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Business inkjet: a viable alternative to laser technology

Quocirca research reveals that a third of SMEs have already made the switch to business inkjet, with a further 27% planning to do so in the next 12 months. Here, Louella Fernandes, Associate Director for Print Services and Solutions, outlines how business inkjet can form part of a broader sustainable strategy for print

Louella Fernandes
Louella Fernandes

Businesses are still reliant on printing, and colour volumes in particular are increasing. In a recent Quocirca study almost half of organisations said their colour output had increased over the last year, compared to 20% who have seen colour print volumes fall.

This continued reliance on printing means that businesses should evaluate the most appropriate print technology for their needs. Reliability, price and running costs are seen as the top criteria for print selection.

A high importance was also placed on energy consumption and environmental credentials, particularly amongst large enterprises. More than half (52%) of respondents in Quocirca’s study indicate that sustainability is very or fairly important when selecting printers, with 33% of large organisations viewing it as a very important consideration, compared to just 12% of SMEs.

In this context, the emergence of professional-class business inkjet printers and MFPs with lower running costs, high-capacity ink cartridges and professional print quality is challenging the traditional dominance of laser devices in the office print environment.

The popularity of such devices in small and large businesses alike is driving significant growth. IDC expects the business inkjet market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% from 2015 to 2020.

Quocirca’s research reveals that the shift to inkjet is already underway, particularly in the SME sector. Overall, a third of SMEs say they have already started the transition to inkjet printers, compared to 19% of large enterprises.

The main factors driving this transition are:

Lower cost of printing.
Inkjet printers are claimed to offer up to 50% lower running costs than comparable laser devices. Higher capacity cartridges with higher yields can mean fewer user interventions, better device uptime and less waste.

Energy saving.
Unlike laser printers, inkjet printers use no heat in the printing process, so consume less power. Epson claims its Workforce Pro printers, based on Piezo printhead technology, consume up to 96% less energy than lasers, which in turn reduces running costs.

Diverse media compatibility.
Inkjet printers can print on a diverse range of paper types. As the ink is directly ejected onto the paper, it is possible to print even on specialist media, including heat-sensitive film and thick card. Epson inkjets, which use insoluble and marker-resistant pigment-based ink for all colours, can be used to print waterproof labels and even promotional materials on glossy paper.

Minimal service interventions.
With fewer components to replace than laser and high capacity ink cartridges, business inkjets are likely to experience less downtime and require less time to be spent on changing/ordering consumables, calling for support etc., thereby reducing IT and overall support costs.

Less waste.
Regardless of page coverage, laser printing uses drums, transfer assemblies and fusers in the printing process. In comparison, business inkjet printers that typically use a permanent printhead have fewer components to replace. If coverage is low, the only consumable used is ink. Epson’s WorkForce Pro models produce up to 94% less waste, according to independent tests.

Balanced deployment
Businesses need carefully to evaluate their printing needs, as, ultimately, there are benefits to both laser and inkjet print technologies. Rather than shifting entirely from one technology to another, the best approach is to deploy both technologies depending on the business need.

Quocirca research suggests that organisations that operate a balanced deployment model, with a mix of technologies and distributed and centralised printers and MFPs, are more likely to report reduced environmental impact and lower energy usage.

Different print technologies can help reduce the environmental impact of printing, but businesses need to ensure they have the right tools and policies to minimise waste. MPS providers are a good starting point in providing guidance on how best to optimise the printer fleet and advising what type of technology is most suitable.


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