Over the years, from the dot matrix days, the printer market has
undergone a sea change in terms of technology. Every vendor has pioneered a
technology aimed at arriving at better output.
In the last few years, inkjets and lasers have dominated the
printer market, though now multi-functional printers are increasingly coming
into the mainstream. MFDs provide convergence capabilities, and there are two
types of MFDs: copier-based and printer-based. While the copier-based uses the
toner-technology, the printer-based uses cartridges. If the printer requirements
are huge, experts advise, it is appropriate to go in for copier-based
technology. For workgroup-based printer needs, A4 MFD will be the ideal ones.
Said RS Anand Kumar, GM——Printing Solution, Personal and Home Division,
Brother International, India, "From the customer perspective, running cost,
total cost of ownership (TCO), warranty offering, and speed of printing are some
of the key points in the hierarchy of the buyers' wish- list."
In the formative years, a printer's quality is solely
determined by the DPI. But, over the time, the consumers have become more
demanding. As a result, today factors like speed, durability, economy of
operations, and ability to perform in a networked environment tops the agenda of
any enterprise CIO.
An interesting point here is that in the past, the printer
buying decisions used to be done by the administrative department. But, in the
last two years, the indiscriminate use of print resources has led to huge
expenditure, and when organization looked at the amount spent on new printers,
toners, ribbons and print stationary; the top management, in most cases, was
appalled at the huge amounts spent. Today, in most large organizations,
print-related decisions have come into the ambit of CIOs. So, clearly, the print
buying decision has become more informed and vendors don't just sell a
printer, but also provide a solutionsuiting the requirements of the enterprises'
Samir Shah, Director-Commercial Printing, Imaging and
Printing, HP India said, "There has been a gradual transition from the 'printers'
to the 'printing' mode. Essentially, customers have moved from the
print-distribute to the distribute-print model. Maximizing productivity and
increasing RoI are driving businesses in their IT decisions."
HP in the enterprise printing space has launched its Edgeline, an exclusive
technology that, according to company sources, incorporates the best features of
the inkjet and laser technologies. In the imaging and printing segment, HP has
invested over $1.4 billion in a new technology called scalable printing
technology, aimed at delivering ground-breaking print speeds with superior print
quality, and an overall lower cost per page.
Xerox too is going on an aggressive drive in India through its
slew of print solutions. Xerox has championed the solid ink technology for color
laser printers. Xerox said that the simple design of a single-pass solid ink
product allows it to have 60 percent fewer parts than the typical four-pass
color laser. The secret is in the print head, which is precisely engineered and
calibrated to deliver full-page, full-color prints in one pass through the
product. The simpler, more color-oriented design of solid ink products allows a
shorter paper path and avoids all the cartridges, drums, belts, and rollers that
make color lasers so complex.
Princy Bhatnagar, Director-New Office Group, Xerox India said,
"We have a single focus on lowering customers' TCO and that is exactly
what all our technologies offer to the end-users. On the laser printer side,
Xerox has the most formidable technology in the form of solid ink color laser
printers. The network A4 printers running on solid ink technology offer
extremely low running cost as compared to other standard laser
technologies." For instance, as per Xerox, its solid ink network laser
printer customer saves more than 50 percent on TCO in just one-year period as
compared to a standard color laser printer customer over a period of three
While vendors like HP and Xerox have large mandates on the
non-impact side, there are high-end vendors like Toshiba who offer high-end
A3-based MFD printers. Said Yuichi Nozawa, GM-International Operations,
Electronics Imaging Division, Toshiba Singapore, "Toshiba's R&D
operations seek to enhance print productivity, tighten security, and achieve
brilliant color quality. The research efforts we have embarked have led to the
introduction of eBRIDGE technology. eBRIDGE is the cornerstone concept in
network-ready MFPs and serves as the gateway between users and MFPs. It is also
a connection between paper documents and digital data."
While vendors like HP and Xerox have large mandates on the
Toshiba pitches eBRIDGE as a significant technology and says
that the development of eBRIDGE platform enables users to control color output,
scanning, faxing, copying, and network functions using a single board. In
addition, Toshiba is also working on developing open platform and integration
with third party print solutions for more services as well as better
customization to customers' requirements.
The vital component of any printer is the print head and ink
used in the consumables. From the beginning, companies like Epson have laid
emphasis on these two aspects. By capitalizing on its semiconductor expertise,
Epson has engineered an inkjet print head capable of producing 360 dots per inch
(the industry's highest for a print head based on piezoelectric technology),
doubling the density of its current print head. This ramp-up in ink placement
will result in much speedier printers, ushers in original compact designs for
printers, and expand the range of inkjet printing applications, said sources at
Epson, in addition to its technology innovation, has been
focusing on inks. Tushad Talati of Epson, India said, "The focus of our
recent developments has been centered on inks. What we believe is the heart of
the printer. We have launched the award-winning UltraChrome K3 Inks for our
high-end large-format photo printers. These inks offer unsurpassed print quality
and longevity, the key concerns for the high-end pre-press and photo
Meanwhile, Canon has also come out with innovative technologies
on its printers. Canon's proprietary 'Bubble Jet' printing technology is world
renowned, using special heating elements (micro-heaters) to eject ink from
microscopic print nozzles. This technology is developed using semi-conductor
technology to create a flawless patented high-density print head. Micro-heaters
are built into each individual ink nozzle of the print head, and the ink is
heated by running an instantaneous electric current to the micro-heaters. Canon
has also come out with technologies like ChromaLife 100, a dye ink that improves
the image quality and Full-photo lithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) on
its PIXMA range. Canon claimed that FINE technology eliminates graininess and
gradation to produce razor-sharp images with enhanced color reproduction,
contrast, and color tone.
Companies like Panasonic do not go by any specific technology,
but have equipped their printers with innovative features. Ajay Madan, Business
Head-Digital Imaging Systems, Panasonic Asia Pacific (India Liaison Office)
said, "Some of the latest technological innovations that we have introduced
in our new A3 color laser MFD, making it even more productive, include superior
print quality, one of the fastest warm-up time in the industry (15 seconds), the
ability of the MFD to scan and print from the SD card without connecting the
computer to it, and overall ease of operation.
Another leading vendor in the printer space is Samsung. It has
come out with a hardware accelerator for half-toning called Samsung Resolution
Technology (SRT) chip for laser printers. This enables finer resolution with
very smooth gray shading.
Printers, from their humble origins, have indeed come a long
way. Today, in a market driven by cutthroat competition, vendors are finding
innovative ways and re-inventing themselves with offerings topped with unique
technologies. New concepts and models are evolving. Today, managed print
services is fast becoming an industry in itself. Even players like HP have
started offering it. The current printer market dynamics clearly indicate the
emergence of a new breed of new age printers, with each claiming to bring in
higher sophistication than the competitors'. In a way they have become
enterprise apps. Printers are not just seen as a device or hardware; they're
seen as a solutions that bring in higher productivity and greater RoI, and
driving that is technology.