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10/19/2010
10:35 AM
Lamont Wood
Lamont Wood
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Xerox Offers Alternative Solid Ink Printers for SMBs

The units cost more upfront then laser or inkjet SMB office printers, but they don't price refill ink like it was molten silver.

The units cost more upfront then laser or inkjet SMB office printers, but they don't price refill ink like it was molten silver.There may be an implacable war between inkjets and lasers, but Xerox today brought out two new units to remind us that's there is a third alternate: solid ink printers that get the job done with melted wax.

Basically, they cost more upfront, but the price of the ink is almost reasonable.

Xerox announced the ColorQube 8570, which starts at $699, and the ColorQube 8870, which starts at $2,499. Both claim throughput of 40 ppm, and a resolution of 2400 dpi. They have Ethernet, USB, and optional Wi-Fi interfaces.

That price is a little steep compared to other SMB alternatives, but Robin Wessel, Xerox's director of product marketing for desktop products, makes his case this way: "That free cell phone you get from the phone company is not free, since you pay for it through your user contract. Likewise, with a printer the major cost of ownership is the cost of running it (by refilling the ink.) Since there is no cartridge (with solid ink) we can make the cost of running it lower. If you are printing more than a thousand pages per month-which is a typical workgroup-you can save enough to recover the initial cost of the 8870 in its first year."

Basically, the ink is in resin-based cubes of solid wax that you just drop into slots in the machine-there are no cartridges to recycle, and you can thereby feel you have contributed to the environment.

As for monetary costs, the price for refill ink for the smaller 8570 amounts to 2.3 cents per page for black ink if you buy two cubes for $99.99 rated for a total of 4,400 pages, or 1.74 cents per page if you get four cubes for $149.99 rated for a total of 8,600 pages. Color ink costs 3.4 cents per page at two cubes for $149.99 rated for a total of 4,400 pages. And remember, you need three colors.

That black price is slightly below what you'd expect in a laser or inkjet, and as much as a third of the price of inkjet color per page. But considering the upfront price, you'd probably got the unit (if at all) for its opaque colors-solid ink was originally popularized in the graphics arts industry.

But with the 8870, black costs 1.5 cents per page ($259.99 for six cubes that are rated at 16,700 pages total) and .52 cents per page for color ($89.99 for six cubes that are supposed to give a total of 17,300 pages.) Since you need three colors, combined with black the cost for full color is about 3 cents per page. That's about a tenth of what color would cost with some cheap inkjets-but the upfront purchase price for the printer is ten times more.

Beyond that, Wessel said the units are quiet since there is no moving printhead, and that modern resin produces no odor as it melts.

Duplex printing is standard on most of the models. Wessel said it does not slow throughput since no drying time is required between pages.

Xerox's solid ink technology has been around for nearly 20 years. The latest two units are an improvement over the previous models largely in terms of speed, raising throughput from 30 ppm to 4 ppm, Wessel added.

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