Tag Archives: printer

Most economical purchases: Printers

When setting up an (home) office or maintaining an existing one, there are always bits that can cost a little more. A printer is a key example.

You can get an inkjet for almost nothing, but the replacement ink cartridges cost more than their weight in gold, so the effective cost-per-page becomes rather high. Years ago already I concluded that as long as I didn’t need colour printing on a regular basis, a B&W laser was much more cost effective – and it has been. You can always walk into a local copyshop with a USB stick to get a few colour pages done, which of course works out more expensive for those few pages, but cheaper overall.

When replacing that first laser printer, I actually went to a B&W laser multi-function with a document feeder. Copying becomes easier, and scanning possible. With the document feeder the amount of manual effort required goes down, so that saves time = money.┬áIn addition it allowed me to send faxes. I despise faxes but sometimes they’re essential for some interactions. My company has a virtual fax number that just makes a PDF show up in email, but sending is separate matter.

Having the printer on the network (wired or wireless) tends to be a great advantage also – it saves hassle and time when using it as it doesn’t rely on any particular machine being on.

Now with that device aging too, and the increased need for colour, I once again did the maths. You can now get a reasonable colour laser (not multifunction) for less than $100 (for instance the Konika Minolta 1600W) and the running cost (toner and even electricity) is such that it works out well below that of an inkjet. Now there’s an important lesson: do not buy an inkjet any more, people!

But given the particular needs of my home office, I’m going for a colour laser multi-function this time. In additional to the document feeding, it now scans to PDF and emails it to you. That’s nice. That might actually negate the need for connecting up the fax to a phoneline (which is a VoIP port anyway) as generally I can then scan a document and email it. Easy and again time-saving. And duplexing (double-sided printing) is now affordable, which of course saves paper with multi-page documents. For most multi-function lasers, the cost-per-page for colour is still a bit higher than that of the cheapest print-only colour lasers, but since you don’t use colour all the time, it works out ok. It’s cheaper than a colour copy at the local shop, and saves time/hassle. I think it’s a winner.

Note that if you have a home office, you may find that your kids also can also make great use of the colour printing capabilities for school work. I dread to think what that would cost if you were to use ink. Time moves on!

It’s been an interesting evolution, and all the above has happened within say the last 10 years. So that means that I only buy a new printer about every 3-5 years, which is actually very moderate for technology. I probably keep using a model well until it’s become annoying in terms of extra effort, in relation to the cost of the then-available new technology – difficult to easily identify such work-changes over time, but it’s still relevant. So there’s a lesson for me too.

As for prediction of future needs/development: I think the next step after this will be A3. of course, not needed by all. Perhaps the tech has reached its natural feature peak and will focus back on other aspects such as speed or quality. We’ll see.

Tipping Point of Open Source 3D Print Quality

RepRap has now surpassed the commercial Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers in machine affordability, price for filament, speed, and print quality. See http://blog.reprap.org/2011/09/tipping-point-of-print-quality-open.html and the image below.

A EUR 400 piece of simple hardware+software (which you can build at home) beating EUR 12,000, through collective and fully open source innovation over a mere 6 1/2 years. This drastically lowers the cost of producing prototypes and custom (or just small run) plastic items. New design tools have also been developed, including the ability to describe an object using a language, which makes editing object designs much easier as well.

I’ve been following the RepRap’s progress for years, and co-funded the building of an earlier model in Brisbane. The disruptive potential of this technology is tremendous! Duplicating existing items is easy, but not very interesting – how about printing things that you would previously not consider. I’ve written about it before – we need to adjust our thinking to this new reality and make smart use of it.

It is, to quote Chris DiBona, like “China on your desktop”. But better and more flexible.

See also

  • http://www.openscad.org/ (OpenSCAD parametric design language/tool with instant visualisation)
  • http://www.thingiverse.com/ (freely available object designs)