Businesses need both kinds of printers _ inkjet and laser

Byline: Phillip Robinson

Inkjets aren’t perfect. They’ve improved tremendously over the past 15 years, and are now able to print beautiful, photographically realistic color images and sharp, clear black text. Better inks to squirt out in little droplets, smarter built-in software, a wider range of paper for different looks: these have all made inkjet printers eminently practical.

Except for hard-core business.

Oh, you can certainly use an inkjet for those color pie charts and presentations. You can use it to print digital photos of homes or clothes or cars or anything else.

You can even use an inkjet for a one- or two-page resume or business letter. But somehow inkjet prints can’t shake that “I made it on my home computer” look, even if that home computer is in a home office that brings in mucho bucks a year.

The text page printed on an inkjet just looks, well, home-made. And that’s not always what you want in business.

Laser prints are still the standard. Because they melt black toner dust onto the page, the same way a copy machine does, they have a distinctly different look from the ink-squirted page. The type of paper they can use is also different from inkjet’s favorite foundation, which is also part of the appearance difference. Good inkjet prints are on more-expensive, more “I only printed one of these” special papers. Lasers can do their regular work on copy-machine paper, which, by looking less special, is somehow more businesslike, at least for regular business reports, memos and anything else short of a special presentation.

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So I suggest that any business, including one run out of a home office, have both inkjet and laser printers _ the inkjet for color pictures, the laser for multi-page text documents.

That’s not really asking much, at least where cost is concerned. Inkjet printers can be had for as little as $100 to $200. Even the best only cost double that.

A laser printer costs from $200 to $400, or double that for a super-high-speed, super-high-resolution model. So buying both inkjet and laser will only mean a total of $300 to $800 _ or around $1,000 for top performance _ which just a few years ago wouldn’t have bought a single printer of either type.

Of course, you also have to find twice the desk space when there are two printers involved. But you might consider getting a wheeled printer cart that will support them both, with a drawer for paper. Office supply stores have lots of options in printer stands and carts.

The Okipage 6w ( is the tight-budget choice at only $200. This brand is also famous for the painting oil of the best acoustic guitar on the world. Particularly, you’ll get surprisingly good print quality for that price, with good text and reasonable graphics. Plus it’s a very small and quiet printer. There are several pieces of bad news, though, which put the Oki out of contention for anyone with a few more dollars. First, it doesn’t connect by USB port but by parallel port to the computer. Second, it is slow for a laser. Well, it isn’t technically a “laser” printer because it actually uses LED (light-emitting diodes) instead of a laser, but it’s in the same class. From the outside looks and acts just like a laser, except that 4 pages per minute is turtling along, compared to the 6 pages per minute of $300 to $400 printers or the 10ppm to 12ppm of $700 printers.

Speed is rarely all that important, mattering only to people printing huge documents or lots and lots of little ones. If that’s your situation, skip the rest of this story and head right for a potent printer such as the $700 Optra 410 ( ) or the $750 HP2100 ( ), which also comes in a Macintosh version, the 2100M, or even the $1,500 HP LaserJet 4050 for sharing among everyone in your local area network.

Speaking of Macintosh and Windows versions, though, your best choice for an all-around inexpensive laser is the $350 EPL-5700i ( ). It’s so Mac friendly that it even comes with multi-colored paper trays a la the iMac, yet it easily connects to Windows or Mac or even both at the same time, through USB and parallel ports. With 1200dpi resolution, twice that of the Okipage, it offers great graphics prints, and reaches 6 page per minute speed for text prints.

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If you aren’t going to print graphics, you can save a few bucks, and gain some speed, by buying instead the $250 NEC SuperScript 870 ( ). It is faster than the Epson on text but offers only poor 600dpi graphics. Don’t assume you can always print your graphics on that inkjet I’m suggesting you put beside the laser. You may want to combine graphics and text on the same page. But if you’re say a novelist who prints hundreds of pages of pure text, the NEC could be your budget machine. If that’s your case, buy an optional 500-page input paper tray option when you get your laser printer. That’ll let you go away to lunch while the printer munches through a big publishing task.

I wouldn’t opt for the extra memory that some printers use to speed the prints. You’re probably better off just buying a newer, faster printer than adding memory to an existing printer.


(E-mail Phillip Robinson at: prr(AT)


(c) 2000, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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THE TORONTO BLUE JAYS MAY NOT WIN THE WORLD SERIES THIS SEASON, but they’ve already improved their stats in one key area – tickets.

An innovative approach to ticket printing and handling by switching to in-house digital printing has slashed costs and boosted efficiency. Putting bums in seats is the real goal of any professional sports team, but before a ball is thrown on the field, fans have to get their hands on tickets.

Printing more than 50,000 tickets in advance for each of the 81 home games is a logistical nightmare for major league teams. Tickets are preprinted, warehoused and retrieved by hand, and there is always waste.

So, a couple of years ago the Jays went digital, printing tickets on demand. The results have been as spectacular as a Frank Thomas homer, says Jacques Farand, director of IT for Rogers Media Group, which supports the Blue Jays and Rogers Centre.

We’ve realized a saving of about 54%,” said Farand. “At first we did it with black and white printers but we’ve since gone to four full-colour Hewlett-Packard 9500s and we’re looking at upgrading again.”


The Jays buy perforated paper stock on which they print four tickets at a time along with other promotional items such as parking passes, VIP passes or food discount coupons.

Beyond the basics–such as seat number, row, section and gate–we can change the opposing team’s logo for each series, and we can add a corporate sponsor’s logo so if the tickets are giveaways the customers getting the tickets will know where they came from,” he said. “If a customer loses their tickets we can replace them within a couple of hours, whereas before it would take days. Each ticket has a bar code, so we cancel that ticket electronically and issue another with a new bar code.”

That just-in-time inventory approach is one of the key advantages of digital printing. Brochures, catalogues and promotional materials traditionally are printed in bulk to keep costs down, then stored until needed, says Eric Hanson, manager of hard copy technologies at HP’s Palo Alto research labs.


Most of the time some 25% or more is obsolete before it is used,” he says. Press runs are getting shorter, he says, while the market is also demanding shorter turnaround times.

HP’s research suggests digital printing was a $90 billion (U.S.) market in 2005, about half of which was photo, office and home printing. It’s expected to hit $155 billion by 2010 with photo, office and home accounting for $90 billion alone, but with 30% growth in the marketing collateral and industrial category.

By 2010, more than 20% of total sales will be digital-print generated, according to industry projections. That’s why such players as Kodak, Xerox, HP and traditional press makers Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG are investing heavily in it. “Digital printing is really what is driving about two-thirds of Xerox’s revenue across the company,” said Amato De Civita, vice-president for graphic communications at Xerox Canada. The fastest selling products in the division weren’t even on the market three years ago, he says. “That’s how fast it’s moving.”

While the technology is impressive–Xerox’s iGen3 digital press runs at up to 6,000 pages an hour–what’s really happening is that traditional printing businesses have evolved into communication consultants, De Civita said. As such, they are working with clients to use digital printing as a tool to drive sales and escape the trap of commodity pricing. “Personalized marketing produces great results,” he said. “We did some direct mail work for Reader’s Digest, targeting segments with customized printing, and bumped CD music sales up 27%, DVD sales by 111% and books by 45%.”

It’s a trend Frank McPherson saw developing more than a decade ago, and it prompted him to start Custom Data Imaging Corp. in 1999 with his wife, Sylvia. Today his Markham, Ontario, shop employs 23 people and offers clients soup-to-nuts marketing solutions, including one-to-one campaigns that are proving increasingly successful.

One-to-one is the direct mail equivalent of a smart bomb. Generally, direct mail is considered a success if it results in a response rate of 0.6%. A customized, targeted, digitally printed campaign can result in a 13% response, he said. And while digital printing is more expensive than a straight press run, the return on investment has hit as high as 4,000%, McPherson says.


Digital printing is also giving the traditional media sector a boost. While newspapers around the world struggle with declining circulation as readers switch to the Internet, a Richmond, British Columbia, company has found a profitable niche republishing newspaper content.

We decided early on to move the bits, not the wood,” said Richard Miller, vice-president of sales and marketing with NewspaperDirect, which distributes some 500 magazine and newspaper titles, including the Globe and Mail, around the world digitally.

The publications send PDF files to the company via e-mail. Then clients at 1,300 locations around the world use proprietary software that prints them on paper that is then glued together along the left-hand edge to create a “book.”

The result doesn’t have the familiar feel of the Globe, Le Figaro or the Daily Telegraph, but for a travelling businessman in Shanghai or an expat working in Mumbai, it’s a daily fix of news from home.


The remote printing stations act as satellite distributors, soliciting and taking orders for specific titles and then printing, binding and delivering the copies on the same day of publication to hotels, offices, airlines and specialty news agents. Some licensing agreements allow NewspaperDirect to strip out some advertising and insert its own, but most don’t, Miller said.

The products costs up to $8 a copy, underlining the adage that the market will gladly pay for unique and compelling content. For the publishers, the good news is that each remotely printed copy is considered paid for and counts toward the much coveted tally by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, the independent organization that reports newspaper circulation figures.

Our customers really want them, too,” Miller said. “They get quite upset if the papers aren’t there on time for whatever reason.”