Digital duplicators offer an affordable, energy efficient alternative to multifunction products (MFP). These workhorses are ideal for light production runs that require limited color. There are a mix of perceptions regarding the future of the duplicator industry. With the gap closing on cost per page between duplicators and MFPs, these devices rely on their energy efficiency and durability to stay afloat.
"Today the duplication industry is in decline," admits Fred SantaCruz, duplicator product manager, Duplo. He explains that the cost per copy of photocopiers has lowered throughout the years. This diminishes the value of cost as an advantage of a duplicator in a purchaserís choice equation. "For duplicators to thrive, its cost per copy needs to maintain an edge over the copier," he says.
The price per page of a digital duplicator is one of its more prominent strong points, but duplicators are also capable of producing spot colors. "Although duplicators cannot produce the full color of a modern color MFP, they can offer spot color which can be produced for a significant cost advantage over that of a copier," says Ray Bauer, product marketing manager, digital duplicator systems, Ricoh Americas Corporation.
Even with a shift to full color and variable data, there is still a steady demand for static, spot color applicationsóideal candidates for digital duplicators. "There are still tens of thousands of offset presses installed in the U.S., where skilled and dedicated press operators produce longer run-length spot color and monochrome work," says David Murphy, VP of marketing, RISO, Inc. "As run lengths decline further, print service providers (PSPs) still want low-cost spot color on static documents. Users wonít shift all of this volume to MFPs for a variety of reasons." Murphy lists reliability, durability, and operating costs as advantages of duplicators.
Bauer says todayís duplication industry is healthy. "Unless a new, unknown technology appears in the short term duplicators will be around to continue to fill a niche," he says.
Digital duplicatorís faithful users are typically found in education, religious, and non-profit sectors. "This is due in part to their ongoing need to print multiple copies of a single, static-image document, such as classroom materials, weekly church bulletins, and fundraising materials," says Murphy. He explains that these organizations also benefit from the low cost per page.
But, it shouldnít stop there. "While the traditional core digital market is still a major part of our sales, we have had successful penetration into the print for pay and in-plant/CRD areas," says Bauer. He notes that in the past, the low quality of output balanced with low operating cost for those primarily concerned with cost. However, "as with all products, the output quality, ease of operation, and reliability have all increased with time. Through innovations in the duplicator copy process technology, Ricoh duplicators have increased their quality to match that of a traditional copier," he adds. Bauer sees duplicators working hand in hand with high-volume copiers within in-plant and CRD locations, as well as replacing low-end offset for short run applications of 5,000 to 10,000.
Markís Quick Printing of St. Louis, MO is a quick printer that uses Ricohís HQ9000 digital duplicators for many applications including political mailers, NCR forms, and multiple envelope sizes. Mark Brown, owner, Markís Quick Printing shop, says the device additionally offers a low-cost alternative to printing thermographic business stationary. Brown notes that in its first year, his Ricoh HQ9000ís volume neared three and a half million. The PSP has since purchased two additional HQ9000 duplicators.
RISO sees a growth in duplicator demand from the direct mail market, as run lengths decline and shift from offset. "Mail service providers are attracted to a duplicatorís simple, fast, and low-cost ability to print envelopes, card stock, and odd-sized media with a high degree of reliability," says Murphy.
Although a large number of placements are still in the educational, religious, and non-profit markets, Duplo notes that non-traditional segments looking to cut down on printing and operating costs would benefit from a duplicator. "We anticipate that we will see increased interest from these new users," says SantaCruz.
"Manufacturing, healthcare, logistics, and distribution are just a few of the vertical markets that use digital duplicators," says Bauer. He notes that there is a need for static data printing including human resource forms, time sheets, instruction packets, and warranty cards. "Hospitals produce forms and informational materials in large quantities and find digital duplicators perfect for their CRD."
Meet the Makers
While the capabilities of duplicators are comparable to MFPs for a variety of application needs in a range of verticals, only a select few manufacturers invest in the technology. Here, we offer commentary from these vendors on their role in the emergence and growth of digital duplicators, as well as on distribution efforts today.
Duplo, a producer of quality paper handling equipment since 1952, began with the determination of one man, Juko Shima. Since then, Duplo has built five manufacturing facilities in Japan and established international distribution throughout the Americas, Asian Pacific, and European markets. In 1979, Duplo USA Corporation emerged in the U.S. to serve a range of areas including Central, North, and South America.
"Duploís duplicators set the standard in the industry for reliability and performance," says SantaCruz. The company produces a full line of equipment from duplicating to finishing systems.
Duplo uses an authorized dealer network for distribution channels and sells direct in certain designated areas.
Ricoh began its role in the digital duplicator market in 1989. Starting with the SS series in 1988, Ricoh has continued to make steady improvements to its duplicator line through out the years.
The VT2105 was the first and only digital connected product when it was introduced in March of 1993. "Experience gathered over the years combined with innovative engineering has brought us to the current strong product line we have today," says Bauer.
Ricoh Americas Corporation employs dealers, direct branches, and a distributor to market its duplicator line.
RISO Kagaku Corporation (RKC) began in January 1946 by creating inks for the duplication industry, and has since been instrumental in the development of duplicating technology. In 1986, RKC introduced the first digital duplicator and currently holds many patents related to the duplicating process. According to Murphy, RKC is responsible for many industry firstsósuch as the first 11x17-inch duplicator; the first 600 dpi duplicator; the first external computer interface; and the first two-color, one-pass duplicator. In 1986, RKC opened its U.S. Subsidiary, RISO, Inc., introducing RISO duplicating technology to the U.S. and Canada.
RISO, Inc. distributes digital duplicators through a network of dealer partners, as well as through dedicated RISO branches in both the U.S. and Canada.
Standard Business Systems offers a complete line of digital duplicators. The company offers high-quality, highly reliable graphic arts products, working exclusively with world class suppliers. Standard Horizon finishing and Standard duplicating solutions are sold and serviced through a comprehensive network of authorized dealers throughout the U.S. and Canada. These dealers pride themselves on providing the highest levels of sales and service support. Standard serves the complete feeding, finishing, and duplicating needs of the commercial print, in-plant, trade bindery, data center, financial print, direct mail, forms, quick print, education, and government markets.
Donít Forget Duplicators
Duplicators provide a number of advantages, which may offer impressive benefits to certain applications. Whether youíre in the traditional religious, education, and non-profit industry, or are a PSP looking for a secondary print solution, a digital duplicator might be the answer. Although they may not offer the variability and color capabilities of new production-class MFPs, consider a duplicatorís capabilities in the search for a new output device.
Due to the simplicity of a duplicatorís architecture, maintenance costs are low. "Because digital duplicators do not use heat and have a straight paper path, they are extremely reliable," says Murphy. He explains that many photocopier breakdowns are due to the high heat used during the copying process. "RISO digital duplicators have a 600,000/month duty cycle; general maintenance consists of replacing feed wheels," he adds.
Regarding resolution, duplicators certainly hold their own, but are not recommended for all applications. "Although there is no heat or fusion involved, the duplicatorís image quality is comparable to that of laser output because of the improvement in the materials used in manufacturing masters and ink," says SantaCruz. He adds that a duplicatorís printed output remains consistent throughout all run lengths.
Bauer notes that halftones and solid fills are on par with an MFP.
A duplicatorís cost per copy rapidly drops as run lengths grow. "The cost per copy of a copier remains the same regardless of print quantities," says SantaCruz.
Digital duplicators offer a great alternative to many verticals with a need for low-cost, limited color, static documents. The powerful devices have evolved with time and tout an image quality that can often compete with MFPs. Verticals such as education, religious, and non-profit sectors have benefited for years, but duplicators offer the same value to print for pays, CRDs, in plants, and small offices. dps