UK:TIME TO DUMP YOUR INKJET ?
UK:TIME TO DUMP YOUR INKJET ?
2005-06-06 at 10:25:00 am #9829
Time to dump your inkjet?
Total Cost of Ownership and the laser printer: what printer
purchaser should know
Everyone knows colour inkjet printers are cheap: you can buy one
for £25, and they’re given away with new PCs in the consumer market.
But everyone also knows they’re expensive to run. Depending on
the manufacturer and model, a new set of ink cartridges will often cost as much
as the printer. In tests run in 2003, Which? magazine famously compared the cost
of HP’s ink – at £1.70 per millilitre – with vintage 1985 Dom Perignon at £0.23
Which? came to the conclusion that unless printing high-quality
photos was your priority, on the running costs of consumables alone, you were
better off with a colour laser.
But what about the purchase price? Which? ran its tests two
years ago, when even entry-level colour lasers cost between £500 and £700,
whereas an entry-level colour laser is now around the £300 mark.
Total cost of ownership
In a report aimed at helping schools decide the best-value
printers to buy, Sheffield City Council calculated total cost of ownership (TCO)
over the lifetime of a printer.
Adding up all the running costs – ink or toner, paper,
maintenance and even electricity – SCC worked out that a colour inkjet costs a
minimum of £0.38 per page to run; a colour laser costs a minimum of £0.07 per
If you print, let’s say 50 pages a week over 50 weeks of the
year, using SCC’s cost per page figures, the running cost of the inkjet for a
year will be £950, and for the laser £175.
Now put these figures into a simple TCO table that compares an
entry-level inkjet with a colour laser that costs 16 times more than the inkjet
Printer purchase £ 3 year running cost total colour laser £500 £525 £1025 inkjet £30 £2,850 £2,880
As you can see, over three years the inkjet is nearly three
times more expensive to own. Even if you changed your printer every year, the
colour laser would still work out cheaper by over £300.
No wonder Sheffield City Council advised its schools that if
they printed more than three colour pages a day (assuming a 40-week academic
year) they should buy a laser. “Looking at total costs, the inkjet printer looks
like economic suicide,” concluded the report.
There are two other points to remember about the running costs
First, you can’t store ink cartridges indefinitely. In fact most
inkjet manufacturers advise you not to keep cartridges for longer than six
months because the ink becomes more viscous with age and clogs up the
microscopic jets in the print-head. So you can’t buy ink cartridges cheaply in
bulk and store them.
Second, organisations that keep stocks of ink cartridges tend to
suffer what is know as ‘staff-related shrinkage’ – employees ‘borrow’ ink
cartridges for their printers at home.
One way of cutting paper costs is to print both sides (duplex)
where possible. Lasers can do this easily, but anyone who has tried this with
pages of graphics on an inkjet knows the results are rather soggy.
So far, we have only discussed the TCO of printers in terms of
purchase price and running costs, which are easily identifiable. It’s less easy
to calculate the effect the speed of a printer has on office
Printer speed is measured in pages per minute (ppm).
Manufacturers’ ppm figures are always ideal, but you can expect a laser printer
to perform closer to the ideal in real life than an inkjet.
Page per minute figures for inkjets are based on Draft mode and
often refer to printing only a few characters on the page. So you can expect an
inkjet to print full pages of text at about 5ppm and graphics (depending on
complexity) at about 1ppm – which makes nonsense of inkjets that claim 20ppm
But lasers print engines are more Ronseal – they do more or less
what it says on the tin – whether they are printing a few lines of text or a
page of graphics. You can expect a laser with an engine rated at 20ppm to chew
through text at around 15-17ppm and complex graphics at 10ppm.
What this means in practice is that the slower the printer the
more time people will have to wait for their prints. That’s fine if they’ve got
other tasks to do while they wait, but otherwise it’s unproductive time. If
you’ve ever printed a colour presentation on an inkjet, you will know that it
pays to have something else to be getting on with in the meantime.
Scale this problem up to an office of, say, 10 people and you
can see how slow inkjets will make a big dent in productivity. You won’t see the
money being spent, as you would signing off POs for ink cartridges, but it’s
being wasted nonetheless.
Networked colour laser
The alternative to this scenario is to take away all the
personal printers and buy the fastest, most richly featured colour laser your
budget will stretch to and network it for everyone in the office to
One big printer shared among 10 people will be a lot cheaper to
run than three smaller printers – remember over three years one inkjet was
almost three times more expensive to run than a laser that cost 16 times as much
Apart from running costs, think of the increased productivity
everyone will benefit from by using a faster printer, having colour on tap when
they need it and the productivity-enhancing features, such as automatic
collating, that come with advanced printers.
Once you own such a machine, the financially beneficial uses to
which it can be put multiply.
Printing jobs that you currently put out to a print shop – for
example, colour brochures or direct mail-shots – can be brought in house. Not
only will you avoid paying a print shop bill, but you won’t be constrained by
the print shop’s minimum quantity. If you want only five brochures right now,
that’s all you have to print.
Printing on-demand in this way is economical and flexible: you
don’t have to pay for minimum quantity; you don’t have to store the extras; you
don’t have to scrap extras when the brochure is out of date – you simply edit it
and print the new version as required.
This flexibility means you can afford to be more creative with
your marketing collateral and make your company look more professional. And that
may be just what tips the balance when it comes to winning the next
contract.Digital prints increase, home inkjet
use losing ground
May 2005 The volume of
prints made from digital still camera images increased by 69 percent for the
year ended February 2005, according to the most recent PMA Processing Survey.
Online printing accelerated, reaching 207 percent in the 12 months ended
Printing volumes on retail minilabs grew more than twice as fast as the
overall rate of 69 percent. Growth in home printing has slowed down in the past
few months. For the period of March 2004 through February 2005, the volume of
prints made at home grew by only 18 percent, the lowest growth rate reported so
far. This is also below digital camera unit growth, which exceeded 35 percent in
The rapid growth in the volume of prints made by retailers or on kiosks has
resulted in the shift of digital printing share away from home printers and
toward other printing options. For the year ending in February, 51 percent of
digital prints were made on home printers, down from 73 percent in the year
earlier period. Including prints made on kiosks, local retailers nearly doubled
their share as their percent increased from 18.8 percent to 35.1 percent (the
sum of retail and kiosk methods, excluding online orders).
The online share reported here includes orders placed at both
brick-and-mortar and pure online service providers. For the period of March 2004
through February 2005 this share went to 10.4 percent from 5.7 percent the
previous year. According to the survey, as of February, almost one out of five
prints ordered online were picked up at a retail location