This Week in Imaging: Nothing Lasts Forever – Or Does It? Plus, Toshiba Makes Key Move


Photo credit: Kathy Wirth

A French environmental group has raised an interesting question via a lawsuit: are printers designed with planned obsolescence in mind so that customers will have to eventually purchase new ones? (See our story here for more on the lawsuit.)

The group is basing the lawsuit on French legislation passed in 2015 that seeks to curtail waste from discarded appliances, and which seeks to promote repairing devices instead of discarding them.

Theoretically, it seems, an electronic device could last virtually forever, as long as failing parts are periodically replaced. The lawsuit contends, however, that printer manufacturers deliberately engineer parts – such as pads designed to absorb excess ink in inkjet printers – to fail at a certain point. The lawsuit also contends that vendors engineer ink cartridges so that the printers indicate they must be replaced, when in fact there’s still ink left In Wirth Consulting’s extensive testing, we have found that this is true in two regards: 1) when one color is depleted in a tri-color all-in-one ink cartridge; and 2) some vendors need to protect the inking system from failure due to ink “starvation.”

The first problem we see with the lawsuit is that, in law, it’s notoriously difficult to prove intent – that is, as the lawsuit alleges, that the manufacturers deliberately designed printers to fail at some point.

The second problem is the assumption that users would wish to replace items such as ink-absorbing pads – or that they could even take a printer apart and successfully perform this messy chore. While some undoubtedly could, we bet most wouldn’t. And, indeed, in our extensive testing of inkjet printers at Wirth Consulting, we’ve encountered printers whose ink pads/print-head cleaning systems failed after a number of print-head cleanings and require replacement at a service center. This means that the printer must be transported and/or shipped to another location. Again, all-in-all, most consumers would be unlikely to want to do this, and would probably just purchase a new printer.

Last, we’ve seen several cases of printers working for years and years (we ourselves still own a working OKI dot-matrix printer from the early 1990s). But, as vendors add new features, increase reliability, lower the cost per page, and enhance capabilities such as mobile printing, print speed, and image quality, many users naturally would like to upgrade.

So, in our opinion, while it’s likely some printer elements could be engineered to last longer, lawsuits charging planned obsolescence aren’t really practical. While the goal of protecting the environment by reducing electronic landfill waste is laudable, recycling of printers and consumables seems to be more practical, and to our knowledge, all of the vendors in the lawsuit seek to comply with EPEAT, Energy Star, and Blue Angel energy standards, and also offer recycling programs for both printers and consumables.

to our knowledge, all of the vendors in the lawsuit seek to comply with EPEAT, Energy Star, and Blue Angel energy standards, and also offer recycling programs for both printers and consumables.

Financial News

Toshiba Aiming to Sell Memory Business for $18 Billion to Consortium Led by Bain Capital – Read more here.

New Zealand Government Probing Fuji Xerox Accounting Irregularities – Read more here.


Konica Minolta Expands Enterprise Content Management Business with DSSI Acquisition – Read more here.

Office-Imaging News

New Epson L Series Models Feature Auto Duplexing, Plus Integrated Ink Tanks for Smaller Footprints – Read more here.

New Additions to Kodak Alaris IN2 Ecosystem Include New Doc Scanners, Software, Managed Content Services – Read more here.

Market-Research News

Inkjet All-in-Ones/MFPs Boost Printer Shipments in Europe in Second Quarter – Read more here.

Legal Briefs

French Environmental Group Files Planned Obsolescence Lawsuit Against Brother, Canon, Epson, HP – Read more here.

Lawsuit Filed Against Xerox Alleges Excessive Fees, Unfair Penalties – Read more here.

Fuji Xerox Suing Former Fuji Xerox NZ Executives in Wake of Accounting Scandal – Read more here.

3D-Printing News

HP Expands 3D-Printing Presence in Aisa-Pacific with New Metro Systems Reseller – Read more here.

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September 2017

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