What’s new in printers & copiers – Trend Watch

Mark Rowh

A copier is a printer is a copier–and maybe a multifunction device too. As prices drop, features proliferate and the lines of distinction blur among different technologies. One truth seems to be emerging: Whatever your needs, the right machine awaits you.

“A significant trend is the emphasis on the ‘printing’ capabilities of these devices and the focus of copier manufacturers going after market share in the printer market,” says Maria Krawsek, a product marketing manager for Minolta Corp. “At the same time, copier/printer devices for small to midsize offices are becoming more feature rich, both on the copier side and the print side.”

For instance, Minolta has just introduced two new models offering the benefits of digital technology at analog prices. The DiALTA Di152 and DiALTA 183 are digital printer-copiers operating at 15 and 18 ppm respectively. Both systems provide 6oo x 6oo-dpi copy resolution, 256 levels of grayscale, and an advanced developing system for high-quality copies. They also provide a variety of paper-handling features and can be upgraded to provide functions such as printing, scanning, and faxing.

Digital is also the name of the game with Savin’s and digital imaging systems, designed to meet midvolume needs. Serving both walkup and networked users, they feature LCD touch screens to foster easy operation, and they offer a wide range of functions. With a maximum paper capacity of 3,100 sheets, their cap abilities are expandable with an optional document feeder and duplexing features.

Along with the headlong move toward digital technology, the trend toward multiple functions being handled by a single device continues. “Single machines that do only one function are being replaced by feature-rich, solutions-based multifunction products that provide better-quality output, faster speeds, and lower operating costs,” says Yasuo Matsumoto, president and chairman of the board, Konica Business Technologies. “Customers are now requesting solution-based office products that are multifunctional and can offer a greater number of output accessories, a broader range of applications– such as faxing, scanning, and e-mailing– which are network compatible and deliver color as well as black- and-white output.”

Not only are such options now becoming widely available, but in the near future, they’re expected to become the norm. “The multifunctionality of copier/printer devices continues to strengthen as each generation of products is introduced,” says Krawsek. “All predictions indicate that within the next few years all analog devices will be replaced by digital products. Those users who simply transition from an analog product to a stand-alone digital product will be impressed with the many advantages a digital product has to offer. As MFP products continue to thrive, these stand-alone digital devices will become connected.”

Many copier/printer devices now on the market already support faxing and scanning capabilities, providing even smaller offices with versatile multifunctional modes and access to routine office functions while maintaining a small footprint. Their versatility and modularity provide end users with increasingly powerful capabilities.

For example, Ricoh has recently premiered the Aficio 1022 and Aficio 1027 digital imaging systems that employ what the company has dubbed “Next Generation Architecture.” In addition to serving as multifunctional machines, these models operate as document managers at the center of the user’s department. Designed to streamline network document flow, they also offer advanced add-on options such as high-speed duplex productivity, printer solutions, and a document server, which can store and edit frequently copied, faxed, or printed documents on demand. Along with respective print speeds of and 27 ppm, the 1022 and 1027 feature an energy-saving mode and 15-second start-up time, among other pluses.

As digital becomes the norm, one result is a markedly increased capacity for document management. A recently announced strategic alliance between Toshiba and Prism Software promises to bring new dimensions in the ability to transform, print, deliver, manage, and access documents. By using Prism’s data transformation, robust forms management, and online document repository software solutions, Toshiba’s network printing and multifunction systems will provide expanded capabilities for accessing, storing, and tracking documents.

Mike Ross, Lexmark’s product marketing manager for MFP products, says that while the analog to digital transformation is in the latter stages, the convergence in printer and copier space may be an even more significant development. “The technology is overlapping,” he says, “with color MFPs coming to the fore. We see convergence in the printer and copier world, with the natural flow in integrating color as part of MFP.”

As technologies merge, so do the demands for both color and black-and-white reproduction. “We’re seeing that customers are interested in consolidating color and monochrome in one device,” says Christophe Piganiol, manager of color product marketing for Lexmark. “There’s still a need for monochrome out there, but you don’t need to pay a premium for printing monochrome on a color device.”

Typical of this approach are Lexmark’s new C750 and C910 printers, which provide affordable color printing with the speed of a monochrome workgroup printer. The C750 prints at 20 ppm and features 1,200 X 1,200-dpi resolution. Since it handles monochrome and color, this one unit can replace multiple workgroup printers within a single enterprise. The C910 prints even faster at 28 ppm in both monochrome and color.

Other newly introduced color models include Konica’s 7821 and 7812 color printers. Using an efficient single-pass color digital technology, these models support a wide variety of paper media and sizes. The 7821 provides full-color printing at 21 ppm and black-and-white printing at 26 ppm, whereas the 7812 prints at 12 ppm in color and 20 ppm in monochrome. Both feature a modular design offering options such as duplexing. several paper-feed options, and memory upgrades.

As the popularity of color grows, look for more offerings in this area. “In the near future, we are going to see a dramatic increase in the use of color products in small and midsize businesses,” says Matsumoto. “Hardware prices and operating costs are continuing to come down, while speeds have been increasing and image quality is improving. At the same time, customers are realizing the benefits of using color in everyday business documents, such as improved retention and increased comprehension.”

Another change is in the orientation of users. Ross points to increased demands for having equipment close at hand. “There is a movement from centralized document production and delivery to a distributed model moving closer to the user,” he says. “Just as we saw a shift in the ’80s from mainframe computers to PCs, and now PDAs, that is now carrying forward to document production and delivery. Today, people want all that functionality closer to the user.”

Taken together, all these advances seem to bode well for the future. “As small and midsize offices begin to adopt digital technology and understand the benefits it offers, the multifunctional modes available will be more fully utilized,” Krawsek says. “Those users that are still transitioning to connected products or newer digital products that they choose not to connect will need to become more educated and familiar with what today’s technology has to offer in order to maintain productivity levels and a competitive edge over comparable businesses.”

Mark Rowh is a freelance business writer and OfficeSolutions contributing editor. Based in Dublin, Va.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Quality Publishing

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

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