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  • Printer Advice

    Hi Friends:

    I have been working for the past four years at a small non-profit. I'm a IT Director by profession, an artist, too. I started four years ago doing IT work, but also fell into doing Graphics Design. I wouldn't consider myself an expert, but I've learned a lot and do so many well-designed and wide-variety of pieces now. I love it, really. It's the perfect career combination, mixing all my skills.

    Anyways...I'm looking for some advice really. Read on if you have a moment to offer a brother in need of some guidance.

    We do a ton of printing in house on a Konica Minolta C364e for our products and materials. These are mostly saddle-stitched books (8.5"x11" and 5.5" x 11"), guides, brochures / flyers, postcard mailers, etc. We print JIT. I'm not sure really what our total annualized volume is, but it's probably < 200,000 per year. Our per click costs for a B&W are .015 and color is .094, 8.5" x 11". The lease we have on this bad boy is now in month to month. We do not have a FIERY RIP, so my ability to do color management or other advanced processing in house is quite limited. Our setup is pretty basic in terms of hardware: We have the main C364e (used mainly for printing, but some office document scanning/copying) a couple extra paper trays and a finisher that staples, three hole punches, and folds.

    The Konica 364e print quality has served us, but honestly it's really pretty poor. Without the FIERY RIP I cannot do color management. But regardless, the coarse grain of the 600DPI looks pretty poor in terms of today's output (even with their "1200DPI" print driver option it's actually worse). With the Konica toner...seemingly quite wax-based...actually looks quite matt and splotchy when printed. (Noticeable in full-color prints). Printing on digital coated gloss stock actually looks more matted b/c of the toner. The color GAMUT is pretty awful. And, without really being able to do gloss acqueus (SP?) coating, color rendition is barely acceptable.

    Please understand, I'm not trying to bash this little unit. It has served us well for what it is, and for what we were able to acquire (afford) at the time as a small non-profit.

    So I was thinking of looking into replacing this unit with something more in the entry level digital press/printer range, or to see if there's better alternatives out there today that might offer me a few things including:
    • Better Resolution. With the Konica C364e, you can see the grain with the naked eye.
    • Color Management & Wider Gamut.
    • Ability to use ICC Profiles or built-in color management for more consistent color rendition / accuracy.
    • Ability to print borderless or near borderless. The C364 allows me to print to roughly .125", though the grip edge seems wider than that. It'd be great if I could get borderless. I see many of the more professional digital printers can print with bleed and trim in the unit. Features I'd like, but I'm sure that is well outside our price range.
    • Ability to use heavier stocks. the C364 allows me to use 100lb Cover. But we do post cards, trading cards, and it'd be great to also be able to design and make simple card-stock folders, too. (Some of our products have resource kits that essentially are folders to hold either 8.5" x 11" or 5.5" x 8.5" resources.) It'd be great to be able to get into the 110lb Cover or heavier stocks.
    • Ability to print 12" x 18" or 13" x 19" (to trim to 12" x 18")
    • Toner that looks less waxy, that can look almost glossy, and optionally looks great on digital coated "satin" stocks.
    • It'd be great to be able to saddle stitch more pages. I forget what the C364 maxes out at, but I think it's around 20 sheets.
    • Optionally (TRUE DREAM): it'd be great to be able to do PERFECT BOUND, but I think a perfect bound finisher is so far outside our price range that I probably shouldn't even dream of it.

    Anyways, I am not an industry pro. While I'd almost say there are things we do in house that are similar to a print shop / design shop, I have no real expertise or awareness even really of what the state of MFP or Digital Press equipment for smaller businesses is today. the Konica C364e was introduced in 2013, that's like a billion years ago in terms of technology. I don't know of MFPs today are closer to what a Digital Press is, or if what I'm looking to get into really requires stepping up to a true Digital Press.

    Am I crazy? Are there better MFPs out today that can do what I need? Or do I need to step into a Digital Press, and if so, what are some starting models to look into for organizations like mine that almost fit into that SOHO/Mom & Pop print service bureau category?

    Can any of you offer some perspective on what types of equipment might be out there today that would give us the ability to offer better quality output?

    Thanks. I need to get up to speed about the different digital printers and options available today to begin the real work of assessing not just the capabilities, but the costs, benefits and ROI as well.

    I guess I'm just hoping to upgrade our print capabilities in house by replacing the C364e with something that outputs with better color, quality, and flexibility that might allow us to up our products to a new quality level.

    Trust me...some of our products printed on the C364e almost look so poor...grainy, waxy, poor color rendition. As an experienced product manager (in a previous job), I know customers make judgements about the value you are giving them by the quality of the product including the printed materials. REally would love to be able to up our game on that front.

    Thank you folks. REally appreciate any advice or guidance on different printers/mfgs/models to perhaps begin looking into. I don't expect there to be one "right" answer here. Just don't know what I don't know. And today, I don't even know where to start looking for something better printers than this Konica C364e MFP.



  • #2
    rbritton As you noted, the unit you are using is an office MFP, not meant to be used a production digital press. It was designed for office use, printing out emails, forms, etc. You should be looking at the Konica Minolta C3070 as a starting point in their line-up of digital presses. This will give you everything you are looking for....you'll just have to figure out what is within your budget. They have a perfect binder that auto trims the cover and produces books up to 1" thick. We use it here in our shop on a Konica Minolta 1250 (b/w digital press). The perfect binder is very solid unit, but it costs as much as the press does. We are about to upgrade our color press too and getting the new SD-513 which has 3-sided trimming for full bleed books and creases the cover to reduce cracking. We currently have the SD-506 which does only a face-trim and no creasing...still a great unit. The quality of their digital presses is near photographic...in fact, I know of a local photo studio that uses an older C6000 to run quinceañera and wedding books...the quality of the newer models has only become better. We print alot of large solids and gradients and even with a 5+ year old machine, it still prints great! There is also controls on the newer models to make the toner more or less glossy. Adding the Fiery controller will give you all of the color control you need, but the standard KM controller offers alot of color control as well for a much lower price point. The C3070 supports up to 350gsm (duplexed in a single pass) which is more than your 110# request. We are upgrading our old C8000 to a C6085 which offers 400gsm duplexed. Any of their digital presses support 13x19, and have a banner option to run up to 13x50.

    Xerox, Canon, and Ricoh also have equivalent models. They all have great quality these days, and similar finishing options. Canon and Ricoh are the only ones that offer a perfect Binder besides KM...Xerox does tape binding or you have to get a 3rd Party finisher. As I always tell people...if you ask about which model/company to go with, those with Xerox's will tell you to get a Xerox, those with Ricoh's will tell you to get a Ricoh, and so on. All machines from the big 4 are very similar in quality and capabilities these days. The most important thing is service. If you're currently happy with service, then check out KM digital presses. If not, ask local shops in your area who has the best service and go with that recommendation. Service really varies from region to region.

    Lastly, regarding printing full bleed, none of the toner digital presses really support full bleed printing because there would be a mess with the toner going over the edge and onto the backs of the next sheet. Many vendors will word their marketing pieces with 'full bleed' printing, but it's referring to their 3-knife trimming booklet maker. I've seen some posts on here that the high end Ricoh's like the C9200 series can be tricked into printing full bleed, and since they have an extra cleaning station, it works...I'd be curious how that goes for the long term though since I imagine that it's not really what it's designed to do.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank you, jwheeler .

      I was looking at that after I wrote my initial post...as well as a Canon 850.

      Do you have any info on the CPC (cost per click) on a unit like that? Just curious.

      Stepping into a digital press would be a huge investment for us, but may be worth it in the long run. I'm really trying to take my time to get educated about the various manufacturers and options out there. I don't know if there are really any Digital Presses that are more entry level-ish, or if it's really just taking the full digital press plunge. It would be logical that for many businesses even, having more than an MFP for an "in house" print shop (for doing books, proposals, business plans, consulting plans, etc.) might be more common. Who knows? Maybe the norm is to just work with a higher end MFP and that there isn't really a type of digital printer that fits between an MFP and a full digital press.

      That C3070 looks nice for sure...so does the Canon 850. I think I may have to simply start a conversation with a local rep for each and just get out there and see them in action.

      (We use a third party printer that has a new Digital Press they just invested into. They won't tell me what they invested into, but I'd love to go behind the scenes and see what they have in operation. Maybe I'll try to find another local smaller print service bureau to see if I can get a bhind the scenes look at a small print shop in operation.

      Really appreciate you giving me some insights. Much appreciated.

      Comment


      • #4
        There is a light production version of the C3070 called the C3070L. It's basically the same print engine, but you can't attach as many finishing or paper feed options. Xerox also has a good light production unit called the C60

        Comment


        • #5
          jwheeler Wow that looks great. Watched a few videos on the C60/C70. Pretty impressive compared to what we have now. Thanks for sharing that info!

          Comment


          • #6
            Every brand has a small production machine you can put a Fiery on. I would just start calling some places and get prices to see what you can afford.

            How many pages are you wanting to perfect bind? You can get saddle stitch booklet makers that do 50 sheets and a square back maybe that work for what you are doing.
            Warning I am a Ricoh tech.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by rbritton View Post
              Thank you, jwheeler .
              Do you have any info on the CPC (cost per click) on a unit like that?
              CPC’s are really going to vary depending on the area, your volume, etc...but in general most color digital presses will have under $0.05 for color and $0.01 or less for b/w clicks. Also, they usually charge single click on production units. This means you pay the same no matter what size sheet. As opposed to your office copier, they are most likely charging you two clicks for anything over 8.5x11.

              Xerox is a little different in that they don’t do a single or double click on production units, they will do something like $0.035 for 8.5x11 and an additional $0.01 for 11x17 and up.

              Comment


              • #8
                Thank you jwheeler

                I haven't done a financial assessment just yet, but I need to. I know without a doubt from my years of experience (over 25!) as a Director of IT that we are paying too much per click today, and have overpaid significantly on the price of the lease. (The lease we have was established before my arrival and I don't think the current organization even bothered to do an assessment. They just accept what the local dealer told them their price would be.)

                I think for the most part, this isn't so much a financial betterment play as it is a better quality OUTPUT and feature pay. To be able to do better quality output, including proper color management, as well as to have more options (like square bind/trim booklet printing) would even be a wonderful improvement.

                Mostly though, for me, the quality of our current C364e, is just so subpar. It's kind of become the "pea under the mattress". The vision I put behind the products I design and create often result far less in terms of what my vision is after being printed on the C364e. It's just so disappointing. I do oil painting and water color as a semi-pro artist outside of work. If you know Winsor Newton "Cottman" student brand pigments and compare them to professional pigments, you'd be simply stunned at the differences in saturation, vibrancy, and color in general. And that's even before varnishing!

                Printing output on the C364e is just so disappointing for an MFP color laser.

                Thanks for the cost info. Our current vendor charges four clicks for a double-sided color 11x17...just insane. .09 cents * 4 or .36 cents.

                What's worse, with our cost structure is that our CEO actually has us AVOID using color in our products b/c the per click cost is too high. So you start with a beautifully designed full-color product, and then in the end have a poor quality product with a color cover booklet with b&w interior pages in many cases.

                So lowering per print color costs is a part of what I'm after, too, so that we can not FEAR printing in color due to high per click charges.

                Anyways, probably too much information, TMI, jwheeler. I have a tendancy to blather and complain!



                Anyways, so that's my goal...to get better color output with more features at worst the same cost structure, but at best a better cost structure than what we have.

                My hope is that it will lead towards my organization's ability to produce a far better product for our customer base.

                RE: Perfect Bound. Our books today are rarely over 40 pages or so (by page count). By paper count, that's 10 sheets. The C364 has a saddle stitcher. The more pages, though, the folder has problems creating a lot of curve and the front edge, without a trimmer, gets more uneven.

                Some of the finishers on the pro gear looks so awesome...square spine fold and front-side trim...ah to dream of having that capability!



                Comment


                • #9
                  I would get in contact with the big guys in this field. Talk to Canon, Ricoh, Xerox, Konica and tell them what you want and let them sell you. You might be able to get a better machine for less by going used. Our first Xerox digital we bought used direct from Xerox. Had full service contract and reasonable clicks. The Versant series has been well reviewed and liked by most. We have a Versant 2100 and it is the best printer I have ever had. Consistent colour, great registration, handles envelope to 350GSM. The Versant 80 is pretty much the same machine in a more compact form like a more traditional photocopier in looks.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Thank you wonderings That is some good advice. Do any of you know if it is possible to obtain sample outputs that were printed on the unit under consideration? Is that typical? Getting samples?

                    I'd almost like to be able to print one of our products (8.5" x 11" books, saddle-stitched) and see how they look in terms of output off each printer.

                    I've looked at some of the brochures. Canon talks about it's toner technology, superior color outputting, etc. But so does Xerox and Ricoh and the others.

                    It'd be great to see one sample of our books printed off of each for side by side comparison.

                    I also wonder if it'd be possible to find a local service bureau or customer that I could pay to print one copy off a model I was considering. Will a local rep provide references like that which I could contact directly and perhaps visit/contact?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by rbritton View Post
                      Thank you wonderings That is some good advice. Do any of you know if it is possible to obtain sample outputs that were printed on the unit under consideration? Is that typical? Getting samples?

                      I'd almost like to be able to print one of our products (8.5" x 11" books, saddle-stitched) and see how they look in terms of output off each printer.

                      I've looked at some of the brochures. Canon talks about it's toner technology, superior color outputting, etc. But so does Xerox and Ricoh and the others.

                      It'd be great to see one sample of our books printed off of each for side by side comparison.

                      I also wonder if it'd be possible to find a local service bureau or customer that I could pay to print one copy off a model I was considering. Will a local rep provide references like that which I could contact directly and perhaps visit/contact?
                      We have printed live jobs on demo machines. I can see them maybe not having a used machine up and running but any new machine they should have a demo unit on it. Take your most challenging jobs when you demo it, use your own stock, do it all yourself and let them watch and help if you need it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        wonderings TYVM! Yes, I was thinking about whether I could bring some 11 x 17 cover and interior stock and a couple PDFs on a thumb drive for printing. It sure would be great to see what they could output! TYVM, friend!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by rbritton View Post
                          wonderings TYVM! Yes, I was thinking about whether I could bring some 11 x 17 cover and interior stock and a couple PDFs on a thumb drive for printing. It sure would be great to see what they could output! TYVM, friend!
                          Good luck, I can only speak from our experience, every region can be different. Before we bought our first digital we ran a massive job, think it worked out to be around 144,000 clicks using a bunch of Xerox's printers. Part of it was demo, the other part was them helping us out as we were just getting into digital. So I speak very highly of Xerox and the service team around here, other places can be different. They have always be very accommodating and helpful if a machine was down to use one of theirs in their show room. Thankfully have not had to do that in many years.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rbritton View Post
                            Thank you wonderings That is some good advice. Do any of you know if it is possible to obtain sample outputs that were printed on the unit under consideration? Is that typical? Getting samples?

                            I'd almost like to be able to print one of our products (8.5" x 11" books, saddle-stitched) and see how they look in terms of output off each printer.

                            I've looked at some of the brochures. Canon talks about it's toner technology, superior color outputting, etc. But so does Xerox and Ricoh and the others.

                            It'd be great to see one sample of our books printed off of each for side by side comparison.

                            I also wonder if it'd be possible to find a local service bureau or customer that I could pay to print one copy off a model I was considering. Will a local rep provide references like that which I could contact directly and perhaps visit/contact?
                            If you contact the sellers in your area they will be able to give you pricing and demo the machines. I see many times where customers bring their own media and files to test.
                            Warning I am a Ricoh tech.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by msaeger View Post

                              If you contact the sellers in your area they will be able to give you pricing and demo the machines. I see many times where customers bring their own media and files to test.
                              They may even sell you that demo machine for a good price.

                              Comment

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