Copiers have come a long way from the dinosaur days of the Ditto or Xerox machines. Today business owners can choose digital color copies and make hundreds of copies with the touch of a single button. Alternatively, they can opt for digital black and white copiers that use little ink and are relatively inexpensive.
Digital copiers are a huge improvement over the analog copiers of the past. They are quieter, less likely to break down, and offer better resolution. They are also easy to use and cost about the same as an analog copier machine.
Some digital black and white copiers act as multi-function machines, offering users the choices of scanning, printing, copying, and even faxing at the touch of a button. Businesses that require color copies often choose to purchase an all-in-one inkjet printer that scans documents as well as the black and white digital copier.
Color copiers function in a similar manner as computer scanners that are connected with laser printers. The document is scanned, and transmitted via laser to an image drum. The toner adheres to the proper areas on the drum, and the image is transmitted back to the paper in colored ink.
More expensive color copies apply all of the inks with a single pass. Less expensive color copies require four passes, and take a little longer. Usually, the price of a color copier is between 20 and 30 percent more than that of a black and white copier that offers a comparable copying speed. Graphic color copiers will also cost even more; these reproduce color prints with print-quality resolution.
Some businesses opt for the flexibility offered by a hybrid copier. These allow users to choose to print in either color or black and white. These often save considerable money with respect to toner, fuser oil, paper, and developer.
Usually, smaller businesses will want to choose small officer copiers, especially if they make 700 or fewer copies each month. Some small business owners, however, require the extra features or service warranties that accompany business-grade copiers. Features that increase the cost of a copier machine include speed and the number of copies made each month.
The best way to determine copier capacity is by evaluating the number of copies that are made each month. Owners who anticipate using their copies as network printers should double this number. Adding a growth margin of about 15 percent is also advisable. Having a copier capacity greater than the minimum necessary requirement is usually safer than risking damage to the equipment through overuse.
Another important consideration is copier speed. Manufacturers advertise this in terms of copies per minute. Copier speed is used to classify machines; Segment 6 machines feature a speed of more than 91 ppm (pages per minute). In comparison, a Segment 1 machine will deliver 15-20 ppm. Usually, the majority of businesses will function well with Segments 2-4 machines that offer copy speeds of 20-50 ppm.
Certain types of copies may take longer, so owners expecting to make large numbers of single copies should evaluate first-copy speed. Double-sided copies, enlargements, and sorting copiers will also usually print at slower speeds.
Expensive extras: copier consumables
In addition to evaluating the cost of owning or leasing a copier machine, consider the machines requirements in terms of fuser oil, color toner, paper, and developer. When buying a color copier, remember that four different toners are required: black toner, cyan toner, yellow toner, and magenta toner. Each is replaced separately, and will have to be mixed with developer in order to allow it to become magnetically attracted to the drum used for copying.
The majority of color copiers use different developers with each color. The ink becomes paler when the time to change developer approaches. If the toner runs out, the color becomes uneven. Fuser oil, which is required only for laser copiers, lasts approximately twice the length of bottles of developer.
To lease or to buy, that is the question . . .
Sometimes, buying a copier can be as inexpensive as leasing a copy machine. Sometimes, though, the price of service contracts or accessories for these machines, however, can make leasing worthwhile. Owners who choose to buy a model that has been discontinued should be aware that sometimes parts are more expensive and difficult to obtain. Consider hidden costs before buying.
Generally, though, be aware that leasing tends to be more expensive in the long term. Most leases charge for a minimum number of copies each month. They also charge owners who make more copies than the lease agreement permits. Sometimes, though, business owners cannot afford the initial expense of a copy machine, so leasing is a more practical option. When leasing, however, owners should take care to completely understand all of the provisions in the lease.
Get your money's worth
The majority of digital copies have many internal features that make a job easier. Since these usually don't cost extra, consider a copier that includes some of these helpful extras. For example, some copiers include an automatic document feeder, or ADF. This allows the user to copy multiple pages consecutively by placing them into a feeder and hitting the start button. The ADF will automatically feed each page into the copier. A re-circulating automatic document feeder, or RADF, is helpful for those who frequently copy double sided pages.
Some copiers also perform sorting functions. They sort groups of copied documents automatically. Each set of copies is stacked in an offset fashion so the user can pick up a set of copies and staple them together.
Users who frequently make copies with multiple pages often opt for a finisher. The copier machine automatically staples, folds, or otherwise prepares documents. Some even include options for three-hole punching or saddle stitch binding! Usually copier machines with finisher options are more expensive than standard machines, however.
Some copiers also feature multiple paper trays. While regular copy paper usually fits in a standard tray, certain types of paper stock, such as heavier paper or label paper, often jams the machine. The majority of copiers have a bypass tray, so that these heavier papers can load directly into the copier.
Some businesses use many different types of paper for copying, including letterheads or transparencies. Many law offices also require legal size stock. Copier machines with different paper trays or cassettes allow multiple types of paper to be loaded simultaneously. The user just then selects the proper paper feed unit or pedestal on which a particular type of paper stock is loaded when he or she is ready to copy.
Multifunction machines make life easier
Network multifunction copier machines help to make many tasks easier. Workers can make copies, send faxes, or print directly from a network computer. This allows a business to save on capital expenses without decreasing productivity.
Copiers will double as computer printers with the addition of a printer module. The machine usually prints at the same speed with which it copies. Usually, businesses can save up to 80 percent of their printing costs by allowing their copiers to double as a printer. The purchaser, however, should be sure to choose a copier that is compatible with the office's computer network.
Fax modules can also be added. Businesses can send or receive faxes directly through their copiers. Many copiers feature a separate output tray for faxes so that they are automatically separated from printed copies.
Other helpful options include automatic shut-off, automatic sizing, and stackless duplexing. Automatic shut-off options help to conserve power when the machine is not being used. Automatic sizing allows the copier to conform the image being copied to the size of the copier paper that is being used. Finally, stackless duplexing allows the machine to store both sides of a page in its memory so that it can print a two-sided copy with a single run-through.
Some copiers also offer security options that allow administrators to set a code that must be entered before copies can be made. Since workers cannot make copies without the code, only authorized persons can make copies. Additionally, managers can evaluate the number of copies that are being made by each department on a regular basis as needed by assigning different codes to these departments.
Most copiers can also edit documents, adding essential extras such as page numbers, watermarks for increased confidentiality, or identifying copies, or even including state stamps. Some copiers also allow users to combine original pages for copying onto a single page, or rotate images so that they are oriented in the same direction as the paper stock.
Other options included with most digital color copiers are border erasure; color optimization and balancing; and automatic image centering. While some models also allow advanced options such as allowing black and white documents to be colorized, these can be very complex and time-consuming. Furthermore, if the copier doubles as a printer attached to the computer network, these functions are more easily handled with a software application than copier functions. Therefore, most people only require machines with basic editing options.
How much memory is enough?
Like computers, copiers use RAM, for extra options and features. Basic copiers contain 4 megabytes (MB) RAM, while others contain 256 or more MB. Most allow users install additional RAM if required. Different copiers require different amounts of RAM to perform certain functions. Copiers that don't have enough memory will function slowly, or may not print or copy properly.
Copier memory is used to scan a page image and reproduce multiple copies of the same document or set of documents. The amount of memory usually determines the size of the job that can be completed using this function. Usually copiers require a minimum of 16 MB of copier memory to reproduce a set of documents consisting of 20 pages. Additionally, most copiers require the installation of extra RAM to use advanced image editing options properly.
Since 1 MB of memory can hold between 60 and 80 pages, most offices don't need extra fax memory. Usually only offices that send large numbers of international faxes that must be stored in the machines memory will need to be concerned about upgrading fax memory.
Printer memory, however, can be important. This determines printing speed and efficiency. Some fonts or typefaces require additional memory to print quickly, so consider this when using different fonts. Additionally, most printers feature between 2 and 8 MB of memory. This is not usually enough to print properly. Most printer memories will need upgrading for business use.
Copier memory is upgraded most easily (and most inexpensively) if the machine uses a generic memory that conforms to industry standards. An example of this is SIMMs. This allows owners to purchase memory when and if the need arises without worrying about specialty components or compatibility.
Servicing and service contracts
While some sellers provide service contracts, others offer referrals to approved technicians within a specific service area. Since today's digital copiers are complex, service technicians require a highly specialized set of skills. Be sure to choose a technician that is experienced with the selected model and brand of copier machine.
Finding a qualified service technician means carefully researching credentials. Choose a technician that can offer solid references from reputable businesses. These businesses should own the same model of copier, so that an effective comparison can be made. Discuss response times, the technician's ability to troubleshoot, and his or her repair skills. For service agreements, be sure that all details concerning repairs are clearly spelled out.
Since the cost of a service contract is based primarily on the estimated volume of copies, estimate carefully. If the estimated volume stipulated in the agreement is much higher than that used by the business, owners will pay for copies they aren't making. Going over the limit, however, can be very expensive.
If estimating is difficult at first, begin with a pay-per-copy plan that only charges for copies made. This will help to establish the expected number of copies. Another alternative is to choose contracts that cover parts and services only. The business would then be expected to provide supplies, including toner, developer, fuser oil, and so forth.
What's covered - and what's not?
Usually, service contracts cover the expenses for part replacement and labor. Nearly all contracts cover parts that may break with use, such as fuser rollers or cleaning blades. Many contracts offer bundle coverage of these parts with a preventive maintenance kit as well. Know what is covered and what is not when comparing service plans.
Some costs are covered by a service plan, while others may be covered on a pay-as-you-go basis. Be sure to obtain a written guarantee concerning the response time for repairs, as well as weekend or evening availability. Some plans offer loaner copier machines if extensive repairs are necessary. Finally, discuss rate increases. Usually a rate increase of more than eight percent annually is excessive.
Select the copier machine that's right for you and your business, but don't pay more than you should for the services you'll need. If you have trouble deciding what your business will need, ask around, compare, and get several estimates before buying or leasing. Don't let a fast-talking salesman persuade you to buy more - or less - than your business needs!