*NEWS*INTELLIGENT PRINTING

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*NEWS*INTELLIGENT PRINTING

 user 2006-02-14 at 9:47:00 am Views: 84
  • #14220

    Intelligent Printing(UK)
    Kevin White asks how printer vendors are driving improvements in speed, quality, reliability, cost and manageability.
    Echoing
    past trends in the newsprint, magazine, cinematography and television
    industries, the enterprise printer estate is slowly making the
    transition from mono printing to colour-capable machines. With parallel
    advances in quality, speed and cost of ownership, the broader printer
    market is getting a lot more colourful, too.
    Hewlett-Packard, which
    already has a 54% market share of the UK’s printer business, is
    reporting strong demand. “Colour shipments increased by 47% in 2004
    over 2003,” says Geoff Hogg, HP’s enterprise marketing manager, “and we
    fully expect that in the first half of 2006 we will ship twice the
    number of colour-capable printers than we did in the first half of
    2005.” Market-watchers at IDC have pronounced that by 2010 the mono
    printer will have become redundant.
    If the growth of colour in the
    office constitutes a major trend, it is not the only one that is
    changing the nature of enterprise printer assets. Graham Lowes,
    strategic planning director at OKI, says that we are entering a phase
    where the migration from desktop printer to corporate workgroup and
    departmental printing is accelerating. In parallel with that phased
    move, the combination of scan, fax and copy functions onto a single
    multi-purpose digital print device is gaining in popularity. “The MFP
    is seen as offering offices an optimum level of flexibility,” says
    Lowes.
    But it is the emergence of intelligent print routing software
    that has enabled enterprises to start looking at ways of more closely
    mapping their overall print resources to actual print demands. Routing
    programs can select the right printer for the job, whether the needs
    are for simple text output, colour, duplex or high-volume printing
    using an impact line printer or a high-speed laser workhorse machine.
    Equally, software can distribute any one or all of the documents in a
    job to multiple queues for printing, faxing or on into a workflow and
    archiving suite.
    Whatever the type of printers from whichever
    vendor, an overriding aim is for a balanced deployment, Lowes argues,
    so that colour-capable inkjets are positioned where they are most
    needed, the high-end laser printers placed where there are enough duty
    cycles to justify the investment, and multi-functional machines in
    areas where their purpose is best utilised. In recent years, OKI has
    pioneered single-pass colour printers, in which the machine’s print
    stations are aligned in such a fashion that they can print all four
    colours in a single pass, something that Lowes maintains makes its
    printers more flexible in paper handling than conventional print
    systems.
    Whether a document is printed, copied, faxed or scanned, it
    needs to be produced fast. Head of HP’s $24bn printer division, Vyomesh
    Joshi, has adopted as his own a modified Moore’s Law, saying that HP
    aims to double inkjet print speeds every 18 months. The company is just
    coming out of a five-year, $1.4bn R&D initiative for scalable
    printing technology (SPT), the aim of which is to allow HP to put more
    ink nozzles on its print heads so that they can spray ink faster and at
    higher densities than ever before.
    Much of the printer industry’s
    R&D effort is going into three aspects of print technology.
    Advances are being made in new ink systems, in the toner and the print
    head itself. “Toner and ink developments are fundamental to the
    improvements we see coming onto market,” says Paul Birkett, business
    manager at Xerox UK’s channel solutions group. “Xerox uses emulsion
    aggregation toners, which are chemically grown from the ground up to
    get perfectly spherical toner particles.”
    The process is much more
    effective than alternatives based on mechanical processes, says
    Birkett. “The ink also contains fusing oil and the printer needs
    virtually no additional fuser, which we believe improves the overall
    print quality. It gives a very flat, natural look to a document.”
    On
    the horizon he points to the potential of the solid ink technology
    acquired through the company’s takeover of Tektronix. Not only is it
    more environmentally friendly than current techniques, massively
    reducing the cost of waste cartridges and packaging, but is said to
    make for a low maintenance option promising a much-reduced cost of
    service.
    HP has fashioned a system that separates the ink cartridge,
    which holds the ink, from the print heads that deliver the ink to the
    paper. That effectively fixes the ink supply, which allows a greater
    amount of ink to be stored in the ink cartridges. The objective is
    longer-life cartridges and less user intervention. “There are two other
    advantages,” says Howard Roberts, HP printer division. “We do think it
    leads to more effective use of each cartridge, but it also means that
    we are only moving the print head and that means we can move it faster.
    It’s like painting a wall with a roller instead of a brush.”
    Latest
    generation HP print heads are said to have a life expectancy of 90,000
    pages or three years. For its new SPT printers, HP’s designers have
    managed to squeeze up to 3,900 nozzles on a single print head. The
    greater the number of nozzles the faster the ink is fired onto the
    page, and the faster the print speeds attained. The high number of
    nozzles also means more dots of ink can be sprayed in a square inch,
    which provides a marked improvement in image quality.
    But the
    improved print quality is as much to do with ink developments, as it is
    the print heads. “We have just launched Vivera, a new free-flowing ink
    that contains some very carefully managed drying and anti-clogging
    agents. Currently, the new inks are targeted at the home photo consumer
    markets, but will slowly percolate into HP’s enterprise printers,” says
    Roberts.
    Of the first lines to incorporate the new STP technology,
    the HP Photosmart 3310 All-in-One and the HP Photosmart 8250 printer
    will output a four inch by six inch photograph in just four seconds,
    cutting speeds to almost half that of current models.
    The Office Jet
    Pro K550 is the first in what is to set to become a long line of HP
    business printers that incorporates STP and Vivera. In draft mode, it
    is claimed that the system will output colour prints at a cost that is
    comparable with mono laser printers, assuming a rate of 15% ink
    coverage. That works out at roughly 1 pence a page, which looks very
    appealing against the six-fold price premium that businesses should
    currently expect to pay for a colour page over a mono print.
    HP says
    the K550 will print professional standard colour documents at speeds of
    up to 10 pages a minute and black text documents at speeds of up to 12
    pages per minute. It claims the unit cost is up to 30% lower in colour
    cost per page than achieved in laser prints.
    IDC suggests that a
    balanced deployment of printers can produce savings of up to 23% in
    typical enterprise deployments, based on industry averages, which
    suggest a poorly managed printing regime can cost around £400 ($710) a
    year a head in some organisations.
    However, Lowes notes that it is
    not unusual to encounter some push-back from users over print
    rationalisation programmes, not only in terms of accessibility but in
    the context of privacy and print job security as well, especially where
    low-volume printers are consolidated and replaced by departmental
    machines, taking the job away from easy reach of the desktop.
    Concern
    over information security is one issue the printer vendors say they
    have covered. Some make use of encryption and IPSec tunnels to secure
    the data flows of print jobs between a client machine and a remote
    printer. And most vendors have now added the necessary access controls
    and data protection features to their enterprise lines. Ricoh’s
    printers can be set up to use the existing Windows network login
    infrastructure to restrict unauthorised access and to limit the use of
    specific devices such as colour-capable printers.
    As Eddie Hall,
    product manager at Ricoh UK, says, “One of the problems businesses see
    straight away before they install colour is that people could start to
    misuse the facilities and print out all sorts of documents
    unnecessarily in colour, or use the assets excessively for personal
    use. Uncontrolled access to colour is always going to be an issue.
    That’s why we use a system that allows the administrator to set up a
    series of rules to manage print security and control costs.
    “If a
    colour print job is authorised, but exceeds the volume limit set by the
    administrator for that specified colour-capable printer, then the
    system can be configured to advise a user to use another specified
    networked printer that would be more cost efficient for that job.”
    Ricoh’s
    latest 3260C can produce output up to 45 pages per minute in full
    colour and 60 a minute in black and white. Its role is one that is
    intended to allow businesses with ‘print on demand’ requirements for
    presentations, sales and marketing collateral and bespoke stationery to
    reduce their dependence on outsourced print shops. To further support
    this, the range comes with various finishing options such as a sheet
    stapler and a booklet maker.
    There has been a lot of focus on
    manageability across all the key IT segments of desktops, servers and
    the storage infrastructure, and the enterprise print asset base is no
    different. As with most emerging technologies, each vendor has its own
    approach.
    But according to Harry Lewis, an IBM technician and
    chairman of the IEEE-ISTO Printer Working Group, there is much being
    done to promote vendor collaboration on open standards related to
    printer fleet management: “This includes defining and standardising the
    semantics of objects, attributes and elements to be managed and
    defining a protocol for managing imaging systems as a web service,” he
    says.
    “An open standard to establish common industry semantics will
    lead to more uniform reporting and control, which ultimately translates
    into improved ability for the IT department to manage costs.”
    These
    standards are not being developed in a vacuum, but reach across
    standards organisations for ongoing collaboration with the DMTF, Free
    Software Group, CIP4-JDF and others.
    As for IBM itself, Lewis points
    to advances in the use of its BladeCenter technology to boost the
    performance and flexibility of data-stream transforms. Notably, IBM
    recently announced the IBM Infoprint Transform Manager, which helps
    speed print jobs where time sensitive output is essential.
    Most
    document composition tools today create postscript or pdf files as the
    de facto standard for electronic document exchange and presentation,
    resulting in more complex print jobs that are loaded with variable data
    and images. Infoprint Transform Manager runs on a dedicated server, and
    seeks to counter this trend and help relieve bottlenecks when
    transforming datastreams such as postscript, pdf, gif, tiff and jpeg
    into advanced function presentation (AFP) print datastreams. AFP is the
    industry-standard print architecture for printing and managing
    sensitive documents.
    Meanwhile, HP’s WebJet Admin or the CentreWare
    Web client from Xerox are typical of the latest systems management
    utilities available to administrators, who can now use a standard web
    browser to set up and configure devices, check system status,
    troubleshoot problems, or determine supply requirements without having
    to touch a machine.
    Email alerts on printer status and job queues
    can be triggered to the help desk, and by querying an Active Directory
    register of printers and user groups the administrator can call on the
    system to set appropriate polling intervals so that jobs are run
    according to priority.
    For chargeback or lease-costing purposes,
    most print systems will also spit out reports to track the use of any
    networked SNMP compliant printer or multifunction device. Additional
    metering programmes will automatically submit usage readings to the
    vendor, eliminating manual collection and reporting and increasing
    billing accuracy.