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Xerox ColorQube arrives in Europe offering substantial cost benefits to high volume office printing environments

Issue #0924/1 – As Xerox’s revolutionary, yes revolutionary, solid inkjet A3 MFP arrives in Europe, Xerox is keen to get the message across that the ColorQube 9200 series will save customers money, save the environment and be good business for its channel. We take a look at why it is revolutionary and why it is set to invade organisations that have never previously embraced Xerox hardware.

One might have thought that the level of openness and transparency of pricing being demonstrated by Xerox would not have met with approval at executive level. And yet, not only have the executives given it their blessing but it appears that it is being well-received by the channel and dealer network as well. It goes without saying that transparency is always welcomed by customers!

Xerox ColorQube 9200 seriesXerox ColorQube 9200 series

As the old adage goes, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” and it is still early days for ColorQube but indications are that the migration of sold ink technology to departmental A3 MFP level is meeting with approval at all levels. It certainly has the potential to blow the market wide open and the first worldwide sale was a prestigious one – Tesco.

ColorQube is built on the enviable pedigree of nearly two decades of solid ink manufacturing, with around a million units in the field.

Its three primary features are, quite simply: its low cost of high volume colour for everyday office documents; its ability to generate a tiny fraction of the total waste experienced with most toner-based devices; and its ease of use.

Low cost

So how on earth can ColorQube cost less to run than a traditional toner-based MFP?

At this level of device, there is no loss-leader activity in the market. Customers will pay a realistic price and, at $20,000 or more to buy (or equivalent on a rental plan), ColorQube is not a low-cost device and sales revenue will cover development and manufacturing costs.

So, we come to running costs and it is here that ColorQube really scores – but remember, running costs account for a high percentage of the Total Cost of Printing and, because the ColorQube is priced at a level appropriate to its competition, overall Total Cost of Printing savings will reflect the low running costs.

Because the only consumables are the solid ink blocks plus 250,000-page maintenance unit, there is very little hardware involved, so manufacturing, marketing and distribution costs are all low. This allows Xerox to cover costs and recoup its investment in the ink technology far more easily than with a toner-based arrangement.

There are two key comparators here. Firstly, the cost of black and white pages and, secondly, the cost of colour pages.

Xerox has designed the cost plan with four page types in mind – ranging from the standard black and white page to high-density colour pages associated with printing documents such as newsletters.

Xerox ColorQube page types

But, the important business happens in the middle of the range where there is a category for pages including just a small amount of colour, ‘Useful Colour’, and those with an amount of colour that might typify the majority of everyday colour usage, ‘Everyday Colour’.

Black & White Useful colour Everyday colour Expressive colour
USA 1 cent 1 cent 3 cents 8 cents
UK 0.5 pence 0.5 pence 2.75 pence 5.5 pence
Euro (WE) 0.7 cents 0.7 cents 3.5 cents 7 cents

These running costs are based on a ‘non-commitment’ plan where no print volume commitment is made and the device hardware is purchased. In other words, it is the raw running cost of the machine – the equivalent of feeding a printer with ink cartridges or toner cartridges, OPC drums and image transfer units.

Never before has a copier/printer/MFP manufacturer been this open with its costs per copy.

It seems that Xerox – in Europe – has pitched the cost of black and white pages around 30% lower than competitive toner-based systems, which is a purely marketing decision but one that is made possible by the simple, nearly hardware-free nature of the solid ink consumables.

With a massive recommended average monthly print volume of 15,000 to 75,000 pages, even if every page were printed in black and white, at 25,000 pages per month the saving to a user would be around £50/€75 each and every month (£1,800/€2,700 over three years).

This level of saving is inducement enough to consider ColorQube in preference to a toner-based system but where ColorQube particularly raises the bar is where the cost of colour printing is concerned – pages with a small amount of colour (up to 1.2% page coverage) are charged at a black and white rate!

This is unique and something that would never be applied to a toner-based system because of the mechanics involved in the print cartridge and drum, which degrade with every revolution of the system and page printed regardless of how much colour is placed on the page. With ColorQube, it is literally only a question of a tiny amount of ink – no mechanical degradation!

Think of those annoying pages printed from emails or memos that contain one blue hyperlink on an otherwise black and white page. Because there is colour on the page, the page is printed as a colour page. On a traditional toner-based MFP, that one hyperlink would cause the page to be charged at a full colour page rate!

Not so with ColorQube. That page would be charged at the same rate is if it had been printed in black only.

What this means in practice is that if 30% of those 25,000 pages contained one hyperlink, and were therefore printed in colour (or, more realistically, if 30% of pages contained a logo and a small amount of highlight colour), the saving would be £670/€750 per month (84%/81%) – or £24,120/€27,000 over three years.

Now those are serious savings, paying for the initial purchase of the device pretty much twice over!!

Therefore, referring to the sample pages that Xerox uses to demonstrate the charging bands, the 1.2% allowance for colour on the page in the ‘Useful Colour’ band offers users significant scope for enhancing the impact of their documents using a small amount of colour but without prejudicing cost. Brilliant.

Then, colour pages with a slightly higher colour coverage (up to 8%) are charged at a rate some 65-70% lower than competing toner-based systems.

At the top end, heavy colour pages (over 8% coverage) are still charged at a lower rate than they would be on a toner-based system – 30% or more.

For a personal estimate of savings, visit and follow links for ColorQube9200 Series\Low Cost Colour\Cost Savings Calculator. Note that ColorQube is not yet available in all countries.

Low waste

While high-end toner-based MFPs may have as many as 11 or 13 individual Customer Replaceable Units (CRUs), ColorQube has just five – four colours of solid ink and a maintenance roller. Each of these requires just a small amount of recyclable packaging – and that is it. Even the plastic mould and film lid that are familiar with previous generations of solid ink printer are no more, replaced by a cardboard box.

Xerox ColorQube low wasteXerox ColorQube low waste

From the environmental standpoint, this is superb news, said to reduce waste by approximately 90% compared to a toner-based system. Xerox gives the example of a ColorQube customer printing 22,000 pages per month over four years producing 40Kg of waste materials vs. a colour laser user producing 370Kg of waste materials. This saving can be visualised in the accompanying photo!

On top of these direct waste-related benefits, ColorQube is also reckoned to be less environmentally damaging than equivalent toner-based systems. Xerox assessed the overall impact on the environment of manufacturing and using ColorQube and estimates that it has a 9% lower lifecycle energy consumption and 10% smaller carbon footprint.

To ensure impartiality, the Rochester Institute of Technology verified and approved the methodology and results of the study.

Ease of use

“Even a child can do it” is the tag line that Xerox has been using for loading ink blocks into the ColorQube system – and, there is absolutely no mess.

Xerox ColorQube loading inks

There is literally nothing to it – lift an ink block out of its box, lift a lid on the top of the MFP and drop the ink block in! Simple!

Early ColorQube customers are reporting that, for the first time, users are willing to replenish the device, thus reducing technical helpdesk calls. And, don’t forget, ink can be loaded while the machine is running.

From the accountant’s point of view, ColorQube could hardly be easier to use because the system counts pixels printed and allocates each page to one of the four page categories. Auto meter reading then takes over, assisting the service provider in ensuring that billing is timely and accurate.

High volume and high capacity are two of the key usability features of ColorQube. Ink blocks yield 9,250 pages per block and the device is able to hold a total of six blocks of each colour! Thus, each carton purchased (four blocks) holds enough ink to print 37,000 pages and the ink replenishment interval can be as infrequent as 55,500 pages! Not that the interval is an issue anyway, as ColorQube is the only office print device in existence that can genuinely be replenished while running at full throttle.

So, it is not surprising that ColorQube is winning new customers for Xerox and Xerox channel partners (50% of installs to date have been to new customers). When 65% of companies do not use their colour laser printer or MFP as their primary printing device (InfoTrends), the reduced cost structure of ColorQube has the potential to change corporate attitudes and behaviour – and the transparency of that cost structure is playing no small part in the process.

This surely qualifies as revolutionary?

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