The different types of copiers and printers

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    There are many types of photocopier available on the market today, all offering different features to the users. Forum Group is able to supply any photocopier that a company requires, from an A4 desktop black and white photocopier right up to A3 heavy-duty, full-colour photocopiers with advanced finishing options.

    There are two main types of printing mechanisms that conventional printers can be found in the laser printer and the inkjet printer, using quite different components and physical printing processes.

    LASER: Laser printers use a laser gun to project light representing the image of the document to print, onto a photosensitive drum which then uses static electricity to imprint toner ink onto paper. Laser printers are typically faster in operation and sometimes better in quality, but relatively more expensive than inkjet printers.

    INKJET: Inkjet printers use a mechanical system that navigates a printhead component containing ink tubes over the paper according to the original image of the document to print. The ink is released using heat, which is controlled by internal electronics to correspond with when there is image information or not to print. The process is slower than a laser printer – though this factor is improving with modern inkjets – but their running costs are lower, especially to replace the ink cartridges compared to laser printer toner, and the even more expensive drum.


    What is a multifunction printer?

    A multifunction printer (MFP) is a device that consolidates the functionality of a printer, copier, scanner and/or faxes into one machine. Multifunction printers are a common choice for budget-minded businesses that want to consolidate assets, reduce costs and improve workflow. As you move to more digital workflows, take a look at our list of multifunction printers specifically recommended for scanning documents.

    Multifunction printers can help you streamline duplicate and cumbersome document processes and electronically organise, edit and archive your paper documents. With a multifunction printer and a simple software application, you can turn paper documents into electronic format and send to multiple destinations - email, document repositories, network folders, even remote printers - with a single scan.

    Once you're armed with the knowledge you've gathered by asking these questions, you'll be prepared to make the right decision for your business.

    What is a standalone photocopier?

    A standalone photocopier traditionally refers to single unit-machines entirely devoted to copying functions. 

    As standalone machines, they put together the features of a copier, a printer and a scanner and can work entirely on their own, without the need to be controlled by a computer or external device.

    The introduction of multifunction printers (MFPs) has however blurred the line between photocopiers and printers, as most of these multifunction printers can now copy documents with their built-in interfaces, in addition to being connected with computers. On their side, most photocopiers in 2019 can now also be used as printers when connected to PCs.

    However, professional photocopiers remain different in terms of productivity as they feature:

    • very fast copy speeds (over 50 pages per minute),
    • large and economical ink toners,
    • cabinets containing thousands of pages and big document feeders,
    • sophisticated document management features such as stapling, binding, sorting and sizing,
    • the ability to copy and print different sizes of paper,
    • robust mechanics for a high volume of use.

    Standalone copiers usually offer a lower cost-per-page than multifunctional devices and are ideal for businesses with medium to high copy needs. Document finishing features such as binding, sorting and stapling are far less common and less durable in multifunction printers.

    Photocopiers for small businesses are therefore a kind of crossover between multifunction printers and professional photocopiers trying to provide volume copying capacity with reduced footprint.

    Best photocopiers for small business include models from reputable manufacturers such as Canon, Epson, HP, Brother, to name but a few.

    What's the difference between photocopiers, printers, MFD's and MFP's?

    The office space used to be quite simple: there were printers to print, photocopiers to copy, scanners to scan, fax machines to send or receive faxes. The introduction of versatile, standalone machines, together with the zeal of some marketers made it difficult to know which type machine exactly does what... as all pretend to do everything. In the end, business users can't tell which is best: photocopier or printer with copier features.

    The difference between printers and photocopiers has been blurred, as multifunction printers can also be copiers and photocopiers connected to a computer can also be used as printers.

    It's even more complicated to tell the difference between "MFPs" and "MFDs", as both refer to multifunction machines. Indeed, these acronyms stand for "MultiFunction Printers" or "MultiFunction Devices", respectively. The term "MFD printer" is even used to refer to "MultiFunction Device Printer", which means... MultiFunction Printer!

    business photocopiers

    However, the following distinctions can be made:

    • Multifunction Printers are small, tabletop printers with copier and scanning functionalities, but relatively slow printing speeds (less than 30 pages per minute) and paper capacity (about 100 pages); they are mostly sold for home use. Multifunction printers for small businesses, however, do make sense. As long as these MFPs have a network connection and a decent capacity and printing speed, they can be suited for light professional use.
    • Multifunction Devices have the same functionalities but deliver faster printing speeds (up to 90 pages per minute), big document feeders and cassettes (over 300 pages), and sometimes even different paper format support.
    • The difference between photocopiers and printers with copy functionality is the same as the difference between MFDs and MFPs, respectively. In fact, in many offices, MFDs are called "photocopiers"!

    Not so long ago, an office would have included several separate machines to undertake particular functions. Faxing, scanning, printing and photocopying would have all been undertaken by cumbersome, sometimes noisy standalone machines. But these days many business photocopiers are usually networked and perform multiple functions. These multi-tasking machines are available as desktop or free-standing models. Machines that include photocopying as well as scanning, printing and faxing capabilities are often referred to as MFP, MFD or even multifunctional AIO office machines.

    MFP (Multi-FunctionProduct/Printer/Peripheral), multifunctional, all-in-one (AIO), or Multi-Function Device (MFD), such as the Sharp MX-2614N Colour Photocopier MFD all refer to the same type of multifunctional office solution. They are all terms for an office machine which incorporates the functionality of multiple devices in one. With a smaller footprint, these multifunctional photocopying devices not only provide centralised document management, distribution and production. But they also manage a better use of office space.

    Deciding whether to hire or purchase a standalone printer, photocopier or a multifunction printing device will normally come down to cost and your specific business needs. Generally speaking, standalone printers and photocopiers tend to be more robust than multifunction devices and therefore considered for heavy use. In contrast, MFD machines are often more economical.

    How long is a typical service contract for a printer-photocopier?

    When you purchase or lease a printer or copier for your Raleigh office or organisation, you will probably be asked if you'd like to get a maintenance contract to go with it. Is paying for regular maintenance on your printer a worthwhile investment? We take a closer look to see if purchasing a printer maintenance plan is right for you! 

    How does a Printer Maintenance Contract Work?

    Just like choosing your printer, you shouldn't be given a "one-size-fits-all" option for your maintenance contract. The three most common options include: 

    All-In-One Lease Payment

    Your lease payment, including a specific number of allotted points per month. If you lease a colour printer, it will most likely include a set amount of black and white (B/W) prints and a set amount of colour prints. If you go over your allotted amount, you are charged a specific fee per page. 

    For example, you lease a printer for a fixed amount per month, and that payment includes a predetermined amount of B/W prints and colour prints, but if you go over that amount, your contract stipulates paying a fee for each B/W or colour print. While the monthly payment is predictable, you may end up paying for prints you don't use. Preventative service, parts, toner, and drums are also included in the maintenance contract.

    Lease and Maintenance Are Separate

    This type of contract is also called a "cost per copy" contract in which the lease and the maintenance are two separate contracts. In the maintenance agreement, you are getting a preventative service that covers parts, supplies, and unlimited training. Additionally, you only pay for what you print or copy, so if your contract states you pay a specific amount per page, your printer company will multiply the number of pages or copies by that fee. This means you only pay for what you use; this is a more economical option as every sized business or organisation has periods of time where print volume may be higher or lower. You do not want to be paying for pages do you not use.

    The CPC maintenance contract is a separate monthly bill, but both the CPC maintenance contract & all and in one option would cover preventive service, parts, supplies and unlimited training.


    If you plan on purchasing a printer outright or leasing separately, you can choose to pay for maintenance when you need it. This means you'll purchase toner as needed and pay a standard hourly rate for service plus the cost of parts. This can add up quickly as a toner for most business printers can be expensive, and an hourly service rate for printer maintenance can take a toll on your budget. 

    Inkjet vs Laser: Which Printer Should You Get?

    The biggest differences between inkjet and laser printers are that an inkjet printer uses ink, is suitable for low volume printing, and is the traditional choice of home users. In contrast, a laser printer uses toner, is ideal for high volume printing, is mostly utilised in office settings but is also suitable and is a more economical choice for home use.

    Printer Comparison

    What is an inkjet printer?

    Inkjet printers are machines that spray microscopic droplets of ink onto paper. Inkjet printers are generally cheaper, smaller, and can be used to print both text documents and high quality coloured images, especially photos. BUT be wary of cheap inkjet printers as those will end up costing you a fortune later on.

    What is a laser printer?

    Laser printers are machines that melt toner powder onto paper to create a print. Laser printers are more expensive than inkjet printers upfront and use pricier toner cartridges but is still a more economical option in the long run with its overall lower cost per page, faster print speeds.

    Let's take a closer look at the strengths and weaknesses of laser and inkjet printers so you can make your next purchase with confidence.

    What Will You Use The Printer For?

    If you're looking for a home printer for occasional printing, most people would advise you to get an inkjet printer. However, a common complaint with inkjet printers is that the ink dries up if you don't use it often. With that said, if you have the budget for it, I strongly suggest you get an affordably priced laser printer instead; the toner used by laser printers doesn't dry up.

    But if you'll be printing a small volume of documents and coloured images regularly, inkjet printers will get the job done. Laser printers are known to be more durable and can print large quantities of monochrome and coloured documents frequently.

    What is a monochrome printer?

    A monochrome printer is a printer that prints only in black and white. Monochrome printers only need a black printer cartridge to print. 

    Though laser printers were originally built for office use, they are now growing in popularity as a home printer for economic reasons.

    If you'll be printing large volumes of documents, a laser printer is the best machine for you. Laser printers can print high volumes of documents daily without even batting an eyelash (if a printer ever had one or many).

    What about printing in colour? Colour laser printers are good for everyday colour printing but if you're looking to print professional high-resolution photos, go with a photo inkjet printer.

    High-quality photo inkjet printers are specially engineered to produce vividly detailed photos with the tonal variety and deeper blacks that photographers and creatives need. Many professional photo inkjet printers use pigment-based ink which is more fade-resistant and works with a wide variety of art paper types as well as a range of paper sizes. Still, you can also find dye-based photo inkjet printers if you don't require the longevity of pigment ink.

    What is a fax machine?

    Short for facsimile machine, a device that can send or receive pictures and text over a telephone line. Fax machines work by digitising an image -- dividing it into a grid of dots. Each dot is either on or off, depending on whether it is black or white. Electronically, each dot is represented by a bit that has a value of either 0 (off) or 1 (on). In this way, the fax machine translates a picture into a series of zeros and ones (called a bit map) that can be transmitted like normal computer data. On the receiving side, a fax machine reads the incoming data, translates the zeros and ones back into dots, and reprints the picture.

    The idea of fax machines has been around since 1842 when Alexander Bain invented the machine capable of receiving signals from a telegraph wire and translating them into images on paper. In 1850, a London inventor named F. C. Blakewell received a patent for a similar machine, which he called a copying telegraph.

    But while the idea of fax machines has existed since the 1800s, fax machines did not become popular until the mid-1980s. The spark igniting the fax revolution was the adoption in 1983 of a standard protocol for sending faxes at rates of 9,600 bps. The standard was created by the CCITT standards organisation and is known as the Group 3standard. Now, faxes are commonplace in offices of all sizes.

    A fax machine consists of an optical scanner for digitising images on paper, a printer for printing incoming fax messages, and a telephone for making the connection. The optical scanner generally does not offer the same quality of resolution as standalone scanners. Some printers on fax machines are thermal, which means they require a special kind of paper.

    All fax machines conform to the CCITT Group 3 protocol. (There is a new protocol called Group 4, but it requires ISDN lines.) The Group 3 protocol supports two classes of resolution: 203 by 98 dpi and 203 by 196 dpi. The protocol also specifies a data-compression technique and a maximum transmission speed of 9,600 bps.

    Office Business Photocopying Machines 01

    Some of the features that differentiate one fax machine from another include the following:

    • Speed: fax machines transmit data at different rates, from 4,800 bps to 28,800 bps. A 9,600-bps fax machine typically requires 10 to 20 seconds to transmit one page.
    • Printer type: Most fax machines use a thermal printer that requires special paper that tends to turn yellow or brown after a period. More expensive fax machines have printers that can print on regular bond paper.
    • Paper size: The thermal paper used in most fax machines comes in two basic sizes: 8.5-inches wide and 10.1-inches wide. Some machines accept only the narrow-sized paper.
    • Paper cutter: Most fax machines include a paper cutter because of the thermal paper that most fax machines use comes in rolls. The least expensive models and portablefaxes, however, may not include a paper cutter.
    • Paper feed: Most fax machines have paper feeds so that you can send multiple-page documents without manually feeding each page into the machine.
    • Auto-dialling: fax machines come with a variety of dialling features. Some enable you to program the fax to send a document at a future time so that you can take advantage of the lowest telephone rates.

    As an alternative to standalone fax machines, you can also put together a fax system by purchasing a fax modem and an optical scanner separately. You may not even need the optical scanner if the documents you want to send are already in electronic form.

    What are photocopier hazards?

    Photocopiers are oh-so-essential in the modern office. But as we focus on the machines' sleek design, high-performance functionality and good quality printing, we neglect to consider how potentially risky they can be – to our health.

    Workers are using these office machines every single day. Yet not many realise that, under certain circumstances, they can bring on health problems, especially in those with pre-existing respiratory conditions.

    Photocopiers create ozone gas

    Ozone, a form of oxygen, is a normal constituent of the earth's atmosphere. It's a highly reactive, unstable, colourless gas with a distinctive odour.

    Photocopiers create ozone through their "corona wires" that apply a charge to the paper so the ink will cling to it. As ozone is highly reactive, any adverse health effects will be found essentially at the sites of initial contact – the respiratory tract (nose, throat and airways), the lungs and higher concentrations, the eyes.

    Toner dust can cause respiratory tract irritation too

    Photocopiers use toner, an extremely fine powder, as part of the printing process.

    Insubstantial quantities, the toner may cause respiratory tract irritation resulting in coughing and sneezing. It can also be an irritant to those with respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis.

    There are a few situations where one could be accidentally exposed to toner dust. Toner dust spilled inside the machine could become airborne after passing through the ventilation fans into the room. Or, there could be a spillage when one is replacing the toner cartridge.

    We hope that this post has helped you to understand better how to find the right types of copying machines for the needs of your business.

    As you can see, there are tons of different choices out there — so there's no reason you should have to compromise.

    From helping you to learn how you can fix some of the most common photocopy machine problems to offering reviews of some of the most popular copiers on the market?

    We have all the information that you need on our website and blog. When you're ready to start shopping, be sure that you check out our amazing products. We're happy to help make sure that you've found the right copier for your business.

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