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Color Copiers vs Black & White Copiers - Pros, Cons and Costs
Copying and printing is one of the largest expenses of an office environment. Supply managers must consider carefully the types of copying equipment they need for office use. Copy machines are large investments and do incur continued maintenance costs including toner and part replacement as they age. Unlike most at-home printers, office-grade copy machines are not easy to fix or simple to maintain. Beyond replacing a toner cartridge or running an anti-static cleaning sheet through the device, all maintenance or repair has to be conducted by a certified technician. Since these machines are too large to move, the technician must report on-site. This further increases the costs of a maintenance call. One key choice is whether to have a black-and-white (monochrome) copier, a color copier, or one of each. There are several things to consider and there are some creative alternatives depending on the situation.
The technical and cost details of copiers in simple terms:
- Monochrome machines are cheaper than color machines in every aspect. A monochrome office-grade copy machine costs on-average $1,500-$2,500 depending on size and functionality. A color machine with comparable size and functionality costs on-average $3,500 to $7,000. Color copies are also three to five times more expensive per page in terms of toner usage than monochrome copies.
- Color machines will be larger and heavier than monochrome machines. Whereas a monochrome machine requires only 1 toner drum (black) a color machine requires 4 (black, yellow, cyan and magenta).
- Color machines tend to print slower than monochrome machines, even when performing only black and white copy jobs. This is due to the fact that the entire printer assembly is somewhat larger and more complex. Monochrome machines average 25 page per minute (ppm) while color machines average 20 ppm.
- Black-and-white machines offer a higher dpi (dots per inch) resolution. The average is 1200 dpi. Color machines have lower resolutions - usually 600-800 dpi.
Key aspects about the office space to consider:
- Do you have enough room for the machine? Most office-grade copiers will be the size of a small table and will weigh 100-300 pounds. It will also need ventilation space, so it can't be shoved into a tight corner or nudged between shelves or tables. Ideally, the printer should have about six inches of space on at least three sides - especially where it vents. Overheating is a sure-fire way to kill a copier.
- What is the estimated copy volume for the office, and how many jobs will likely be submitted within a five minute period?
- What is the proportion of estimated color copy jobs compared to black-and-white copy jobs?
- What is the office storage capacity for spare ink and toner? Remember, color machines will need four times the storage space for toner supplies.
An office situation ideal for a single monochrome machine:
This office will supply copy jobs that are mostly text-based. There may be some graphics or images, but it doesn't matter of these images are in color. The office will have an average copy load not exceeding 50,000 pages per month and will be able to fulfill jobs relatively quickly. What few color jobs may come up will be outsourced to printing shops.
An office situation ideal for a single color machine:
This office will have a below average total copy volume - about 35,000 pages per month. The office will have a fairly even balance between black-and-white and color copy jobs. The office may need to print more marketing or graphic materials than most. Most jobs probably contain some sort of color picture, graphic or table.
An office situation ideal for both a monochrome and color machine:
This office will have an average to above-average copy volume of more than 55,000 pages per month. The office will have a range of jobs including high-volume, text-based jobs and jobs with many color graphics or tables. The color job volume is considered too high to outsource, however the inclusion of high-volume, text-based jobs demands the office also support a monochrome machine. The office will have a dual printing option with most jobs routed to the monochrome machine and color jobs to the color machine.
A creatives solution for the office that does not want to outsource color copies:
It is easy to overlook inkjet printers for the office environment. These printers are usually considered for at-home use and unable to handle office volumes. However, for an office with a small or inconsistent volume of color copy and print jobs one or two color inkjet printers or all-in-ones may be the perfect hidden solution. Inkjet printers are remarkably cheaper than their laser cousins. They are small, easy to maintain and can still be networked to the office for all users. They print remarkably slower than lasers and while their ink is cheaper upfront it is more expensive than toner at high-volumes. Despite these disadvantages, it may be perfect for an office with minimal or small-scale color printing needs. It is a perfect match in the case where a monochrome laser copier handles the high-volume black-and-white jobs.
The final decision on what type of copier to buy should not be taken lightly. It may be helpful to gather as much estimated usage data as possible before committing to any copier investment.