The competition is tough in the mail printing industry – electronic communication is becoming more pervasive every day, displacing some traditional printing opportunities. Printers face tremendous pressure to cut costs and grow their business as their customers continue to demand more flexibility and lower prices.


In the past decade, inkjet technology has created great possibilities in mail printing, including personalised messages and affordable colour printing. Direct marketers seized the opportunity to create true one-to-one marketing materials that deliver powerful results. But this market shift comes at a price to mail printing providers, who are now faced with shorter runs and more frequent changeovers, these factors drive up operating costs.


With these narrowing margins, it’s important to be aware of all the costs, both visible and hidden, associated with owning, maintaining and using a mail printer. It isn’t just the price of the ink alone, but the total cost of owning a mail printer, which includes the cost of consumables as well as other expenses like maintenance, labour, downtime and lost financial opportunities. These hidden expenses drive up overall equipment costs.


HP Technology Makes a Difference

Hewlett Packard enables printer manufacturers to deliver the lowest equipment costs in the mail printing industry. HP’s integrated circuit technology keeps machine costs low compared to other mail printing technologies on the market.


There are three primary inkjet technologies in the mail printing industry, continuous inkjet (CIJ), this technology uses a continuous flow of ink to form images on a page. There’s piezoelectric inkjet (PIJ), which uses mechanical forces to eject ink on demand and thermal inkjet (TIJ), which uses integrated circuitry to precisely eject ink from hundreds of microscopic nozzles. HP is synonymous with TIJ technology, which delivers high performance and reliability that makes a big difference when considering costs.


Let Your Money Work Harder For You

Equipment prices can vary by more than 75% percent between different technologies with similar capabilities. This is because the bulk of the technology is either built into the machine, as it is with CIJ and PIJ technology, or built into the supplies, as with thermal inkjet.


“TIJ technology enables a pay-as-you-print model that makes your money work more effectively than a frontloaded model,” says Hal Jones, HP Specialty Printing Systems market development manager.


Compare the up-front cost of a typical HP TIJ based system with that of a CIJ printer with similar capabilities, while the ink supplies for the CIJ printer may be priced lower than the ink supplies for the HP TIJ based systems, the capital expense for CIJ systems is several times higher. “To offset such large capital expenditures, mail shops are often forced to cut prices to keep their machines busy all day, every day. If you don’t have that high overhead to contend with, you aren’t as likely to sacrifice pricing to get jobs,” says Jones. By contrast, HP TIJ-based systems require a much smaller initial outlay of cash for you to start being productive.


Superior Performance Means Superior Value

While it may appear that HP TIJ ink and printheads may be more expensive to purchase than CIJ and PIJ ink, HP TIJ’s superior performance actually adds up to better value.


For example, ink lost through frequent purging and printing and even evaporation. Piezo relies on a mechanical process to force ink through the printhead. This physical movement makes piezo printheads more susceptible to air bubbles, which requires more ink purging and priming than TIJ technology in which nothing moves but the ink itself. Increased air bubbles can also boost nozzle clogging, which can quickly drive up operating costs. Piezo’s fixed printhead system can cost thousands to refurbish and even more to replace. Because faulty printheads will halt a printing line, businesses often keep a spare printhead on hand, adding several thousands to inventory costs.


On the other hand, continuous inkjet uses a pressurized system and it sends out a stream of ink droplets that pass through a charged tunnel and past a charged deflection plate. Uncharged drops strike a return block and are recycled to the ink module, which is constantly pumping fluid through the system. Whether it’s printing or not, solvent ink is constantly being exposed to the atmosphere, where evaporation occurs. To counter evaporation losses, a make-up fluid is added to the ink, which in turn adds more cost.


In contrast, the TIJ ink ejection process to highly efficient, using tiny resisters to create a vapour bubble that drives ink out of the printhead and dramatically reduces the risk of nozzle clogging air bubbles. TIJ printhead’s minimal servicing system provides more economical ink management than PIJ or CIJ technologies, considerably lessening the amount of lost or wasted ink.


“TIJ printheads are designed—and priced—to be replaceable, easily snapping into place to keep equipment up and running,” says Jim Martin, HP SPS product marketing manager. “In fact, you could inventory up to 375 TIJ printheads before you matched the cost of one piezo printhead, and you could replace nearly 250 printheads before you equaled the cost of refurbishing a single piezo printhead. And that doesn’t include the cost of labour.”




Uncovering the Hidden Costs of Printing

Where does labour fall in your costings? The more complicated the system, the more skilled the labour must be and the higher your costs will obviously be. For example, looking at what’s involved in starting a cold CIJ printer, firstly the ink must be heated and quality control adjustment made, which takes about 30 minutes. This means time out of production and time that ties up skilled labour. As the printer is used over time, evaporation causes the ink viscosity to change, so continuous adjustments are required to maintain acceptable print quality. As the viscosity of ink drops below a certain level, make-up fluid is added, which necessitates more adjustments. Becoming qualified to make these adjustments requires a high level of training, knowledge and experience, which further escalates labour costs.


By comparison, TIJ driven printers are the easiest to operate and maintain in the mail printing industry. Easy to replace printheads snap in and out in seconds, there’s no special training or skills that are required. The self-contained bulk ink supplies are clean and easy to handle and they can be hot-swapped to minimise print run interruptions. Ink changeovers are quick and clean, making short run printing not only possible, but profitable. TIJ machines need little intervention, so they require less labour to operate and maintain.


“HP builds the bulk of the printing system into its highly-engineered supplies. Each time you replace the printhead you refresh the printing system, minimizing the risk of nozzle clogging and maximizing print quality,” says Martin. “This makes the system more reliable and nearly eliminates the need for the time-consuming and expensive routine maintenance required with other technologies.”


Heavy solvent based piezo and continuous inkjet require special handling, such as chemical cleaners, venting hoods, fluids disposal and special training that all add costs to printing. All of the handling and disposal procedures make ink changeovers time-consuming and costly, making short-run printing nearly cost-prohibitive.



Total Cost Advantage: TIJ Technology

As the mail printing market shifts to shorter runs and more frequent changeovers, TIJ technology has the clear advantage. It’s no longer about amoritizing your operating costs over long production runs. It’s about getting the best return on your investment today and it’s about minimising your labour, maintenance and handling costs while you meet varying printing demands. It’s about keeping your operating costs as low as possible and maximising the efficiency of your printing system. Count the costs and you’ll see that TIJ delivers the best value in today’s mail printing market.