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Color Copiers & Printers
By: David Murphy

Here are the most frequently asked questions from churches when it comes to evaluating and selecting a copier/printer for their worship facility.

1. What technology is best for my church's volume color printing?
There are three primary technologies to choose from, each having its own advantages and trade-offs.

First, digital copiers, or MFPs, are the most common device used in church offices today. Generally, copiers use a technology called electrophotography (EP), which is otherwise known as xerography. EP technology utilizes a heat fusing process to melt toner particles on a page at about 350+ degrees Fahrenheit. These devices are simple to use, producing high-quality color images on glossy paper. Depending on your church's requirements for volume, speed, and other features, the operating costs range from about five to nine cents per page for full color and about one cent per page for monochrome.

A second option is a digital duplicator, which uses an ink-and-master process to reproduce monochrome or highlight color documents quickly and inexpensively. Designed for longer run print jobs of 25+ copies per original, digital duplicators are not designed to print variable data, glossy paper stock, or single copies. They are extremely fast (up to 180 ppm) and are great for highlight color printing of bulletins, newsletters, flyers, envelopes, and postcards. Operating costs average about a half-cent per page for either monochrome or highlight color, with no capability for process color. Using no heat process, these devices run completely cool, often lasting in churches for 10 to 15 years and reliably producing multiple millions of copies. Digital duplicators don't replace the need for digital copiers; rather, these two technologies complement one another. About 40,000 churches in North America use digital duplicators for their long-run print jobs.

A third (and new) option is the high-speed inkjet printer/MFP. This is not referring to the common inkjet printer that sits on your desktop and handles low-volume, personal printing applications. Recent innovative breakthroughs in inkjet technologies now allow for very high speeds and very low running costs for volume color. Print speeds reach 120 full color pages per minute, a feature that is unparalleled by most digital color copiers. With no heat, fuser, toner, or complicated optics, these high-speed inkjet printers are extremely reliable, even for the most demanding church print volumes. They also have the versatility of being able to print variable data full color envelopes on demand. No other digital color device available can match inkjet's ability to produce fast, personalized envelopes in volume. Depending upon the graphics you use and the ink coverage on the page, the operating costs for high-speed inkjet printers typically average two to four cents per page for full color and about one cent per page for monochrome.

2. Which device is most appropriate for our average print/copy volume?
For each device you are considering, look at the duty cycle or the manufacturer's recommended maximum monthly volume. For most toner-based copiers, this is a general guideline for the highest copy volume you would ever want to produce in a month. Be careful, though, as these numbers may not reflect your vendor's actual recommendation. A copier brochure might show its duty cycle of 100,000 copies, but your vendor will probably advise you against approaching that limit routinely. The device may handle that volume occasionally, but you may suffer reliability issues if you push that limit continually. A general rule of thumb is to divide the duty cycle by four. So, if you are going to average 25,000 copies per month, a 100k duty provides some cushion.

The exception to this rule is for digital duplicators and high-speed inkjet printers. Because they do not use heat, fuser, or toner, these technologies can realistically handle their published duty cycles of up to 500k copies per month. Sure, your church's copy volume is nowhere near this high, but these devices are able handle this capacity. Even if you are printing only 20,000 copies per month, you will have the peace of mind of knowing that you never surpass your recommended limit. 

3. How do I know what print/copy speed is best suited for my church?
Output speed is directly related to duty cycle, hardware costs, and operating costs. Higher-speed toner-based copiers can handle much heavier volume, but your acquisition costs increase proportionately. The trade-off is that high-speed copiers usually have a lower operating cost than slower copiers.

Digital duplicators and high-speed inkjet printers are different. Higher speed doesn't directly relate to variations in operating costs. Most all digital duplicator models can print 120 pages per minute, with some printing up to 180 ppm, and the operating costs all hover at around a half-cent for each highlight-color impression. Hardware costs of higher-speed models do tend to cost more, but you are mostly paying for value-added features, such as paper size, paper capacity, connectivity, higher image resolution, and other functions.

Of course, the device's print speed does have a direct effect on your production time. For example, 2,000 single-sided full color flyers would take about 45 minutes to print on a 45-ppm color copier. That same job would take about 17 minutes to print on a 120-ppm inkjet printer. So, you reduce your production time for this print job by 28 minutes. With a wage of $15 per hour for your church employee, you saved $7 in labor costs. Multiply this rate out over 20,000 or 40,000 copies month, and you can see that higher speed can make a dramatic impact on your ROI and employee efficiency.

4. So, what is the bottom line for a color copy/print device for my church?
No single print technology is perfect for every environment and application. Very small churches that want to print in color may be best served by a low-end color MFP. Increasingly, churches with more than 400 members are finding that using a combination of two of the above technologies may result in the lowest total cost of ownership and offer the broadest range of output capabilities. You may do well with a small color-enabled copier/MFP for your higher-quality low-volume jobs, along with a digital duplicator or high-speed inkjet printer for your higher-volume applications, such as newsletters, bulletins, and direct mail. It really depends on your volume, speed, cost, and quality requirements. The nice thing is that your choices are not limited to heat-intensive toner-based digital copiers.

David Murphy is vice president of marketing for RISO, Inc., www.us.riso.com.

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