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 user 2008-04-25 at 3:32:06 pm Views: 41
  • #19353

    Ink in a solid state
    Printing isn’t really considered a “Green” technology among those who wish to go paperless, but there have been some notable improvements over the years. And it remains an important staple for many businesses, no matter how much they try to cut down on the number of prints.Except that printers and their consumables – namely, ink and paper – can be expensive propositions for some SMBs. This is typically where factors like print yields and power consumption come into play. After all, maximizing efficiency at a savings in cost is attractive to businesses of any size.Despite the fact that Xerox is very much involved in the laser and inkjet printer markets, the company has increasingly been promoting its solid ink technology, touting it as more “environmentally-friendly” with a “reduced carbon footprint.”

    A stick of ink instead of a cartridge
    Solid ink’s birth goes back to 1991 when a company called Tektronix developed it as an office printing technology. Xerox acquired the Tektronix Colour Printing and Imaging Division in 2000, and then added it as a proprietary line alongside its other lines of printing products.Unlike laser and inkjet, solid ink uses mechanics called “phase change”. What that means is the ink – which comes in a solid stick – is heated in a wax base and converted to a liquid ink. A micro piezo engine then electrically pushes the ink onto the page, where it instantly dries upon output.Once the ink is on the page, it is more like a layer on top that fuses with the actual page, rather than “sinking” into it like inkjet ink or laser toner could. Traditionally, this made it difficult or even impossible to write on it with a pen, though Xerox says it has improved on that. Areas of a page with a high concentration of ink, however, may still pose challenges in certain cases.”Solid ink technology is cartridge-free and produces 90 per cent less waste than the cartridges from a color laser printer,” says Eme Onuoha, director of federal government relations and sustainability for Xerox Canada.

    Onuoha adds that 14 solid ink boxes meant for Xerox’s Phaser 8860 fit into the same space as one laserjet cartridge for HP’s LaserJet 4700, which he cites as the key reason why Xerox can ship so many more of them during transport.”By increasing the total number of colour pages the new ink sticks produce, and pricing each colour ink stick at one-third the price of black supplies, the Phaser 8860 provides high-quality colour prints for the same cost of an identical black and white Xerox 8860print,” he says.The breakdown in numbers looks like this: a box of black ink costs $249 with a yield of 14,000 pages. Boxes of color ink sticks will cost $79 each, which also yield 14,000 pages. That’s on top of the base pricing for the Phaser 8860 colour printer ($2,899) and Phaser 8860MFP ($4,599) models Xerox makes.Solid ink printers do generate a “burning” smell at times because of the melting process that takes place during printing. However, they don’t produce ozone, like laser printers do.

    One target market
    Evan Hardie, a senior analyst who follows hardcopy peripherals for IDC Canada, knows solid ink technology well, and sees it as being more ideally suited for small businesses, mainly because the company’s laser products target larger businesses and enterprises.”If it’s a mid-sized to larger business, they’ll look for laser or traditional MFP because they’d want to go with something that’s bigger and more robust for cost-savings and volume,” Hardie says. “Small businesses that print less could go with inkjet printers, depending on what their needs are, though solid ink is really meant for them as well, especially if they print a lot in colour.”Despite the fact that inkjet and laser cartridges are recycled by manufacturers, Hardie suggests the overall footprint for solid ink could be smaller because there’s no real retail packaging and little residual waste, otherwise.But solid ink printers have also had a reputation for taking too long to warm up enough for the ink to liquefy. Not to mention that they needed to go through a special “cool-down” cycle in case the printer had to be moved.”There was some concern over the total cost of ownership for a solid ink printer product, but when you look at the same costs for an inkjet, you’ll find those to be fairly high as well,” he says.Hardie adds that solid ink can also print on a larger gamut of paper types, which has been known to be a problem with inkjet printers, in particular, because some printers won’t output properly onto third-party paper.The gel and wax composition of solid ink doesn’t have this issue because of the way it sticks itself onto the paper as an affixed layer, so any manufacturer’s paper could potentially be used.