Part 1 of 2
B&W is an important market segment that remains in demand, serving print environments with production speeds, high-quality pages, and lower costs compared to color. B&W devices routinely produce applications like books, checks, direct mail, and newsletters.
According to Jennifer Kolloczek, senior manager, marketing, production solutions division, Business Imaging Solutions Group, Canon U.S.A., Inc., in 2016 there were four trillion total pages produced in North America with 290 billion of those digitally printed monochrome impressions. “B&W pages are a critical part of print communications now and in the future. B&W material is everywhere in our lives,” she explains.
Industries that rely on B&W printing include businesses, court systems, educational settings, insurance companies, and publications. Applications range from booklets, tests, legal briefs, and financial statements to books, newsletters, and emergency documentation. “We are so caught up in digital technologies that we tend to take for granted things that we are used to having around,” says Kolloczek.
Ed Wong, director, product marketing, commercial and industrial printing business group, Ricoh, agrees, adding that most of the printing applications that are predominantly B&W are in the financial sectors, insurance verticals, and government. “There is little value in adding color to those documents and it certainly would be difficult to cost justify.”
Back to Basics
As digital print technology advances, the benefits associated with dedicated B&W printers has not changed. Monochrome printing offers high speeds at high volumes when compared to color printers—the largest advantage being the cost of ownership.
“One of the challenges of B&W printing is that it is a commodity, where the main method of differential is price,” says Wong.
John Santoli, worldwide product marketing manager, Xerox, suggests the prices associated with toner-based monochrome systems are difficult to beat. “The emergence of innovative solutions, like touchless workflow automation and image quality management tools have helped sustain the profitability of B&W print,” he explains.
The cost comparison of B&W to color on digitally printed pages depends on the engine and the technology. Wong believes the cost to produce B&W pages on a dedicated B&W engine is much lower than printing black on a color system. “Color pages could be as much as three to five times as a B&W page,” he says.
Depending on content, Aron Allenson, sales engineer, high speed inkjet, Screen Americas, believes B&W only printing is generally 15 to 20 percent of the cost of color digital pages. “If a color page costs $0.00375, the black-only portion might be in the $0.006 to $0.008 range,” he explains.
Kolloczek agrees and says that monochrome can be as low as ten to 20 percent of a color printer page when comparing most digital toner-based devices. However, with a higher adoption of inkjet in the very high-end market, the cost difference is less significant.
Print providers that rarely use color inkjet find production B&W presses most beneficial. “Not every print product needs color and therefore can be produced at a lower cost and more efficiently on a B&W device,” says Kolloczek.
Kolloczek points out that digitally printed B&W pages are expected to decline by less than three percent over the next five years. She says many of today’s monochrome documents will remain printed for some time due to compliance and legal requirements. “The slight decline is forecasted to be followed by a significant growth based on the expected broader adoption of digital book production, as well as inkjet technology.”
Regardless, the cost of B&W digital presses varies based on the number of options configured. “It’s safe to assume that the overall total cost of ownership will be considerably less than the cost of that same page printed on a digital color press, either toner or inkjet,” says Santoli. The savings is especially significant for higher area coverage for toner-based systems while inkjet presses may or may not include ink in their service contracts.
A number of print environments continue to justify the investment of B&W production inkjet as print providers migrate from offset printing.
In fact, Allenson notices that companies with pre-existing color inkjet devices have started adding monochrome printers to their production offerings. “When a job only requires black, there is virtually no printer more cost or production effective,” he explains.
While reliability, uptime, and turnaround time are integral for B&W production, the current offerings satisfy the majority of the marketplace. Kolloczek says most print providers evaluate all technologies and some conclude that a true consolidation of color and monochrome pages on one reliable device is not yet available in their investment range.
“If you talk to any owner of a busy print shop, they will tell you that they are waiting for the advent of a true universal printer. A press that can do it all—B&W, CMYK, and MICR—and deliver consistent image quality that is comparable to offset, at high speeds, with a total cost of ownership that is less than what they spend collectively today,” adds Santoli.
Customers are accustomed to printing high-quality prints at productive speeds at low prices, B&W fulfills this demand and therefore, monochrome production presses remain popular. “This segment of the market is mature and the presses left competing in this space today have survived the test of time and continue to provide value,” offers Santoli.
In part two of this two-part series, we feature a print provider that primarily prints B&W output.
Nov2017, DPS Magazine