HP's new inkjets: Can ink make it in the office?

09 April 2014

This is an article by Andy Slawetsky, our partner and agent in North America.  Andy is President of Industry Analysts and we heartily recommend you sign up to their newsletter.

"I saw the new HP Officejet Enterprise color inkjet printers (the X555 and X585) at the recent HP analyst meeting earlier this month in Boston. I also have an older X576w they just sent me a week ago so I have had a chance to play around with it.

The technology used in this product was earlier used in the failed Edgeline products HP tried to bring to the office a few years ago. While that product was killed off, too early in my opinion as I thought HP was onto something, the technology has evolved to the point where HP can bring customers 72-pages per minute in full color for under $1,000. Unreal, right?
HP uses wide array printing, a fixed print head that allows the print head to stay in one position rather than having to slide back and forth spraying ink the way traditional inkjet printers work. The result is they can achieve extremely fast print speeds using a much greener technology than laser printers.
How is it greener? First, it uses minimal energy. I can tell you my printer has been sitting here for a week now and it doesn’t make a peep. Unlike other inkjet models that cycle through modes now and then, keeping the ink moving, purging, etc., these devices hang on the network using only a trickle of energy and unless I’ve missed these occasional cycles, which is quite possible, these printers don’t go through that process, saving energy and ink.
When a laser printer fires up, it uses a tremendous amount of energy to charge the drum, fuse the image onto the paper, etc. It also uses toxic chemicals, metals and other hazardous materials and it emits higher levels of ozone into the air.
Inkjet printing is a natural process. The device simply sprays ink, which then soaks into the paper. No fusing necessary. HP claims their device uses 80 Watts of power when printing.  A quick check of DataMaster Online, reveals the power consumption for 35 PPM A3 laser products.
A customer with thousands of printers could  significantly reduce energy costs in changing a fleet over from laser printers to these devices. They also reduce the amount of recycling required to keep laser products running compared to inkjet printers in terms of cartridges and packaging. Heavy customers may literally ship tons of cartridges back to HP throughout the course of the year.
What are my thoughts on these printers? Personally, I like them. A lot. They look and feel like “real” business class printers. The cartridges are pretty large, holding almost 10,000 pages. The cost per page is excellent at about $.013 per page for black and $.066 per page for color based on the cost of cartridges I just found on and published yields. Customers can cut costs even more by scaling down the quality of their color, greatly increasing the cartridge yield and further lowering their cost per page. Personally, I don’t know why HP doesn’t just quote the lowest possible print cost.
The newly released printers have the same user interface as HP Laserjets, fully leveraging HP’s Open Extensibility Platform (OXP) and allowing customers to finally integrate inkjet products into their workflow.
So let’s cut to the chase. Can inkjet printers make it in the business class world? HP thinks so. Epson thinks so too, with new products they’re rolling out using ink bags rather than cartridges, further adding to the green story. For less than $3,000 a customer can get a 72-ppm color printer that runs at a ridiculously low cost per page. What’s not to love?
While the device prints well, firing up on large PDFs faster than many laser printers I’ve used recently and on a wider variety of paper stock, there are inherent shortcomings. First, HP can tell me until they are blue in the face that the prints are just like laser. They’re not. The more ink on the paper, the damper it is when it comes out. Unlike Edgeline products, there is no drier on these printers. Because of this dampness, the paper curls. The more ink, the more curl. I’m not talking about a parchment scroll all rolled up but it’s noticeable, especially on PowerPoint documents.
Secondly, there’s no finisher.  I don’t think people really need full finishers in most office environments these days. Maybe it becomes more of a luxury for higher page volume printers. Realistically, I think a simple convenience stapler on the side of the printer would be enough to satisfy most but at the moment, there’s no way to staple documents.
The paper supply is still too small. While HP is positioning this product for the lower end of office printing, facing these products off against $<3,000 laser printers, I think they’re selling themselves short and based on what the pharmaceutical speaker said at this meeting, I may be right. Customers that buy into this concept will no doubt want to push the volume on these devices and if they do, they’ll be constantly filling it with paper. In fact the only complaint that speaker had was that the device didn’t hold enough paper.
Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 8.09.21 AMPicky customers that are used to laser will still shy away from these products. Cutting edge customers that don’t mind a mix of laser and ink or trying new technology, customers with environmental initiatives and customers with large laser printer fleets may see these printers as a legitimate option. The biggest issue HP and Epson have is that people still consider ink an inferior technology and right or wrong, they have an uphill battle in trying to displace these products. Personally, I love this inkjet printer but it’s not for everybody.

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