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COLOR COPIERS & DUPLICATORS -- Creating Color that Clicks

January 2002
BY MARK SMITH


In this age of computers, flatbed scanners and color desktop printers, it's easy to forget that not every document is readily available as a digital file, nor does every piece have to be printed in four-color to be effective. These are just two of the reasons why color copiers and digital duplicators, respectively, continue to be productive tools in the "print-for-pay" market segment. While they fit slightly different applications, both product categories can be considered entry-level digital printing systems from a price standpoint.

Color copiers is the harder category to pin down in terms of target markets and applications. Manufacturers already commonly call these devices printers/copiers, but some have started referring to them as "digital printing systems" and down playing the copying capabilities. RIPs and network interfaces have become standard equipment or offered as options. By teaming up with traditional proofing system vendors, companies also are adding color matching capabilities that turn copiers into digital proofers.

In a similar fashion, digital duplicator manufacturers have taken to calling their products "digital presses" or "digital printing systems" for competitive positioning reasons. These devices fill a somewhat unique niche by providing spot-color (and black-and-white) printing at comparatively higher speeds and lower cost, with the image quality benefits and substrate flexibility of ink on paper.

Because of their different color, the two categories of products really only compete in the sense that entry-level system buyers must decide which best fits their color output needs.

Color copiers can fit all of the aforementioned applications, agrees Janet Cain, director of marketing at the Canon U.S.A. Graphic Systems Div. in Lake Success, NY. She sees the copying function potentially still coming into play in a number of ways.

* An office may have a desktop color printer capable of producing a limited number of copies, but the company may take a hardcopy original from that device to a print-for-pay site when larger volumes are required.

* Some popular office software—especially Microsoft Word and PowerPoint—can be difficult to process through four-color, PostScript-based workflows. One workaround that has developed is for shops to output the file to a desktop printer and then recapture the document for volume production.

* Information often needs to be updated in existing printed pieces. Before a major revised printing is done, the current piece can be scanned and edited on a color copier for output in smaller quantities.

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