Features

Digital Print Through the Eyes of Long-term Users

by FESPA | 08/03/2022
Digital Print Through the Eyes of Long-term Users

Digital printing continues to evolve and grow, today the available hardware and software exceeds what was available in the past. But how do printers really feel about their purchases after a few years? Sonja Angerer shares some feedback from printers to digital print hardware and software manufacturers.

Installing a new piece of machinery can be daunting to many printers.  Investing in new machinery is expected to result in more business opportunities. There are several reasons why printers decide to invest in new machinery such as faster outputs, better quality, and new ink technologies.

However, often recurring issues tend to occur. Here are a few of the most common issues:

  • Electronic problems and software failures
  • Mechanical problems
  • Substrate compatibility issues
  • Problems with manufacturer / seller

In for the Long Haul: Electronics and Software

Looking across social media for common digital printing problems, electronic and software problems seem to be the key area of concern for most printers. With today´s global chip shortage, it has become increasingly difficult for field technicians to acquire electronic spare parts in a timely manner.

Throughout the pandemic, many printers postponed new investments. When printing hardware reach their “End of Life”, manufacturers are no longer able to offer new spare parts. Technicians then have to use pre-owned or third-party items, which usually less reliable.

Software problems often occur when a new computer like the Apple M1 chip or a new operating system like Windows 11 is introduced into the market. Not every driver, RIP and automation software has frequent updates, sometimes have none at all. Therefore, printers are forced to remain using older systems, this is a potential security threat to their network.

CAPTION: When printers age, it is usually hard to acquire spare parts and software updates. In picture: Epson Stylus Pro at Photokina 2004. Image credit: S. Angerer

Long-term Mechanical Problems

Mechanical problems occur with all printers regardless of the brand. However, industrial strength machinery tends to last longer and is more reliable than an entry level option.

“Our customer satisfaction surveys always focus on service quality”, says Sümer Cetin, Director Corporate Communication at Durst Group AG. “Amongst our customers, we have a repurchase rate of over 90%. This means that those who choose Durst also stay with Durst or recommend it to others”, he clarifies.

However, even innovative technology can offer long-term reliability:  “We have been printing many items for the current ‘The Brain’ exhibition at Bundeskunsthalle Bonn with our two HP Designjet L26500 and L28500”, say Michael Bete,  Key Account Sales Manager at Picos Grafik. “They are from the early generations of HP Latex, however they are still very much in use.”

Long-term Substrate Compatibility Issues

Today, most printers test new applications at the manufacturer´s or print specialist´s Demo Centre on numerous occasions before they sign their purchase contract. Usually, compatibility issues occur later, as mechanical parts of the printer are subject to wear and tear.

When new applications get added to the printer’s portfolio, sometimes compatibility issues can occur frequently.  Sometimes a substrate that works well with certain machinery may not work well. This can be due to issues with coatings or base materials that are updated by its manufacturer, sometimes without even giving existing users notice.

In general, users seem to be happy with their substrate compatibility: “You name it, we'll do it with Mutoh printers”, says Frans de Kok, owner of Multicopy Den Bosch. His company is a returning Mutoh customer, having replaced their ValueJet with a XpertJet 1641SR just recently.

Long-term Problems with the Manufacturer or Seller

If a printer that once was a supporter of a certain printer brand, suddenly disposes of their existing gear and starts using a different brand usually problems with the manufacturer or distributor are to blame. As original parts and software updates are increasingly only available with a service contract.

Embedding a printer into a tight eco-system of software, pre-emptive service checks and updates help to uphold productivity. There is less chance of sudden breakdowns when all important parts of the machinery are constantly being monitored.  

This might be the reason why more manufacturers offer such services. ProCare, the after-sales service model for Canon Colorado printers, is newly available for the Arizona range of flatbed printers since 2021. Canon states it has received an average customer satisfaction rating of 95%.

For printers, this sometimes can be an unpleasant long-term experience since they don’t really own their machinery. The problem becomes bigger when they switch to third-party inks, as some manufacturers limit their warranty on party in contact with inks other than they approved.

However, many printers seem happy with their choice of their long-term printer. “In all 25 countries where Konica Minolta Europe operates, the customer comes first, resulting in a customer satisfaction rating of 82%”, states Melanie Eibisch, Senior Marketing Expert Corporate Communications Deutschland & Österreich at Konica Minolta Business Solutions Deutschland GmbH, stating an Infosource study from 2019.

How happy are printers long-term with their machinery?

Today, it seems most printers are satisfied with their machinery and find them above average regarding reliability and versatility. In recent years, manufacturers have aimed to become not only suppliers, but partners to their buyers, and they have their customer reports to prove it.

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