A digital copier is a good investment for a small business. Find out how to choose the best one for your printing needs.
Digital copiers are an excellent choice for small businesses in any industry. They are generally cheaper to operate than traditional analog copiers, plus they are faster. They can "print" an image to an email, computer or fax, and some even have memory, so you can save an image, like a company brochure, to the copier itself and print it as needed.
A business-scale digital copier is not a small investment, however. They can run from $400 to $70,000, depending on if you purchase used or new and what features you prefer. Therefore, take some time choosing the best one for you.
Assess your needs
Before you jump at the first inexpensive digital printer you find, which may not meet all your needs, or get seduced by an expensive one with all the cool features you will never use, take a few minutes to determine your requirements. Ask yourself the following:
- How many copies will you make in black and white? In color? Be sure to note seasonal highs and lows as well.
- Do you need to print quickly? Some printers can print over 100 pages per minute (ppm), but they are pricier.
- How often do you want to refill the paper bin? This can be an annoyance at best, but with large print jobs, it can drain productivity.
- What special features do you need? Copiers come with security settings, wireless support, and the ability to fold, stable and punch holes in documents.
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Basics to consider
Once you know what you need, research digital copers, taking note of the following features.
Price: Midrange copiers, which are suitable for everyday business needs, run from $400 to $2,000 used and $2,300 to $23,000 new. Production copiers for heavy-duty printing work run from $1,700 to $17,000 used and up to $70,000 for a top-of-the-line new model. In addition to quality, whether the printer is monochrome or color and what extra features it has affect the price.
Toner price: In general, the cheaper the printer, the more expensive the toner. Look up the toner cartridges, and check the price as well as how many copies each toner handles. Then, weigh that against your printing needs to find the best deal for you.
On average, a monochrome (black) toner cartridge runs from $100 to $180 and prints up to 60,000 pages. Color requires four cartridges – black, cyan, yellow and magenta. These run from $400 to $700 for the set and print around 30,000 pages.
Print quality: If you only print documents for internal use, you may not need as high a quality as you would if you regularly produce full-color brochures to sell your products or services. On average, 600 x 600 dots per inch (dpi) is standard for monochrome. A good minimum for color is 1200 x 1200 dpi, but businesses that need high-quality printouts should look for 2400 x 2400 dpi.
Print speed: Printers can run from 20 to 140 ppm for black and white, and 40 to 90 ppm for color. In general, 35 to 40 ppm is a good speed for most businesses. Also look for warmup speeds that range from 3.5 to 7.5 seconds, the industry average.
Cassette/tray size: A cassette stores the blank paper, while the tray holds the printed sheets. A good average is a 250-sheet cassette capacity and 100-sheet tray capacity. However, large-scale machines can handle up to 500 sheets in the tray and 2,000 sheets in multiple cassettes, fed in sequence.
Memory: If you have projects that need to be reprinted periodically, like a sales brochure, you can store them in the memory of the printer itself. Capacity currently runs from 256MB to 1TB.
Security: Some printers let you put in passwords to limit who can use the printer, and account codes to assign copy runs to specific clients or departments.
Printing capabilities: Some copiers can print on both sides of the sheet or do a full bleed, printing to the edge of the paper. Some can print to transparencies, with sheets of regular paper separating each.
Image editing: This feature lets you crop, rotate or brighten an image using the printer controls instead of going back to your computer to do it.
Energy savings: Many copiers are now Energy Star certified and may be eligible for green technology rebates.
Buy or lease?
Depending on your needs, leasing might be a better option. When you lease, the lessor maintains the machine, and it could be cheaper than purchasing a machine. Leases run one to three years and generally charge by use, or "click." Charges range from $0.24 to $0.58 per click. Some not only charge extra if you go over your account limit but also if you print too little, so consider seasonal highs and lows. Also look at the maintenance agreements.
Image from Mayuree Moonhirun/Shutterstock