Printers: Coming of age

DQW Bureau
04 Oct 2007
New Update


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

drum and

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'

printing needs.

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."

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.

Shrikanth G