The printer manufacturing market seems to be a booming one. Manufacturers are no doubt eyeing expansion and coming up with newer products to capture the burgeoning market. The manufacturers are interested in the colour -printer sector for purely reasons of expansion. There is stiff competition between the makers as all are concentrating to keep the prices low to capture the market. It must be said here that while in the monochrome department Hewlett-Packard co. are the market leaders, the reigning company in the colour segment still remains undecided.
However the future of the colour printer market is purported to be a bright one according to those investing in these companies. The investors are much optimistic, as these printers, using four times the toner cyan, magenta, yellow, and black of a monochrome printer, will produce pictures of a much higher quality. The market, currently a billion dollar industry, will increase manifold.
It goes without saying that that outsourcing of IT and consumer electronic products lower manufacturing costs of the product, which helps lower the prices of the produced good. The question is how low must the producers keep their profit margins in order to stay in the race in today’s colour printing market?
The current analysis lab examined a certain printer at a product volume of 1,20,000 units under the assumption that the model was produced in china. An analysis was made of the procurement costs of commodity components, manufacturing costs of fabricated components and location labour rates. The production cost was estimated to be around £265 / unit. The cost distribution showed the cost of the printer mechanism and its assembly to be about £51. The electronics and assembly account for £60. Other costs included laser power supply, consumables assembly, fuser assembly, paper assembly, control panel assembly electronics assembly, final arrangements, etc.
At the time of launching the product, the product was supposed to be priced at £390. However, Lexmark priced the product at almost half of the originally intended price at some places. To maximize its revenue, the company in a clever move, outfitted the toner with different toner cartridges. The toner content was increased or decreased according to the budget of the customer. The more expensive models containing more toner catered to the demands of the enterprise segment while the lower priced models with low yield cartridges were ideal for small offices and also home users.
The product, being suitably priced, was a great success, perfectly fitted to meet the needs of the buyers and the manufacturers and compete with its competitors in the lucrative colour printer market. Lexmark claimed the print quality was Photorealistic. On account of its chemically processed, spherical toner delivering a 1200*1200 dpi resolution and also because the new print head four lasers in one unit with a mirror. The machine enabled Lexmark to take on the enterprise market as well as their competitors, especially Hewlett-Packard.
Tips On Buying A Printer:
Buying a printer can be a complicated business, there are more shapes, sizes and types of printers available to the home and small business user than ever before. Printers have also become specialised for their intended purpose.
It is no longer a case of “a printer is a printer”. Printers are now designed to be good in a particular area rather than a “Jack-of-all trades”, which will do everything.
An often overlooked issue, is the very serious consideration of cost of ownership, which is all about of how much it will cost to keep your printer running (see below). So making that decision on which printer to go for can be a seriously arduous task, especially if you are keen to buy a printer that is not only affordable to buy but also cheap to run.
So here is the information that you need to know and consider, but no one tells you! We have not expanded on which printer is the best at any given time because models constantly change and you can find that information in any current glossy PC magazine off the shelf. Instead, here you will find the good, bad and ugly bits from the different types of printers available so you can make an informed decision yourself.
Inkjet printers form images by spraying tiny droplets of liquid ink onto paper. The size and precision of the dots of ink and the type and quality of the ink itself govern how good the print quality is. A quality inkjet printer can produce very near photo-quality images using specialist photo coated paper. In general there are two types of inkjet printers, those with the printhead built into the printer like Epson, Brother etc and those where the printhead is actually on the ink cartridge like HP and Lexmark. There are many arguments for and against both technologies, but in our experience we have found both to be very good, the major difference seems to be that the cost of running a printer using the “printhead” type ink cartridge is usually higher.
Inkjet ink is specially formulated for specific printer models and their purpose, much technology is involved in the development of these inks to improve print quality, longevity, drying speeds and printing speeds etc. Most inkjet ink is produced using dye based ink which can flow easily through the tiny nozzles of the printhead, this type of ink is good for photos and colour shades but not so good for longevity or solid vibrant colour, think of it like a water colour painting. In recent years pigment ink technology has advanced considerably to enable use in inkjet printing. Previously ink pigments were too large and would block up the nozzles. This type of ink is good for solid colours and longevity, think of it like an oil painting.
Manufacturers like Epson, HP and Jet Tec are now increasingly using a fusion of dye based and pigmented inks to create superb quality photo printing with vibrant colours and longevity too.
Inkjet printers use anything between two and eight ink cartridges to do their job. Generally speaking the entry-level machines use two cartridges, good all round machines use four and specialist photo printers use six or more. The two cartridge system works fine though can be a bit wasteful on the colour ink, so go for a four-cartridge system where possible especially if you do colour printing. The six or more cartridge systems produce outstanding photos, but can be costly and a pain to keep changing cartridges (printer does not work if any one cartridge is empty).
Inkjet printers are the best solution for most people and are usually the most cost effective way to print – unless you are printing large volumes.
Portable Inkjet Printers
These printers are small, lightweight and ideal for people on the move. Although the printing of high quality photographs is usually beyond this type of printer, basic colour printing is of good quality and the quality of text print is mostly outstanding considering the size of these tiny portable A4 printers. These printers are not suitable for high volume printing.
The Inkjet Printer is the most commonly used type of printer among home and small business users. With excellent all round printing capabilities, from black & white text print and good colour prints through to very hi-resolution, high quality photographs using Inkjet Photo Printers. Inkjet printers are available from cheap entry level to high-end business use machines and can print from photo size prints to massive A2 and bigger sizes, there are models for occasional use and others for high volume print jobs too. One of the many great things about Inkjet printers is that you can use a wide variety of media to print on, including standard paper, photo paper, card, t-shirt transfers, canvas, projector film etc, achieving different looks and textures for your prints and print for different purposes. Most Inkjet printers are USB connections and not suitable for networks, although models are also available for networks and with parallel connections.
Multi-Function Inkjet Printers
Multi-Function Inkjet Printers have been built to meet the needs of home offices and small businesses. These excellent value machines provide multiple solutions in one compact and easy to use machine i.e. printing, scanning, copying and some also have built in fax machines too. Not only are these machines great for saving space on your desk, but they are also very good for printing too using the same technology as standard inkjet printers. The only thing you should be aware of is that you can only use one function at a time and if anything goes wrong with an “All-in-one” machine, you may lose the all the functions at once!
Laser printers work in a similar way to photocopiers, except they use a laser instead of a bright light to scan with. They work by creating an electrostatic image of the page onto a charged photoreceptor, which in turn attracts toner in the shape of an electrostatic charge. Toner is the material used to make the image (as ink is in an inkjet printer) and is a very fine powder, so laser printers use toner cartridges instead of ink cartridges.
Laser Printers have traditionally been the best printing solution for heavy office users as they produce a very high quality black text finish and offer relatively low running costs. However, laser printers have advanced a great deal recently and their prices have steadily dropped, as a result there are now compact laser printers, multi-function and colour laser printers all at very affordable prices. Laser printers make sense if you need to do a lot of high quality black or colour prints, not photos. The great thing about a colour laser printer is that they can print a very good quality colour image on standard copier paper, so you do not need to use expensive photo paper for large jobs. Do check the prices of the consumables before you buy the printer as these can be very expensive for colour laser printers.
Laser printers are the best solution for people who are printing in large volumes, that is, in 100′s of pages at a time or 1000′s of pages per month. Colour lasers also take quite a while to warm up, so are not ideal for printing single pages.
Solid Ink Printers
Solid ink printers use solid wax ink sticks in a “phase-change” process, they work by liquefying wax ink sticks into reservoirs and then squirting the ink onto a transfer drum from where it is cold-fused onto the paper in a single pass. Solid ink printers are marketed almost exclusively by Tektronix / Xerox and are aimed at larger businesses and high volume colour printing.
Solid ink printers used to be cheaper to purchase than similarly specified colour lasers and fairly economical to run owing to a low component usage, today it is not necessarily any cheaper than a colour laser printer. Output quality is good but generally not as good as the best colour lasers for text and graphics or the best inkjets for photographs. Print speeds are not as fast as most colour lasers.
Dye-Sublimation printers use heat and solid colour dyes to produce lab-quality photographic images. Dye-Sub printers contain a roll of transparent film made up of page-sized panels of colour, with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black dye embedded in the film. Print head heating elements vaporize the inks, which adhere to a specially coated paper, as the ink cools it re-solidifies on the paper. Colour intensity is controlled by precise variations in temperature.
Dye-sublimation printers lay down color in continuous tones one color at a time instead of dots of ink like an inkjet, because the colour is absorbed into the paper rather than sitting on the surface, the output is more photo-realistic, more durable and less vulnerable to fading than other ink technologies.
The downside of Dye-Sub printers is that they are generally more expensive to buy and run, usually limited to photo sized prints only and can only print onto one type of specialised paper as well as being quite slow to print.
Dye-Sublimation printers are best for those who want to link up their digital camera to a purpose built printer and print out the finest quality photos at home without fuss.
Dot Matrix Printers
Dot matrix printers are relatively old fashioned technology today with poor quality print, slow and very noisy output. This type of printer is no longer used unless you wish to create invoices using the continuous paper with holes on both sides. The good thing is that they are very cheap to run!
Cost of Ownership
Many printers today are very cheap to buy, but people are sometimes shocked to discover the cost of replacing the consumables (ink or laser cartridges, imaging drums, fuser, oils, specialist papers etc). The cost of replacing the ink can sometimes cost more than the printer itself! This is one of the most commonly overlooked factors when printers are reviewed and yet one of the most important things to consider before handing over your hard earned cash.
A Sheffield City Council report aimed at helping schools decide on the best-value printers to buy, calculated total cost of ownership over the lifetime of a printer (not sure how long that is!). Adding up all the running costs, ink or toner, paper, maintenance and even electricity, SCC worked out that a colour inkjet costs approx 38p per page to run compared to a colour laser which costs approx 7p per page. Sheffield City Council advised its schools that if they printed more than three colour pages a day (assuming a 40-week academic year) they should buy a laser.
These figures cannot be taken hard and fast due to the many variables involved, but it is generally accepted that the cost per print of a laser printer is cheaper than that of an inkjet, which is in turn cheaper than that of a sub-dye printer. However, you would have to do a fair amount of colour printing to take advantage of the economy offered by a laser printer.
- Consider the printer’s DPI (dots per inch) capability, which is the resolution at which it can print photos and documents. The higher DPI (dots per inch) you have, the better quality you will have in either text or photo printouts.
- Consider the cost of ink. When purchasing a new printer, take a moment to compare prices among ink cartridges and make sure that you can afford frequent ink purchases if you plan to do a lot of printing.
- Take a look at the connector and make sure it’s compatible with your system. Most new printers connect via a USB port. Older ones connect using a parallel port, which is not commonly found on new PCs.
- When looking at the cost of ink, also look at the number of pages a single ink cartridge can print. If the page count is high, the cost of the ink may be reasonable. If the page count is low compared to other similar ink cartridges, you may want to select another printer that offers a better performing ink cartridge.
- Check out the warranty. All new electronics, including printers, carry a manufacturer’s warranty. Depending on the company, warranties can be valid anywhere from 90 days to 1 year and may include defects in material and/or workmanship. If your printer fails to perform correctly and develops a problem while under warranty, you will be glad that you saved the paperwork. Always keep the original purchase receipt and warranty information relating to your purchase.
- Buy from a name that you trust. When shopping for any item, it is best to purchase from a manufacturer that you know produces a quality product and especially when it comes to a substantial electronics purchase.
- Consider the size and weight of the printer. This is important for both cleaning general convenience. If your desk is small, you may not want a bulky printer taking up most of your space. At the same time, you may not want to lift on a heavy piece of equipment when cleaning your work station. A lightweight and compact style may be better, especially if your office is at home.
- Make sure that your computer is capable of running the printer software, which means it may require a specific processor type and speed, available memory, etc.
- Make sure that the printer you purchase has all of the features and capabilities that you need. For instance, if your primary goal is to produce realistic photos and you also plan to print written documents from time to time, consider the purchase of a photo printer. You can change the quality of printing to suit either images or documents or even a combination of both if you plan to print photo newsletters.
- Make sure that the printer has all of the necessary connector cables and that you will not need to buy any additional hardware prior to finalizing your purchase. If you need to purchase a USB cable, which is often the case with many new printers, you will want to purchase it at the same time to save on shipping if ordering online or having to make a special trip if you purchase locally.
- As a general rule, black ink cartridges are more affordable than color toner. When considering which to purchase, take a moment to think about how you will be using your printer. Will your printouts require color or will they work just as well in black & white? If the answer is ‘yes,’ you will save a considerable amount of money in purchasing the black ink cartridges.
- If you are cost conscious and also have a great concern for the environment, purchasing recycled ink cartridges may be your best bet. Not only are these more affordable, but they are also better for the environment as are other recycled products. One of the best places for purchasing quality recycled ink cartridges is Viking Office Products and Staples.
- When you purchase any type of ink cartridge, make sure that it is compatible with your printer. Many people are surprised to learn that ink cartridges are designed to be used with a specific model and manufacturer of printers, which should be clearly explained on the outside packaging. If you have trouble remembering the model number on your printer, simply write it down on a piece of paper and take it to the store with you. This will be the single most important information to have on hand when selecting ink cartridges for printers because without the right printer model number, you are not likely to get the right product.
- Because ink cartridges are sometimes very expensive, it is often possible to find a real bargain on a printer/ink cartridge combo. A recent visit to a local retail store revealed a single ink cartridge for $29.97. Just beside the ink cartridge selection were several boxed printers. Among them, a new printer and color ink cartridge combo, which was priced at just $34.95. When you consider the difference of only $5.00 and the fact that you could purchase a brand new printer and ink for almost the same price as a single ink cartridge, the better deal was obvious. In this scenario, you could simply resale your former printer on eBay and replace it with the new printer. This just goes to show that a little smart shopping can go a long way in terms of getting the best value for your dollar.
- The majority of ink cartridges for printers carry a manufacturer’s warranty guaranteeing your satisfaction. The only way to receive coverage as promised is to retain the original purchase receipt, ink cartridge packaging and warranty information. If your new ink cartridge should fail to work as promised, most manufacturer’s will either replace the cartridge at no cost to you or refund the original purchase price in it’s entirety.
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