A market study of colour printers

The printer manufacturing market seems to be a booming one. Manufacturers are no doubt eyeing expansion and coming up with newer products to capture the burgeoning market. The manufacturers are interested in the colour -printer sector for purely reasons of expansion. There is stiff competition between the makers as all are concentrating to keep the prices low to capture the market. It must be said here that while in the monochrome department Hewlett-Packard co. are the market leaders, the reigning company in the colour segment still remains undecided.

However the future of the colour printer market is purported to be a bright one according to those investing in these companies. The investors are much optimistic, as these printers, using four times the toner cyan, magenta, yellow, and black of a monochrome printer, will produce pictures of a much higher quality. The market, currently a billion dollar industry, will increase manifold.

Adding on to its product range, printing giant Lexmark introduced its c52x series, which included the c524n last June. Earlier there was a huge gap in its colour line up-there was simply the low- end c510 with a capacity of printing about 8 colour and 30 monochrome pictures in a single minute which wasn’t all that fast. There also existed, side-by-side, the high-end c762 which, though having a higher speed, was much more expensive, thereby difficult to afford for the smaller offices and home users. As there was no other product catering to the demands of the users the competitors of Lexmark had an edge over it.

The introduction of Lexmark’s c524n however changed things.
They introduced this product with a very low price range, thereby making it affordable. Offering a dpi resolution of 1200*1200, this network ready colour laser printer has an outstanding colour output and can print up to twenty pages per minute. The very first page may be printed in as little as 13seconds. The model has a monthly maximum duty cycle of 65000 pages, which is quite impressive. The new c524 also reduces the time taken by print jobs considerably as it has a 437.5MHz processor and 128Mbytes of memory. The memory can be expanded up to 576, which decreases the waiting time taken for print jobs. Moreover, colour care technology and Lexmark coverage estimator help in managing the cost involved in using colour toner. The model, weighing 57 pounds, is 17.3 inches wide, 19 inches high and 20.2 deep.  With the model also comes a CD consisting of the user guide and the printer software, a power cable, a paper exit extension tray, set up sheet and toner cartridges for cyan, yellow, magenta and black. The product has a one-year warranty period for on site repair.

It goes without saying that that outsourcing of IT and consumer electronic products lower manufacturing costs of the product, which helps lower the prices of the produced good. The question is how low must the producers keep their profit margins in order to stay in the race in today’s colour printing market?

The current analysis lab examined the c524n at a product volume of 1,20,000 units under the assumption that the model was produced in china. An analysis was made of the procurement costs of commodity components, manufacturing costs of fabricated components and location labour rates. The production cost was estimated to be around £265 / unit. The cost distribution showed the cost of the printer mechanism and its assembly to be about £51. The electronics and assembly account for £60. Other costs included laser power supply, consumables assembly, fuser assembly, paper assembly, control panel assembly electronics assembly, final arrangements, etc.

At the time of launching the product, the product was supposed to be priced at £390. However, Lexmark priced the product at almost half of the originally intended price at some places. To maximize its revenue, the company in a clever move, outfitted the toner with different toner cartridges. The toner content was increased or decreased according to the budget of the customer. The more expensive models containing more toner catered to the demands of the enterprise segment while the lower priced models with low yield cartridges were ideal for small offices and also home users.

The product, being suitably priced, was a great success, perfectly fitted to meet the needs of the buyers and the manufacturers and compete with its competitors in the lucrative colour printer market. Lexmark claimed the print quality was Photorealistic. On account of its chemically processed, spherical toner delivering a 1200*1200 dpi resolution and also because the new print head four lasers in one unit with a mirror. The machine enabled Lexmark to take on the enterprise market as well as their competitors, especially Hewlett-Packard.

Can Ink Cartridges & Inkjet printers actually be cool ?

First a little history lesson…..
There was a time, long ago that printers had ribbons and used dot matrix printing to create tiny dots that, when looked at, were readable. Sometimes they were BARELY readable, however. Changing ribbons and printing wheels to change type face was a chore.

Then, in 1984, the first laser printer that used toner cartridges came into being. Quickly, no one wanted a dot matrix printer anymore. The laser printer caused ink powder from the toner cartridge to fuse onto the paper where the program told the printer to leave ink. The output was much clearer and much more professional in appearance. Very soon, dot matrix printers became known as “door stops”.

By 1990, inkjet printers that used drop-in ink cartridges became readily available and very reasonable prices. These inkjet cartridges were very easy to change without any fuss. The cost to the user, compared to the laser toner cartridge, was significantly reduced.

So now it starts getting pretty cool….
Today, inkjet printers using ink cartridges are so affordable that every computer owner can afford to own their own printer that is capable of using photo quality inkjet cartridges or for less expensive printing, ink cartridges that are remanufactured or “generic” or non-original manufacture. These inkjet cartridges can even be refilled in many cases to save even more money.

The price of the machines themselves has dropped by buckets and what they can do is way cooler than ever before. Not only can you print but also scan, fax (many do PC-Fax which I’ll get to later), copy, make your morning coffee, take out the garbage (ok not those last 2). Combining this many tasks obviously reduces the number of different machines in your home/office but in addition there’s only one manual you have to completely ignore instead of many (for the guys reading this). The PC-Fax thingy I mentioned Id actually like to discuss a little more about because I personally find this a fantastic feature. Basically it means that your printer/fax/everything else talks directly to your computer allowing you to send and receive faxes without any visible signs of paper involved. For example if anyone was crazy enough to want a copy of this article faxed to them I could do it directly from my computer without having to actually print anything out.

When using inkjet cartridges that are photo quality, it is sensible to use photo quality paper for your printing. This ensures the best quality print out resulting from your inkjet photo quality cartridge. While these inkjet cartridges will print on regular paper, it is a waste to place the more expensive ink cartridge into your printer and then print on plain non-glossy paper.

For every day printing in black and white or even in color, remanufactured or non-original inkjet cartridges work great and save money for you in the long run. As a general rule of thumb, you need to purchase twice as many black inkjet cartridges because there is, on average, more black printing needs for the average person.

Nowadays manufacturers are including more and more technology into their cartridges and trying to convince you that their ink has that extra special something. Epson uses DURABrite ink, HP uses Vivera ink and the list goes on. If you ever get bored and feel the need to work yourself into a frenzy just try surfing some of the major sites to compare exactly what one manufacturers ink does compared to the next. If you come away from this sane you’ll definitely know a lot more techie sounds words than you need to know now or in your next lifetime.

Many of the latest ink cartridges have cool gizmos in them like small chips designed to monitor the ink levels and tell you when its time to reorder and even little LEDs for those of you who want their printer to light up like a disco. The idea of the chip sounds great but there are cases where the chip is telling the printer to stop working too soon or even to not work at all if the cartridges inside are not original (there’s been at least one of the major players recently sued over exactly this). To try and counter this a ‘chip resetter’ can be purchased which basically tells the chip to do as its told and keep on printing regardless of how much ink it thought was left in the tank. As far as the issue with these chips and non original cartridges is concerned its actually illegal for a chip to stop your machine working on this basis but apparently this hasn’t deterred a few of the big boys. Whether a chip resetter will fix this problem is uncertain.

No one knows what will come next in the world of printing. Just as the dot matrix printer long ago became a door stop (mostly that is), it is possible that within the next decade a new, less expensive, more user-friendly printing method that is even more cost effective than inkjet printers using drop-in ink cartridges will become archaic. For today, inkjet cartridges in low-priced printer provide the average household with all the affordable printing from their inkjet printer they need.

Whether you want to print graphics, brochures, or just letters, there is a printer that uses inkjet cartridges for you. Choose inkjet cartridges that meet your printing needs at affordable prices.

Bottom line is yep your ink cartridges are getting more high tech and cooler (heck in the old days theres no way your cartridge would actually light up with pretty colours for you and tell you when its about to run dry). The future is certainly going to be interesting seeing what comes next…..

Edwin Basko

<p>The Apple Mac Specialist and author</p>