Xerox is banking on new solid ink MFPs

Xerox Corp. is betting big on colour with the introduction of its first multifunction system based on the vendor’s solid ink technology.

At a customer and partner event in San Francisco last month, the peripheral and document management products vendor unveiled the Xerox WorkCenter C2424 multi- function printer (MFP), a 24 page-per-minute solid ink-based colour and black-and-white device with an estimated price of $3,965.

As an alternative to powdered toner, solid ink, a polymer-based ink, produces an image quality similar to an offset press, but is designed for everyday office use, according to Xerox.

In a phone interview, Donna Wittman, Canadian regional vice-president for Xerox Office Group in Mississauga, Ont., said traditionally there has always been a gap in the market between lower-end colour inkjet MFPs, which “have a low acquisition cost but [lack] the features an enterprise business would need,” and fancier MFPs that carry a heftier price tag. Xerox hopes the C2424’s solid ink technology and price point will help the product fill that gap, Wittman said.

The keynote session at Xerox’s event featured a presentation by a “colour expert panel” that extolled the benefits of using various hues in customer-facing communications, educational materials and other applications.

One of the panelists, Jill Morton, CEO of New York and Honolulu colour consultancy firm Colorcom, said colours communicate and affect individuals both on a psychological and physiological level. For example, the colour of the jacket Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy happened to be wearing at the event was “drunk tank pink” — the same colour used to paint the walls of jail cells. It is known to calm prisoners, albeit for only a short time, Morton explained.

One Xerox customer says it has been a no-brainer to switch to printing almost all of its documents in colour, but choosing between desktop and MFP devices proved more difficult. Corey Rose, senior systems analyst with Cosma International, a division of auto parts maker Magna Corp. in Brampton, Ont., said colour has always been a requirement for his company. Employees hold meetings with big automotive manufacturers to win new business, submit proposals or discuss R&D initiatives.

Most of Cosma’s presentations involve two parts: a PowerPoint presentation with colour slides and movies, followed by a hard-copy booklet given to customers. “To hand out black-and-white literature looks really bad. You can’t see the details and it doesn’t look like you put a lot of effort into it,” Rose said. “If you have colour photos and add colour to spreadsheets, it looks more professional and finished.”

In the past, Cosma used 16 colour MFP devices across its different departments. However, the solution proved to be a “huge pain administratively,” he said. “There would be multiple printed documents mixed together and someone would always accidentally grab someone else’s job. And if we went down, we’d be in trouble because no one could print.”

Cosma decided to switch to solid-ink desktop printers — there are now approximately 20 in Rose’s office.

He said four or five years ago the cost of desktop colour laser printers was prohibitive. “They were very expensive, very large and noisy, definitely not meant to be desk-side printers.” But today, with advances that have made high-quality desktop printers much smaller and quieter, they are now much more acceptable.

While he would definitely not go back to MFPs as a replacement for desktop printers, Rose said there is a place for multifunction devices in the office, especially when it comes to larger print jobs.

“Being [Cosma’s] head office, we do a lot of printing for general managers and leaders from different divisions. It’s easier to print 10,000 pages on a multifunction device,” Rose said. MFPs are also useful for creating 11 x 17-inch booklets or fancy marketing collateral with saddle stitching, he added.

Environmentally, solid ink has huge advantages because the ink is always completely used up. There are no clunky toner holders to deal with, and if one accidentally gets solid ink on one’s hands or clothing, it is washable, “just like crayon,” Rose said. “It is easier for end users to work with, and it’s almost like a toy compared to old printers, which were very industrial and messy.”

Noise levels are also better with solid-ink printers, Rose said. A laser printer must heat up the drum before it can burn the image or characters onto the page.

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Xerox’s colourful launch of solid ink MFPs

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