toner has allowed Epson to replace the toner cartridges with high yield ink packs that mean replacing consumables far less often than on a laser printer. Epson have simplified the paper path, reducing the number of moving parts that might ever need replacing. Fewer replacement parts and ink packs means less downtime and fewer service calls or deliveries, reducing the carbon miles travelled by vans and your businesses carbon footprint.
Yes, we finally come back to the environmental impact of our print choices. Around 10% of the typical office’s energy consumption is accounted for by the printers and copiers. Therefore, we have a choice of hot and energy hungry lasers, even those that are now Energy Star Rated, or Epson’s Heat-Free range of printers and MFPs that use up to 83% less energy, reducing business energy bills. At the time of writing, we are just, possibly, over the peak of the energy crisis, but small and medium sized businesses and even large institutions like universities are struggling to survive.
Epson’s business inkjet range of WorkForce devices range from small A4 desktop printers and MFPs, covering entry level A3 MFPs and mid-range 40 to 60 page per minute MFPs, up to 75 and 100 page per minute production level MFPs. All Heat-Free. Something you can read more about on our website or Epson’s, also covering their collaboration with Cambridge university and the Nation Geographic on the topic of climate change, global warming, and the steps businesses can take to address their own environmental impact.
Epson’s Heat-Free business inkjet printers:
Save up to 83% on print related energy
Save up to 96% on consumables waste
Save up to 98% on user intervention
Lower your Carbon Footprint