The great print run - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

The great print run

ADAM BERNSTEIN reviews the types of printer available for use in practices

IN the 1980s office products giant Xerox wanted to create the paperless office. It was a noble idea but it failed miserably because the systems the firm produced, like those from other manufacturers, only generated more paper. Shame really.

As you’d imagine, buying a printer for the reams we like to print isn’t as simple as you’d think. Manufacturers have muddied the waters with numerous options; you can buy laser or inkjet; standalone or networked; wired or wireless; standard or a combination “all-inone” printer; and you can choose to buy at a number of price points from £20 to thousands of pounds.

Where to start?

The first point is to establish what you want to do with a printer. Are you printing the odd few pages or running off huge reports? Are you producing pages of text or pages full of colour and pictures?

Is the printer for one computer only or is it to be shared? Do you have limited space for computer peripherals such as the printer, scanner and a fax machine? Do your documents need to be archived for years?

These answers will direct you to the type of printer you need. In simple terms, if large print runs are important to you, consider going down the laser printer route.

Laser printers may cost more to buy and the costs of the replacement toners, belts and imaging drums are quite high in absolute terms, but over the lifespan of these “consumables”, the cost of printing, per page, will be much lower than for inkjet.

You’ll find a good laser printer should be faster than inkjet. If, however, you need to print a document which demands photo quality, think seriously about an inkjet printer. Combined with the correct photo paper, the results will be as good as anything Kodak can produce.

If you a need a printer to be shared amongst several colleagues you’ll need to think about its networking capabilities; check that the printer has an ethernet connection or that it will work on the protocols used by your network – 802.11 “b”, “g” or the newer “n” if you intend to connect wirelessly. Some printers will also accept connections, and documents, via bluetooth.

One benefit of inkjet over laser that is often overlooked is archivability. Have you ever gone back to a document that was laser printed some time ago, possibly stored in a plastic pocket, only to find the toner coming off the page? This wouldn’t happen with an inkjet printer where the ink is absorbed into the paper.

Everyone seems to want converged devices – one box for everything. There once was a case for having a separate printer, fax machine and scanner, but less so now that the all-inone printer has matured and features all of these functions in one small(ish) box. By definition, they save space.

However, they’re not for the image specialist who needs extreme image clarity. But for an office situation they are perfect. Bear in mind that if one person is scanning, then others may have to wait before they can print or send a fax.

Before you buy, research the running costs as a cheap printer may be overwhelmed by the cost of the ink or toner. The advice is to find the printer, find the consumables and their prices and see what the cost is per page (the manufacturers have a standard number of pages for a cartridge based on 5% coverage – find this number and divide the cartridge cost by it), you’ll then have cost per page.

There’s a great blog – http://homeprintingtips.blogsp… / – which will show you in more detail how to work out the cost of a given page (of your choosing) without having to buy a printer or even print a page. This is probably more useful in that you are unlikely to be producing only documents with 5% coverage.

Consumables

When it comes to consumables – the ink/toner, etc. – don’t be tempted to skimp and buy products that aren’t made by the manufacturer of your printer. Sure you will save money, but at the very minimum you will invalidate your printer’s warranty and you will probably get poorer results.

Further, it could well prove to be a messy job to change or refill the cartridge; there are numerous companies making compatible (unofficial) inkjet cartridges that require you to either drill holes to refill the cartridge or remove the chip off the original cartridge and put it onto the replacement compatible so that it’ll work.

It’s quite likely that you’ll look like you’ve just been finger-printed with the mess on your fingers once you’re finished.

Whatever you do, choose the right paper for the machine. If you use standard copier paper with an inkjet, you’ll get imperfect results as the ink bleeds into the paper. Proper inkjet paper will give brilliant whites with razor sharp print.

Photo paper

The situation is less critical when using a laser printer. However, if you want to print photos then you’d well be advised to buy the photo paper and ink that matches from your printer manufacturer.

As for the printers themselves, there are too many products to mention and the ranges are always changing, so check out the products and reviews at www.amazon.co.uk. This is not a direct plug for Amazon, but there you’ll see product reviews from real users. Alternatively, sites such as www.expertreviews.co.uk and www.trustedreviews.com will give more technical appraisals of a printer (and other products). Of course, there are other websites – just Google the product name or number.

There are thermal/dye sublimation printers, but since they’re incredibly expensive and really only for those who need a solid colour I’ve not covered them here. Inkjet, for everyone apart from the specialist, is far better and cheaper than thermal printers.

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