It may surprise you to know that inkjet dominates the high end of the printing market as well as the low end.  When a commercial printer goes to a trade show to see MFPs that can handle very high print volumes they will see products running with inkjet technology because of reliability and cost.  Most of what you get in your mailbox was printed on inkjet printers because American Express and other such companies send out millions of statements each month and it would be too expensive to run that on laser based MFPs.

However, most of us only know inkjet to be the cheapo MFPs we buy at stores and put in our living rooms.  The printers cost next to nothing which is why the supplies are overpriced and the printers/MFPs don’t last very long.  Plus the scanners are kind of cheesy and double feed originals unless they are perfect originals.

Some inkjet companies such as Sharp have decided to go after the middle market which has long been dominated by laser based MFPs from companies such as Konica, Sharp and a handful of other copier manufacturers from Japan.  This game changing technology will shake things up because it lowers the cost of color printing by about 40% and the hardware is also less expensive.  Businesses seem to be printing less and looking for ways to cut costs and cutting the cost of color printing is a popular idea.

Sharp did a smart thing by bringing technology down from the upper end of their product line and put it in this new business class line of color MFPs.  The print heads are the kind used on the more expensive high volume printers described earlier.  To their credit, they did not just take a cheapo printer being sold at a store and speed it up and call it business class.  The way they got the cost of color printing down was to use large bags of ink instead of small cartridges.

Sharp will get some competition from other inkjet technologies eventually.  What is holding it back is that the other inkjet companies have a laser based product line which is quite profitable and they are hesitant to jeopardize that.  HP would be an example of that.  When you replace toner for an HP printer or MFP you are throwing away a perfectly good drum which is why the toner is pricey and a good deal for HP.  This has created a whole industry of remans and compatibles.  So if a company like HP goes all in on inkjet for business they are giving up a very profitable technology based on laser which uses a lot more parts and supplies.  Inkjet uses less parts and supplies.  It’s like comparing an electric car to a gas engine car.  There is no engine in an electric car.  Just the battery.   In fact, I read an article where mechanics are a little worried about their future if people start buying electric cars.

Sharp has no laser based printers/MFPs to sell so there is everything to gain and nothing to lose by going after the middle market for businesses.  In my opinion, this is the future of business printing.  All of the well known Japanese copier manufacturers have introduced inkjet products on the high end recently.  Like HP, they are hesitant to bring it down to the middle market because that is a very popular segment for them.  We sell laser based MFPs from several well known copier manufacturers and can charge more for color prints made on them because the supply items and parts are more expensive and there are some situations where laser is better than inkjet.  It depends on the customer’s application.  Inkjet isn’t for everybody but businesses trying to cut costs should look into it.

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