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Desktop Digital Printing--Waldman

March 2001

The Phaser 790DP sells for an estimated retail price of $7,199. It can print up to 13x18˝ and down to 3x5˝, with a maximum image area of 12.6x17.7˝. According to the manufacturer, the cost of consumables at 20 percent coverage is 13.2 cents per sheet, which, of course, increases as the coverage increases. I'm a PostScript RIP fan and this machine uses a PostScript 3 RIP. So far, all this may sound great, but what about ink-jet devices selling for less than $1,000 that also produce superb quality?

There are many differences. First, the Phaser prints great on just about any paper, while most ink-jets print best on an exquisite sheet that is so expensive, you're tempted to store it in your safe. The Phaser 790DP can print both sides automatically. In many cases, that priceless ink-jet paper can only be printed single-sided and, even if you find a sheet that allows duplex printing, you would have to manually feed it through again.

Needless to say, I don't know of any office ink-jet printer that can come close to laser printer speeds for color. Plus, it has power with 128MB of RAM (more if you want) and, with a 6GB hard drive, you can put a great many jobs already RIPed in queue and manipulate them right up to print time. And, of course, the Phaser is a true network printer, which is critical to most office environments. In essence, the key differences are in productivity and per piece cost.

In my November article, I wrote about automatic color matching, as well. But I also stressed that this audience is not producing annual reports with Fabio Fanatic, graphic designer extraordinaire, so color matching isn't that finicky. Ironically, in this situation Fabio might be more impressed.

While the machine prints very well with its out-of-the-box settings, it has some very sophisticated controls. This might not be suitable for the real estate agent to tackle, but someone with color experience has access to a range of color control curves that could allow a reasonable match with a commercial press.

However, I'm at a loss to report just how close it can get because I haven't seen a demo yet where it was tuned to perfection. Thus I'm not sure if it has the capabilities to produce a useable proof. Of course that begs the question, good enough for who and what type of work? I would like to see a good shop experiment with it. Perhaps somebody out there has; if so, let me know.

What does all this mean to you, the commercial printer? First, if it doesn't produce a contract proof now, how long before a device costing even less is introduced that can satisfy most (not all) of your proofing needs? And how about remote proofing with your top customers?

The bigger question is: Will high-quality laser printers like the Xerox Phaser affect your business? Many—large-format sheetfed printers, in particular—will immediately dismiss this thought with the firm belief that the speeds are still too slow and, to produce good work, adjustment expertise and finishing are still required.

But I urge you to think again or to at least keep your eye on future developments. For 300 copies per hour today might be 3,000 per hour tomorrow. More importantly, this is a good example of how on-demand printing might be a better solution. Instead of printing 20M brochures to store in their warehouses, customers can print and modify their materials as needed, perhaps using variable imaging to customize salutations and mailing addresses on-the-fly. Plus, although the small real estate agent might not have the ability to properly manage this device, many corporations could.

One mystery is that it seems to me that variable imaging could be a big plus feature for laser printers of this type, yet this particular Xerox division was unaware of this capability. The machine has a PostScript 3 RIP (which supports forms), a large hard drive and ample RAM, so variable imaging on-the-fly could be a reality. I took it upon myself to contact the software provider that produces the variable imaging plug-in for QuarkXpress. Unofficially the individual I talked with agreed that it could be done. I can only imagine the possibilities of desktop digital printing, complete with the ability to address and personalize on-the- fly. Just print and dump it in the mail and you've targeted your message, all from your desktop. WOW!

Like all that has happened before, change will occur whether you embrace it or not. However, in change there's opportunity, or at least the need for an action plan. For example, printers could take the initiative and establish print centers in their customer's domain. The printer could supply expertise, training, maintenance, finishing and establish a solid opportunity to do the larger runs. Additionally, printers, particularly small shops, could buy these devices for their own short-run production.

Am I excited about devices like the Xerox Phaser 790DP? You bet I am. Not just because of their current potential, but even more so because of where this might lead. Is desktop digital printing coming? Stay tuned!

—Harry Waldman

About the Author
Harry Waldman is a consultant and has been in the printing industry for 30 years. As a former company owner, he was well-known for implementing cutting-edge technologies. He has been on many advisory boards and received several honors for his industry contributions. Waldman is also an author. His book, Computer Color Graphics, published by GATF Press, enables readers to learn today's graphic software quickly by teaching the essential concepts. He can be reached by e-mail at


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