How Much Do Production Printers Cost?

People who are researching the cost of production printers know that these devices are usually large, fast, and expensive machines compared to the average desktop printer, or even a larger faster copier or MFP. But getting an accurate estimate of cost so you can make a spending plan can be challenging. If you are looking for production printers, you have come to the right place, because Edwards Business Systems is a leading seller of these systems. You should anticipate paying much more to acquire a production printer, especially a production color device. In this article, we will evaluate the factors that impact the cost of a production printing device.

What is a production printer? For the sake of our discussion we will assume that a production printer can print more than 75 pages per minute. Additionally, production printers are designed to print large volumes of output with a print quality that rivals an offset printing press. Production printers can print on a wider range of substrates than the average office printer or copier. These devices achieve overall cost savings because of their speed and efficiency.

The price range for production printers is between $25,000 and $150,000. This price range is for the acquisition cost of the device itself. Because of the cost and complexity of these machines, it makes sense to carry a maintenance and service contract on them.

Service costs are usually based on a cost per impression or cost per page basis. Ranges for cost per page are as follows:

Leasing a production printer also makes sense because at the end of the lease term, users will want a newer, faster, better machine to replace their obsolete production printing device. A lease will also simplify the payment process by combining the acquisition cost and service cost into one monthly payment.

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Classes of Production Printing Machines

There are three basic classes of production printers:

What Drives Up the Cost of a Production Printing?

There are many factors that can increase the cost of a production printer:

Speed is Critical

The higher the print speed, the more expensive the production device will be. There are a few exceptions to this rule. Speed is extremely important in production environments where there are very short production deadlines. Missing a deadline can mean a fine, loss of a customer or important project, or loss of revenue.

Color Adds Cost

A production printer that is capable of printing in color will be more expensive than an equivalent black and white model. A color-capable production printer will have a higher purchase cost, AND a higher cost of operation than monochrome. Operational costs include service, maintenance, supplies, electricity, and a skilled operator (i.e. labor costs).

Although the cost to produce large volumes of high-quality color output quickly is higher, the selling price for color is much higher than black and white prints.

Paper Capacity

In order to run efficiently, a production printer should have the ability to run large volumes of paper without an operator constantly having to re-load and unload material. Production printers should have a high-capacity output tray or output stacker. A small catch tray will fill up with prints very quickly and will keep the operator from doing more important tasks.

Most production printers allow for the installation of multiple high-capacity input and output devices, and when properly configured, these production printers can run for several hours without operator intervention to add or remove paper. High capacity inputs and stackers can add several thousand dollars to the price of a production printer.

A production printing device should also handle a much wider range of paper varieties than the average office copier. It should be able to print on heavy cover stocks, gloss coated papers, as well as normal copy paper.

Finishing

There are many finishing options available for productions printers. Booklet makers allow a production printer to output finished booklets from the end of the machine. These booklets have staples that are driven into the fold of the booklet to bind the pages. Booklet makers have a folder to create the fold or spine where the staples or “stiches” are inserted. Folders are also a popular finishing option, but they are usually offered as a part of a booklet making capability.

A booklet maker will trim the edges of a booklet as part of the booklet making process. This is important if the booklets have “bleed” or printed image that runs off the edge of the page(s). One important feature of a high-quality trimmer is the ability to quickly and efficiently collect and eject the scrap paper that is trimmed off the edges.

Another in-demand feature is square folding. A square folding booklet maker makes two folds in the spine area of the booklet and inserts a staple in the center of the spine. The result is a booklet that tends to lie flat and looks like a perfect bound booklet.

In-line perfect binders are probably the most expensive finishers available for a production printer. A perfect binder can make large, thick paperback books to be made in-line with the printer. The pages are collected in the finisher until there are a complete stack of book pages. The stack of pages passes through a grinder where the spine or bound edge is ground in preparation for hot glue binding. The glue is applied, a cover is fitted to the stack of pages, and the three edges of the book are trimmed.

There are a wide range of costs for production printing finishers. A basic finisher can cost around $3000 to $5000, while a full-featured booklet maker with all the options can range from $20,000 to $50,000. Some of the faster, more feature-rich in-line perfect binders can cost over $100,000, sometimes more than the cost of the production printer itself.

External Print Controllers Cost More

There are a couple of different options when selecting the print controller for a production printer. A print controller takes print files from computers and converts them for output on the production printer.

There are two general types of print controllers for production printers. One type of controller is an internal or embedded controller. Embedded controllers are entry-level controllers, and they offer a basic level of functionality. The other type of controller usually consists of a standalone computer that is connected to the production printer with a set of high-speed video or HDMI cables. This type of controller is called an external controller or a Digital Front End or “DFE”. A DFE usually offers high end features and very fast processing speeds. The Fiery brand of DFE’s from EFI are common examples of external controllers with fast processing speeds and enhanced functionality like imposition (press sheet layout) software, and sophisticated color management features.

An external controller like a Fiery can add anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 to the purchase price of a production printer.

What Lowers the Cost of a Production Printer?

There are several factors that drive production printer costs down.

Why are Some Dealers More Expensive?

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As you research copier costs, you may realize there are substantial cost and price differences between dealers, even for the exact same copier or MFP. You may ask yourself why. Here are some possible explanations:

  • Some copier dealers are more expensive because experienced skilled copier technicians earn higher salaries which equates to higher cost. This will benefit you as a customer in the long run, as a cheap MFP will cost you more eventually if it is down and not running.
  • Many copier dealerships charge more because of the brand of device they represent. Much like automobiles, some brands command a higher price. An Audi will cost more than a VW. A similarly featured Konica Minolta copier or MFP device may cost more than a Ricoh. Understand and communicate your device requirements when discussing copier costs with your office equipment dealer.
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Why are Some Dealers Cheaper?

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Like the question about why some production printer dealers are MORE expensive than others, consider the following:

  • Some production printer dealers have high turnover of their service technicians which means that they may have fewer skilled people. Less experienced techs can mean that they are paid less and may have lower service labor costs. This is a bad thing for customers, as they may experience more downtime as the less experienced technicians learn on the job.
  • Some production printer dealerships may sell cheaper brands of production printing machines.
  • Others may be high volume sellers of production print devices which means they may have more experience placing production printers, and the efficiency they have developed allows them to charge a lower price.
  • Some less honest copier dealers may be selling a production printer as a new device, but it may be refurbished or may be a demonstration unit with a large number of prints already on it. Be sure to ask your production print sales professional to tell you about the history of any production print machine you are considering buying.

Where does Edwards Business Systems Fit?

We like to think that Edwards Business Systems is the “Goldilocks” of production print dealers. Not too cheap, not too expensive, but just right. We have experienced, skilled production printing technicians and we pay them a salary that reflects their skill level. We also sell a LOT of production printing systems, so we understand our processes and can sell printer repair services with a high degree of efficiency. We also have some used production print devices in our inventory and showrooms that are available as more cost-effective options for your production printing needs.

If you are interested in learning more about production printing, please contact us and an experienced member of our production print team will reach out to you.

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