This Week in Imaging: Thoughts on Distributed Printing

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Source: Kathleen Wirth

We’ve written before about the efforts of Brother International and Epson to bring decentralized, distributed printing and imaging to the office, and this continues, as new offerings continue to challenge the current typical centralized print/copy/scan/fax set-up.

This current centralized printing goes back to the early 1990s. At that time, offices typically had a central analog copier. But as companies began incorporating desktop PCs into their document workflows, vendors such as Hewlett-Packard and Apple introduced the first desktop printers for printing from PCs. (It was also at about this time, when the desktop PC revolution began, that many executives suddenly learned how to type – a task previously delegated to mostly now-extinct typist/secretaries.)

In the early 1990s, the major copier companies, such as Canon, responded with the first digital copiers with print capability. They wanted to keep desktop printers firmly out of the picture (and still do), arguing that a centralized copier/printer was more efficient. Their arguments to this day are that a high-volume centralized printer/copier/scanner/fax machine, or MFP, provides lower Cost per Page and thus lower Total Cost of Ownership, and also make for much easier consumables-servicing – there’s only one set of toner and/or imaging supplies that need to be replaced and stocked. And they painted a contrasting, chaotic picture of multiple locally connected and unaccountable desktop printers used to print employees’ personal (color) documents, and with very high Cost per Page and Total Cost of Ownership.

But Brother, in particular, argues the opposite: that large centralized copier/MFPs are productivity wasters, as they require users to trek back-and-forth from their desks to an MFP that could be located way down the hall or even on another floor, and is shared by many competing users. Why not, instead, place multiple, less-expensive devices in locations more convenient to users, with fewer users having to compete to use the device?

Of course, the usual objections to this are: these less-expensive devices have Cost per Page and high Total Cost of Ownership; multiple devices require multiple consumables’ replacement (a complicated task best left to service professionals); and it’s a difficult scenario to monitor, and to prevent users from printing non-work personal documents.

Brother’s latest answer to this is its new INKvestment MFC-6925dw ($349.99 Estimated Street Price), which Brother recently shipped to us for testing, and which, thus far, rebuts many of the objections to centralized printing and imaging.

  • The Brother device is a true 11″x17″ device, with duplex print, copy, scan, and fax at up to 11″x17″, and there’s an 11″x17″ platen, single-pass duplexing automatic feeder, and two paper trays, plus a single-sheet feeder, that accept media as large as 11″x17″. It’s also the only inkjet All-in-One that we’ve seen where originals can be positioned and prints are produced long-edge first, just like copiers from the days of yore.
  • Cost per Page is competitive with toner-based devices at 1.2¢ for black, and highly competitive at 5.0¢ for color. Now, this doesn’t of course match the Cost per Page of some high-end copier MFPs, nor does it match the Cost per Page of CISS-equipped systems. However, those high-end copier MFPs come with much higher price tags costing thousands of dollars more and consume far more energy. And, because of the much higher price tags, and even considering their lower Cost per Page, it would take an office with a substantially high print and copy volume to reach the point where Total Cost of Ownership becomes comparable to a product like the Brother MFC-J6925dw or other A3 inkjet All-in-Ones from vendors such as Epson. (Keep in mind, that with office print and copy volumes continuing to gradually decline, reaching that print/copy volume may become harder for many offices – what was once printed or copied is now emailed, for instance.)
  • The four high-yield ink cartridges are very easy to replace, even for the most casual users. Plus, there aren’t any other consumables required, such as waste toner-boxes, drums, developing units, and/or fuser or image-transfer units required by toner-based printers.
  • Administrators can secure the Brother device so that only authorized users can use it for authorized functions. There’s secure function lock for locking out users from using various functions (such as color printing and print from USB/MMC), and administrators can also apply and monitor user print quotas.
  • Lots of mobile-printing support is provided – from AirPrint, to Google Cloud Print, to NFC touch-to-print and scan, plus there’s scan to various popular cloud destinations, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and Evernote.

That’s all a far cry from the expensive desktop printers that proliferated in the ’90s. And while this Brother device is just one example, keep in mind that there are various print-management solutions available now that enable administrators to monitor and restrict use of printers and MFPs – even those not even on the network but connected locally via USB port. So the old argument that a fleet of desktop printers/MFPs can’t be monitored and will turn into a chaotic mess is no longer true.

Will the decentralized MFP catch on? In our opinion, not everywhere of course, especially for companies that require state-of-the-art security. On the other hand, like it or not, new and next-generation desktop MFPs like the Brother MFC-J6925dw will certainly be compelling propositions for a many customers.

Feature Stories

  • HP Enhances Printer-Security Solutions, Adds New Proactive Print Advisor Service – Read more here.
  • Lexmark, Ricoh, Xerox ‘Blast’ MPHJ’s Claimed Scan Patents Before U.S. Patent & Trademark Office – Read more here.

Office-Imaging News

  • Ricoh Offering ECM’s Syncplicity Secure Cloud-Based Document-Storage and Sharing Solution – Read more here.
  • Copier Careers: Average Copier Tech Salary is $43,133 – Read more here.
  • New Adobe Document Cloud Provides Mobile and Desktop eSigning, PDF Creation and Editing – Read more here.
  • Xerox Enhancing its Business Process Automation with New ‘Robotic’ Process Automation Service – Read more here.
  • Canon U.S.A. Earns CompTIA’s Managed Print Trustmark for MPS – Read more here.

3D Printing

  • KYOCERA Document Solutions UK Enters Professional 3D-Printer Market with Launch of ProJet 4500 – Read more here.

Acquisitions

  • Konica Minolta Acquires Canon, IT Services Dealer SymQuest – Read more here.
  • Epson Completes Buyout of Italian Textile-Printing Company For.Tex S.R.L. – Read more here.

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