When it comes to printing, particularly colour printing, laser has always offered a better quality and has traditionally been a more cost effective option, writes Heinrich Pretorius, Canon product specialist at DCC.
While inkjet printers themselves cost very little in terms of capital outlay, replacement ink has always been a significant expense, raising the cost per page of printing. In addition, inks have also been prone to running and fading, which has reduced the overall quality of inkjet prints. However, new inkjet technology is beginning to change this perception, offering lower cost per page, more affordable consumables and improved quality, making it once more a viable option, particularly in the SMB market.
Choosing an inkjet printer can be a daunting task, as there are many different options on the market. The right printer for the job depends entirely on the requirements of the user or user group. Entry-level units, which are the ones that can be purchased for a few hundred rands from many retailers, require the lowest capital outlay. However, they typically make use of a tri-cartridge system, which means essentially that all three ink colours (cyan, magenta and yellow) are contained in a single cartridge. While this is cheaper to purchase, it means that the entire cartridge must be replaced when one colour is depleted. This solution may be sufficient for a home user who does not require a large volume of colour printing, as black ink is housed in a separate cartridge and can be replaced more economically.
For business users or those who require higher volumes of colour printing, it is advisable to purchase a higher specification printer that offers single ink cartridges. This ensures that only the colour that has been depleted must be replaced, which enables users to leverage a lower cost per page. In addition, extra-large cartridges are available which offer a higher page yield at a reduced cost per page, further adding value. This higher ink capacity puts business inkjet printers on a par with lasers, for a reduced capital outlay, making them an attractive option.
In addition to high yield ink cartridges and single ink technology, other advances to inkjet printers have made them increasingly suitable for the business market. Printer manufacturers have taken heed of the needs of the SMB market and have designed printers specifically to cater to their requirements. These new devices offer superior quality, fast and reliable printing for higher volumes of pages per month and competitive pricing to meet the needs of this budget-conscious market.
Business-focused inkjets are available as single function printers or multi-function devices, offering monthly page volumes of up to 1 500 pages per month, time to first print in as little as seven seconds, and fast print speeds of up to 23 pages per minute in black and white, and 15 pages per minute in full colour. In addition to these specifications, new ink technology improves print quality, offering water, friction and marker resistant prints.
While ink has in the past been considered a printer technology solely suited to the consumer, and laser as the business tool of choice, these new technological developments are shaking up the printer market. Inkjet printers remain a more affordable capital expense, and with the cost per page becoming more affordable, the total cost of ownership of an inkjet has been subsequently reduced. In addition, business-focused inkjet printers can now offer comparable speeds and improved print quality, making them a viable alternative to the laser printer, particularly in the SMB market.