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Enhancements to Kyocera’s MFP technology project the new TASKalfa range right to the front

Issue 0908/2 – Kyocera’s recent launch of its TASKalfa range of colour MFPs presents an exceptionally user-friendly and versatile device to the market, reinforces the company’s commitment to environmentally friendly products and low Total Cost of Printing and lays to rest historical concerns over print quality from the company’s office products.

Using the tag line “Expect the unexpected”, the TASKalfa series will certainly be a surprise to many, the result of heavy R&D spend. Not only is print quality significantly improved (allowing excellent copy of copy of copy of copy quality) but the user-configurable user interface is exemplary, allowing operations that are all-too-frequently confusing and complicated to set up to be programmed and activated with a single touch of the clear touchscreen (plus pressing the ‘start’ button, of course!).

TASKalfa touchscreenTASKalfa control panel and touchscreen

For instance, copying single-sided A3 sheets to double-sided A4 can result in a user needing to experiment with size and orientation on a traditional MFP, thus wasting copies (and therefore time and money) just to ensure that the resizing and orientation is correct. With TASKalfa, the operation can be programmed and intelligence built into the device automatically adjusts zoom factor and orientation to ensure first-time success – no failures, no annoying experimentation, no wasted paper, toner or time.

Booklet making has also been improved. TASKalfa models will automatically pick a cover sheet from the multipurpose tray when commanded to make booklets with a cover. Cover sheets can be either different coloured paper or light card.

Kyocera TASKalfa 250ciKyocera TASKalfa 250ci

Status lights on the front of the machine and on the front of the ADF instantly show the user whether the machine is ready for use or not, while a new USB interface located at the side of the control panel now offers direct USB printing and scanning with the ability to drill down three layers of folder on the USB device as well as to set all printing and finishing options at the control panel for documents printed from the USB device.

Even the new printer driver brings a wide range of print configuration settings to the top layer of the driver for quick and easy printing, including a range of user-configurable profiles.

Kyocera TASKalfa 300ciKyocera TASKalfa 300ci

In addition, Kyocera’s new proprietary software platform, HyPAS (Hybrid Platform for Advanced Solution) brings the TASKalfa in line with MFPs from other manufacturers that already have software platforms that allow third-party developers to build solutions and applications for the enterprise. The HyPAS platform also enables intranet and internet browsing direct from the control panel. Currently, this does not allow printing from intranet or internet locations (which seems to defeat the object of the exercise) but this is expected in future versions of the interface.

For resellers offering a solutions approach to customers, the touchscreen can be configured to display a custom, branded splash screen at start-up.

Kyocera TASKalfa 400ciKyocera TASKalfa 400ci

A portion of the extensive R&D funding has been put towards enhancing the laser engine used in the TASKalfa range. Although not brand new, the engine features a new long-life ceramic drum with an improved protective layer, which allows a thinner photosensitive layer to be used for improved image accuracy and definition.

Life expectancy of the drum is a massive 300,000 pages, meaning that many users will never need to install the maintenance kit (an average print throughput of 8,333 pages per month will see the expected life expectancy exhausted over a typical ownership period of three years). For customers with high page-throughput or long ownership demands, the maintenance kit ensures a further 300,000 pages-worth of low-cost printing and copying.

Kyocera TASKalfa 500ciKyocera TASKalfa 500ci

Print speeds have been increased to 25ppm (mono and colour) for the base model (TASKalfa 250ci), 30ppm (TASKalfa 300ci), 40ppm (TASKalfa 400ci) and 50ppm in mono / 40ppm in colour (TASKalfa 500ci).

Paper handling has been improved with the introduction of a flexible paper guide system that increases the weight of media that can be fed from the paper feeder and through the duplex system to 163gsm.

Even the casing has been designed with the environment and durability in mind. Recycled plastics have been used in the manufacture of the casing and the front access door. While sporting heavy-duty hinges, the door has been made from flexible plastic so that the accidental knock or heavy handling will not break it.

Inside the front access door is a toner system that ensures the easiest of toner replenishment changes with a simple locking lever that holds each of the units in place.

TASKalfa tonerTASKalfa toner arrangement

Kyocera’s toner is produced in its own factory, giving the company complete control over the formula and process. A new toner formulation for TASKalfa results in toner particles being approximately 28% smaller and more evenly rounded than those for previous generations, with all the benefits that this brings. These include: more even coverage; lower consumption of toner (30%); smoother finish; increased resolution capabilities; improved print quality with finer lines and smoother edges; lower power consumption (toner melting point is reduced by 20°C, resulting in an energy saving of 15%); and better economy.

However, Kyocera has not yet made the shift to chemically grown, polymerised toner as have most other manufacturers, despite creating a brand new factory to manufacture toner. Although the new manufacturing process has reduced toner particles to an average of 6.8 micron in diameter, from 9.5 micron, particle size achieved by chemical growth methods is generally about 3 to 4 micron – around half the size.

In addition, chemically grown toner uses approximately one-third less energy to produce and is responsible for significantly lower harmful gas emission than traditional ground toner.

So, even though Kyocera has achieved all the benefits of smaller toner particles, until the toner is chemically grown, the full potential for maximising on quality, economy and environmental benefits will never be achieved.

Let’s also not forget Kyocera’s heritage in the field of low Total Cost of Printing. These new devices are no different, offering economy that is untouched in the industry and able to save customers as much as 60% on their printing and copying in the long-term. The following two charts were published in the article , on 3rd February 2009, and amply demonstrate the potential for saving with the TASKalfa range!

Purchase Price – A3 colour MFP

Please note that certain assumptions have had to be made in order to arrive at an approximation of hardware price and Cost of Printing for the Kyocera TASKalfa 250ci, meaning that the figures shown in both charts here are approximations and may be subject to change as more information becomes available.

Total Cost of Printing – A3 colour MFP

Note that for this level of machine, the mixed mono/colour CPP over three years shown in the accompanying table is calculated on the basis of 10,000 pages per month; 70% pages in mono and 30% pages in colour; is based on the use of maximum capacity supplies; takes into account any standard, or starter, supplies shipped with the device; any maintenance items required and also includes the cost of purchase. All prices are median street price, sourced in Germany, and include tax.

In conclusion, all features expected of a high-end MFP are present in the TASKalfa range, including: standard duplex printing, PCL 6 and PostScript 3 compatibility; high paper capacity (max 4,100 sheets); extensive and flexible finishing options; and network interface. However, the TASKalfa machines surprisingly are not fitted with a gigabit network interface – seems a little short-sighted in today’s market!

TASKalfa will be used as the branding of all future mono and colour MFPs from Kyocera, all sharing the same black colour scheme as these first machines, the name denoting the fact that user TASKs are performed to the highest priority (alfa). The enhancements take these new machines to a new level and position Kyocera very well for a strong position in the market of the future as enterprises increasingly place more focus on cost savings.

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