Memjet’s new pricing model

Years ago I worked for an IT consultancy.  I had an ink jet background, which led to me being continuously baited by almost everyone else that laser printers were for businesses and ink jet was for kids to use at home.  Unfortunately some of that attitude still prevails with IT staff in many companies, both large and small.  Even today ink jet is still perceived as blocked nozzles, paper feeding problems, and continuously changing ink tanks.  As if!

Many vendors have tried to enter the networked printer market with ink jet devices.  True, sales of scanning head printers into businesses is growing, but they are increasingly competing against colour laser printers which are still getting cheaper each year.  Colour laser tends to be faster than ink jet, or it was until Memjet came along.

We’ve talked about Memjet’s 60 page per minute desk-top printer before.  It is actually a fairly simple device, particularly compared to colour laser printers, and much faster.  There is a single page-wide printhead, simple paper feed, four ink tanks and that’s it.  No need for the complexities and multiple consumables of colour laser printers.  The current generation of Memjet printers use aqueous dye-based inks, which means there is some sensitivity of image quality and optical density to the paper used.  But what so many people seem to forget is that to get the best out of any printer – including colour laser printers – you should choose an appropriate paper type.  It’s not like there is no choice!

So how will Memjet get their printers into the market? Retail outlets attract customers who print 6 pages per month, not 60 pages per minute.  The Memjet printer is well suited to SMEs who use dealers for business equipment.  In what Memjet hope is a “win-win” offering, customers will be offered an “all-in” pricing model.  For a fixed monthly payment ranging from £49-£149 per month you get all of your printing costs paid for – machine, inks – everything except the paper.  It doesn’t matter whether you print in black and white or colour, or what the area coverage is, the cost is the same.  What happens if you exceed your monthly page allowance?  Just like a mobile phone contract you are charged for the extra pages.  The printer hooks up to a phone line, so tells the dealer how many pages you have printed, and when the ink is running out.  For the customer they have fixed printing costs, for the dealer a regular income with consumables supply.

I’m the one on the right!

At the Memjet UK launch last week, slogan “Speed Wins”, guests could have their photo taken with Olympic Gold Medal cyclist Victoria Pendleton.  The photos were of course printed out on a Memjet printer, and I attach a print sample.  Thankfully there was a suitable delay between the camera flash and the print coming out so we could have a little chat.  Evidently the weight of carrying the medals around is taking it’s toll on her handbag.  The downside of being an Olympic athlete!

Is Memjet for Real? Part 2

In April, I wrote that the first real Memjet-based products would be shown at IPEX the following month. Indeed, the RAPID X1 and X2 label printers, manufactured by Rapid Machinery Company of Australia, were introduced at the show, as well as the Astro Machines M1 printer from Addressing and Mailing Solutions of the UK.

However, the first introduction actually occurred in April at the ON DEMAND Expo in Philadelphia, where Rena Systems showed its version of the Astro Machines M1.

These were followed in June, by the announcement by OWN-X Industrial (Budapest) of the SpeedStar 3000, a roll-to-roll, roll-to-sheet and fanfold format label printer.

Each of these is powered by the Memjet 8.66 inch (A4) wide, 5-color (CMYKK) print head, which delivers 1,600 dpi native print resolution. Top speed is 12 inches per second. One full 8 inch diameter roll of labels can be printed in just over 8 minutes.

Most significantly, I have been able to confirm that some of these devices are currently shipping to customers.

Each Memjet printhead consists of 70,400 ink jet nozzles, each less than 100 microns in diameter (roughly the width of human hair). These produce up to nine hundred million 1.2 picoliter droplets per second. The printheads are made of silicon in a semiconductor fab and driven by Memjet’s proprietary, “systems on a chip” print engine controller electronics, firmware, and software.

There continue to be strong indications that a Memjet-based large-format printer will appear at trade shows this fall, but it appears that we will have to wait a bit for the much-anticipated office printers. Certainly a phased rollout of a new technology by a new company makes sense. Speculation concerning an OEM customer for the office devices centers around consumer electronics firms like Sony and Panasonic, as well as computer manufacturers like Lenovo. This, too, makes sense, as Memjet will supply not only printheads and ink, but other subsystems and even print engines ready for private labeling.