This Week in Imaging: A Closer Look at Epson’s Paper-Recycling PaperLab

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Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

While we’re big Epson fans, the company sometimes makes us wonder. Several weeks ago, Epson announced its entry into the 3D-printer market – but that its 3D printer won’t be available until about five years.

This week, Epson previewed its PaperLab, which is a paper recycling system in a box – a very big 8.5′-long box – and states that it’s suitable for back-office installation, which in most cases seems reasonable.

While details are sketchy, we assume the PaperLab will be primarily used to recycle 20-lb. bond – the most common office paper – but it’s not clear if it will handle other types of stock such as brochure and photo-paper stock. Also, while it can probably be able to handle ink-based prints, it’s not clear whether it can handle toner-based prints, but we suspect it will. Since it runs at 14 US Letter/A4 sheets per minute, it takes approximately 36 minutes to recycle 500 sheets.

While Epson should be lauded for developing a “green” product, the return-on-investment (ROI)/total cost of ownership (TCO) of the PaperLab is questionable. First off, since it’s 8.5′ long, we must assume that it’s rather expensive. The costs of office real estate is expensive and the Paper Lab consumes a considerable amount of space. However, since it shreds paper into microscopic fibers it also performs the role of the ultimate paper shredder, as processed documents are completely irretrievable, so it can replace conventional paper shredders. However, how much energy does it consume in the process? And last, is there any waste, what is it composed of, and how must it be disposed?

Finally, consider that a new sheet of US Letter 20-lb. bond paper costs around 0.5¢. Will a ROI/TCO analysis reveal that PaperLab energy consumption, space requirements, purchase price, user operation, maintenance and possible waste-disposal costs show that it’ll pay for itself by saving money versus the purchase of new paper? Or, is the PaperLab simply a “green” badge of honor?

Considering the state of most offices today, it seems to us that the PaperLab will be successful if and when a ROI/TCO analysis shows that it pays for itself by providing usable paper for less than the cost of new paper.

On another note, Toshiba TEC introduced its similar Loops Copier System back in 2012 for approximately $17,000 but the Loops Copier can only erase images at 30 ppm from prints produced by the included MFP that uses proprietary toner. However, Toshiba TEC claims that the copier system cuts carbon dioxide emissions by almost 60 percent over that of a traditional toner-based printer. We haven’t heard much about this system since its introduction and are sure that sales figures are hard to come by. Nevertheless, we’re curious how this innovative system worked out for Toshiba. At the very least, Epson’s’ PaperLab appears to have an advantage over Loops as it appears able to reclaim used paper via the removal of common ink- and toner-based images. Stay tuned for more.

News is that Toshiba is going after Katun, a long-time vendor of copier/printer parts and supplies that circumvent and cost less than that of the vendors’ supply chain. Since Katun is very popular with smaller dealers. it makes us wonder what took so long – as Toshiba is only the second vendor to go after Katun (Canon filed a similar patent-infringement lawsuit against Katun last year, but that lawsuit is still pending).

Finally, be sure to check out our opinion in “Is Printer/Copier Reliability Testing Still Relevant?” We discuss what it takes to properly perform reliability testing. and its strengths and weaknesses as it relates to contemporary printers and copier/MFPs.

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