By Lisa Guerriero
Entry-level/light-production devices and multifunction products (MFPs) are endowed with advanced features and capabilities. Enterprises have far more choices for equipment with improved quality, versatility, and user controls, while still being a cost-effective investment.
In this article, we look at printers and MFPs offering maximum or target monthly duty cycles of approximately 70,000 to 300,000, and discuss the benefits and uses of lighter duty devices, market changes that shape this production segment, and products introduced in response to the latest trends.
Meeting a Need
Entry-level and light-production devices serve a variety of environments—including print service providers (PSPs), in-plants, and offices with a print and copy center. While seemingly different, these enterprises tend to share several values. They want equipment that produces professional output and is manageable for untrained users, but at a price proportionate with the investment they want to make.
“Customers want a single investment that can handle the range of their printing requirements, delivered at an affordable price point,” observes Ed Wong, product marketing, production printing, Ricoh Americas Corporation. “There is not necessarily a set of specific features customers are shopping for, but rather customers are looking for features that deliver high image quality, system versatility, and maximum system reliability,” he adds.
These devices must also be versatile enough for a variety of applications. “Users in this classification need a press that can do everything—going up market with robust features and walk-up ease of use,” explains Brian Segnit, product marketing, Xerox Corporation.
Direct mail, manuals, brochures, promotional and presentational materials, and newsletters are examples of core applications in this production segment. “The versatility of these machines make them appropriate for a variety of office and light-production applications,” says Bill Hall, assistant product manager, Konica Minolta Business Solutions.
However, end users expect the current generation of lighter duty devices to be low maintenance and capable of more advanced functions than in the past, such as the ability to accommodate a wider range of media, higher image quality, touch screens or enhanced control panels, and customer replaceable components.
Within the lighter duty segment, professionals even have access to technology for creating trendy applications such as window clings, magnets, and labels, as well as the ability to print on envelopes and textured substrates.
Advanced finishing is also available, including booklet making, hole punching, folding, and post-insertion functionality.
Brian Dollard, director, product marketing, Production Solutions Division, Canon U.S.A., Inc., points out the example of the imagePRESS C800 Series, which was introduced to provide some of the features of the imagePRESS C7011VP/S, a higher production machine, to lower volume environments. “This includes outstanding image quality, media versatility, reliability and maximum uptime, powerful performance, and proven productivity,” he explains.
Trends Change the Landscape
Opinions vary on whether page volumes are growing, dwindling, or plateauing. However, many vendors agree that color digital printing is on the rise. “The largest page growth is coming from the digital color print volumes—both toner- and inkjet-based—with InfoTrends reporting U.S. color page volume growing at 14 percent compound annual growth rate and will reach 278 billion pages by 2017,” notes Dollard, who has also seen page volume increases in non-color markets.
A shift toward non-print communication has an impact on page volumes. “One must not dismiss the bring your own device (BYOD) phenomena and the fact that many modern users can access documents at any time via their smartphones and tablets, negating much of the need to print documents,” observes Robert Covington, product manager, Toshiba America Business Solutions, Inc. He adds that it’s up to companies like Toshiba to provide clients with “new ways to integrate solutions into their document workflow to potentially lessen the demand to print documents.”
Wong suggests that it is important to make the distinction that the market is changing, not declining. In fact, there are opportunities to be had. The value of direct marketing pieces are increasing, and efficiency and accuracy are more of a priority. “This presents PSPs with an opportunity to serve their customers as marketing service providers,” states Wong. He adds that companies now have an impetus to bring work back in house that was previously outsourced.
Kent J. Villarreal, senior manager product planning and marketing, Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America, also observes the “in-sourcing” trend, specifically among in plants. He suggests that the technology makes it worthwhile for in plants to bring work back in house.
Karen A. Cole, global product marketing manager, light production monochrome and AAA solutions marketing, office and solutions, Xerox Corporation, also perceives opportunities in the enhanced capabilities of lower volume machines. Devices like the Xerox D-Series can print on stocks with lower weight, which is “important for saving costs in postage in transactional printing,” she notes.
Managed print and document management services also shape the development of lighter duty products. “Customers have benefited from greater flexibility in the acquisition and maintenance of equipment,” observes Konica Minolta’s Hall.
Toshiba’s Covington explains that when businesses analyze the volume and type of documents they print, they are able to ascertain when a lighter duty system is a cost-effective way to keep production in house.
Cloud infrastructure and mobile access are two more trends shaping the market. Documents can be easily parked on the cloud and printed on demand, which can increase efficiency in offices and other settings—especially with the prevalence of BYOD.
“For PSPs, cloud- and Web-based print management solutions enable them to control print processes from anywhere and improve workflows. For businesses, the cloud and mobile devices have helped them and their users transcend the traditional boundaries of print. For example, cloud-based print applications allow enterprise employees to send documents to printers in the print center at work from anywhere,” says Wong.
These trends also influence smaller printing devices. “Cloud infrastructure and mobility support the overall trend of more distributed printing, so more documents are being printed by individuals or local offices. This is having more of an impact on the B&W light production segment as some of these documents are no longer centrally printed and distributed,” says Dollard.
Information mobility creates new opportunities for print. “The ability to manage a fleet of devices through cloud-based calibration and mobile print to public queues is becoming more popular. We are seeing steps for larger organizations in this direction. For example, universities see value in directing students and staff to the optimal equipment and location,” observes Fred Ramsey, global product marketing manager, office and solutions, Xerox Corporation.
The predominance of new capabilities has some end users scrambling to update workflow and policies. The technology is helping to resolve these access and security concerns, such as card swipe options available on some MFPs.
The Latest Offerings
The digital products now on the market reflect the push for lower volume, high-functioning devices.
On the higher end of the spectrum, Canon introduced the imagePRESS C800 Digital Color Press Series last Fall, which serves users within the light production segment. The imagePRESS C800 features a maximum monthly duty cycle of 500,000, while the imagePRESS C700 has a maximum of 400,000.
This series incorporates elements from Canon’s flagship imagePRESS C7011VP/S series, including Gloss Optimization technology, which adjusts the gloss level of the toner image to that of the media. It optimizes the printed gloss levels to the substrate characteristics to produce offset-like results.
“The Gloss Optimization combined with imagePRESS color print quality allows users to target a range of applications from internal documents to demanding high-quality marketing communications,” explains Dollard.
The imagePRESS C800 series also incorporates an advanced image transfer belt, which is designed to increase toner transfer efficiency on both smooth and uneven media surfaces.
The Canon imagePRESS C800 Series is designed for small to medium commercial, franchise, in plant, and quick printers, and handles diverse media options, including heavyweight coated stock, textured stock, and envelopes. Dollard notes that Canon also has a selection of digital front ends for the C800, including PRISMAsync, which offers a single point of control for the entire print system.
Konica Minolta offers two signature multifunction devices, the bizhub 754e and bizhub C754e, aimed at monthly page volumes of 70,000 to 100,000. Both offer dual scanning at up to 180 originals per minute. They handle a range of media with high output quality, without sacrificing ease of use, says Hall.
The 754e is a combination printer, copier, and scanner with a color touch screen. It produces high-resolution B&W output at 75 pages per minute (ppm). The C754e prints and copies at 60 ppm in color and 65 ppm in B&W. Its INFO-Palette display is designed to put more information at the user’s fingertips, including downloadable applications, with a customizable interface that offers tablet-like operation.
Both models come with security features, and Konica Minolta’s Emperon technology to ensure compatibility. The devices also offer robust finishing capabilities, says Hall, with options for booklet making, 2/3 hold punch, folding in multiple patterns, as well as stapling and sorting. Another advantage, he explains, is “support for a variety of third-party applications, including Web-based solutions.”
Wong identifies several Ricoh products suited to the entry-level and light production segments—the Pro C5100/C5110S, the Pro C7110X, and the Pro C901 Graphic Arts+. The Pro C5100/5110S features textured media technology to complement “the flexibility of our substrates due to the expansion of our unique media library,” says Wong. This ensures application versatility, productivity, and image quality within a compact footprint, as the lower volume market requires. Both Pro C5100 models have a maximum monthly duty cycle of 300,000.
The Pro C7110X, launched last Fall, has a maximum monthly duty cycle of 240,000. It builds on the Pro C5100S/C5110S’s media capabilities, adding fifth station for optional white toner or high gloss clear. The device also features the option of support for media up to 27.5 inches long. “Both of these features on the RICOH Pro C7110X help customers target new printing opportunities, all at a modest premium above four-color digital systems,” he explains.
The Pro C901 Graphic Arts+ has a maximum monthly duty cycle of 350,000 and prints at a top speed of 90 ppm, running any media up to 300 gsm, in both simplex and duplex. Its counterpart, the Pro C901 Graphic Arts+, falls at the larger end of this segment, with a maximum monthly duty cycle of 580,000.
Sharp features two flagship products for the 101,000 to 300,000 duty cycle range, the Pro Series MX-6500N and MX-7500N color document systems, which offer speeds of 65 and 75 ppm, respectively. These printer/copier/scanner devices handle a variety of paper types and thicknesses. “These models are the perfect fit for print on demand environments such as central reprographics departments (CRD) and in-plant print shops where productivity, consistently high image quality, and ease of use are essential,” notes Villarreal.
Sharp offers a full suite of paper-feed and finishing options for the two Pro MX devices, including full-bleed booklets, which Villarreal says are easily produced thanks to Sharp’s edge-to-edge printing capability. The triple air-feed paper handling option provides higher reliability, enhanced media support, “and is virtually maintenance free,” he says.
To optimize these MFPs, Sharp recommends the MX-PE10 EFI Fiery Server for color-critical environments that need precision job management, especially in-plant print shops. The MX-PE10 EFI Fiery option is designed to eliminate the need for multiple workstations, reducing space and limiting turnaround times. The Fiery software is integrated so that all print jobs are controlled through the 15.4-inch touch-screen panel on either the Pro Series MX-6500N or the Pro Series MX-7500N.
Toshiba has a new offering for this space, the e-STUDIO 1207 series. It is geared for busy departmental environments and data centers, particularly CRDs. A special feature is that Adobe PostScript 3 comes standard. In many CRDs, “the person mass-producing the documents is typically not the person creating it and the ‘what you see is what you get’ nature of genuine Adobe PostScript is an insurance policy that just makes sense,” explains Covington.
The series features access to user guides from the front panel, a concealed pullout keyboard, and a tablet-inspired touch-screen control panel. “In today’s solutions-oriented world, the physical keyboard offers convenience and ease of use for text-heavy tasks being done at the device, such as adding any additional images and text to documents being scanned for later retrieval,” notes Covington. The interface features and the built-in Adobe PS3 intend to ensure ease of use and efficient production—so the document in the exit tray matches the creator’s vision, regardless of which user is operating the device.
The e-STUDIO 1207 line can accommodate varied media and features an array of paper input sources. Available finishing options include high-capacity stackers, folders, and booklet makers for up to 25 sheets—or 100 pages, with face trimming as well. Mainframe connectivity is also an option.
Xerox has multiple products for entry-level and light-duty production. This past Fall, the company launched the C60/C70 color series for printing, copying, and scanning. It has a maximum monthly duty cycle of 300,000, with a recommended monthly average of 10,000 to 50,000. The series is suitable for quick print shops, in plants, agencies, small businesses, and manufacturers. This diverse array is partly due to the C60/C70’s broad media compatibility, which allows users to print on rugged polyester labels, menus, signs, and vinyl window clings. It even prints on linen, facilitating applications like event planning and appliqués.
“Xerox’s Emulsion Aggregation toner, with its unique ultra low-melt technology, navigates the traditionally difficult peaks and valleys in linen and other specialty substrates like polyester,” explains Ramsey.
The series also features the Simple Image Quality Adjustment toolset, which allows the user to correct registration and density without complex color management or a technician.
The C75 press is another Xerox color MFP. It has a maximum monthly duty cycle of 300,000, with a recommended average monthly volume of 20,000 to 75,000. Options include high-capacity feeding, a color management solution, and finishing capabilities such as trimming, hole punching, stapling, stacking, and folding. Geared for applications like direct mail and photo publishing, it prints from all trays on coated media, heavyweight stock, transparencies, DocuMagnet, labels, and tabs.
The D series consistsof four B&W printer/copier/scanner devices. Cole says the series is popular because the devices are versatile but affordable. They’re suited to routine office and school tasks as well as marketing and retail environments where specialty media—such as pop-up towers—is needed but can be B&W. The D95, D110, and D125 are particularly favored in education and healthcare settings, while the D136 is popular for venues with longer, larger, and variable print runs.
Digital front-end choices help tailor the equipment for any environment, while finishing options like stitching and binding increase the potential for applications. Mobile connectivity and security options add to the value of the series.
Enterprises have many options for adding or upgrading entry-level/light-production devices. Whether a printer or MFP, enhanced features allow for more efficient production and broader application options.
In the coming issues of DPS magazine, we focus on presses featuring monthly duty cycles of mid-, high-, and ultra-high volume production needs. dps