Epson signals Second Coming of LED printers


AnandParthasarathy celebrates the return of LED printers as cost effective options to laser, with a personal note.

Bangalore, November 20, 2011– Japan headquartered, leader in digital imaging and printing, Epson, has signalled the rebirth of LED printing, a technology first unveiled in the 1990s as a cost effective alternative to laser printing, but never catching public fancy. Now after almost a decade Epson has seemingly  decided that the time is ripe to relaunch LED printing options : It has just unveiled 4 models, two monochrome and two colour at price points that challenge conventional laser options.

I have some excuse for a personal note of satisfaction about this development. In its earlier avatar, LED printers though acknowledged to have been invented by Casio, was actually brought to market by two other companies Oki and Panasonic. Around 1990, both models came to India – at around half the price of laser printers.  ( notice these are all Japanese companies, including Epson whos is launching the technology afresh!).

Tech  notes at the end of this piece, explain how these printers, replaced a laser bar with thousands of tiny LEDs – reducing cost as well as power budgets. The Oki version was brought to India by TVS Electronics , a pioneer in PC peripherals in this country, under their part number and if I am not mistaken, I was one of the first in India to install and use one of their LED by happenstance: I was doing a small technical documentation job for a TVSE group company and they were kind enough to provide me a machine ( it was monochrome only then) to produce the drafts. I loved the TVSE/OKI printer. It produced less heat and guzzled significantly less power – and the printed output – mostly text, I must admit – was indistinguishable from what contemporary laser printers produced.

I must say, I flogged the machine for about two years, using about 6 replacement toner cartridges. The problem was, TVSE did not sell enough of these machines to justify a large inventory of spare. When the drum wore out, they couldn't find a spare in the country – they quoted a price for importing one from Japan which did not make sense to me at the time – almost the price of a new printer.

I was surprised that the big names in printing, HP, Canon and yes even Epson, never bothered at the time to offer an LED option to laser printers for price-conscious customers. I’m guessing they did not have the necessary patents and technology and were too comfortable in their existing portfolios to license the technology. Industry does not always give customers what’s best for them, but what’s best for their own bottom lines.

That’s all water under the bridge: Epson seems to have seen the logic of LEDS in an era where the customer is more aggressive in pursuit of paisa vasool or money’s worth.

Their new releases in India build on their proprietary Aculaser technology though switching lasers for LEDS. I’m not quite sure how that works – but will share my experience with you after I have had a chance to actually try out one of these printers and discuss the technology with Epson’s engineers.

The new printers claim common attributes:

- High print speeds of up to 24 pages per minute (black) / 12 pages per minute (colour)

- High monthly duty cycles of up to 20,000 pages per month

- High buffer memory capacities of 128MB that enable better heavy workload management

- Vibrant colour images and rich, well define text with Epson AcuBrite mono and colour toners

- Compact space saving chassis designs thanks to the compact new LED print engines

The range consist of: The Epson AcuLaser M1400 single function mono printer ( Rs 5350); AcuLaser MX14 all-in-one mono printer ( Rs 8350); AcuLaser C1700 single function colour printer( Rs 10,800) and AcuLaser C17NF all-in-one colour printer with networking and fax ( Rs 19,500). Individual print speeds of up to 24 ppm for black (AcuLaser M1400 / MX14), and up to 12ppm for colour (AcuLaser C1700 / CX17NF) are specified. All the models assure duty cycles of up to 20,000 pages per month, ensuring reliable operation even for heavy workloads.

The LED print engines of the printers allows them to achieve highly compact, space saving footprints. The new toner cartridges are also much smaller and more compact than laser toner cartridges.

Tech Notes: From PC Tech Guide  

From Wikipedia:

An LED printer is a type of computer printer. LED technology uses a light-emitting diode array as a light source in the printhead. The LED bar pulse-flashes across the entire page width and creates the image on the print drum or belt as it moves past.

LEDs are more efficient and reliable than conventional laser printers, since they have fewer moving parts. Depending on design, LED printers can have faster rates of print than some laser-based designs, and are generally cheaper to manufacture. Laser systems rely on elaborate combinations of rotating mirrors and lenses that must remain in alignment throughout their use. The laser scans from one end of a line to another, then starts on the next line. Unlike laser printers, an LED printhead has no moving parts..LED printing was invented by Casio.

LED versus laser: ( good animation):  

Link to Epson: