What is LED & Laser Printing
To clarify, in the context of printing technology, “LED” stands for “Light Emitting Diode.” LED technology is used in various applications, including LED MFP (Multifunction Printer) plotters, where it plays a role in the printing process. Laser printing is very similar to LED printing; while both LED printing and laser printing are based on electrophotographic principles, they use marginally different technologies for the light source that creates the image on the photoconductive surface (Drum). LED printing uses an array of light-emitting diodes (LEDs), while traditional laser printing uses a laser beam. LED and Laser printing are known for there energy efficiency, precision, and ability to produce high-quality prints quickly. These technologies most often utilize a process whereby the use of a Laser or LED’s indirectly create images or text onto paper. Here’s a basic overview of the process:
Image Formation: The image or document to be printed is sent to the LED plotter from a computer or scanner.
Drum: Inside the plotter, there is a rotating cylindrical drum coated with a special material called a photoconductor.
Charging: The surface of the drum is given a uniform positive charge usually by a charging corona wire.
Exposure: Either, An array of tiny LED lights shines onto the surface of the drum. These LEDs emit light to create an image by selectively discharging areas of the charged surface. Or, A laser beam scans across the surface of the drum. The laser is modulated to selectively discharge areas of the charged surface, creating an electrostatic latent image that represents the content to be printed.
Toner Application: toner, which is a fine powder, is attracted to the areas on the drum that have been discharged by the LED lights or laser. The toner briefly adheres to the electrostatic image, forming a visible image on the surface of the drum.
Transfer: A sheet of paper is fed through the plotter. A transfer corona applies a strong negative charge to the back of the paper, causing the toner on the drum to be attracted and transferred onto the paper.
Fusing: The paper with the transferred toner passes through a fuser unit, which uses heat and pressure to adhere the toner particles and fuse them permanently onto the paper.
Cleaning: After the transfer, any residual toner left on the drum is removed using a cleaning blade, preparing the drum for the next print cycle.
Discharge and Erasure: The remaining electrostatic charge on the drum’s surface is neutralized, erasing the latent image and preparing the drum for the next print.
Output: The printed paper is ejected from the printer, completing the printing process.
Benefits of a Laser or LED Plotter
Investing in a cutting-edge LED or Laser MFP plotter can revolutionize your printing experience, but tread carefully to avoid potential pitfalls. LED & Laser printing are known for there speed, precision, and ability to produce high-quality images. They are commonly used in blueprint shops, reprographic houses, large print rooms, and higher volume print offices. These laser printers and LED MFP plotters are commonly used to print monochrome (black & white or grayscale) engineering drawings, architectural plans, and other large-format documents. If the print volume is high enough, the per unit cost to operate Laser or LED plotters can be incredibly low. Another benefit of these Laser or LED MFP Plotters is the scanning capability, and the space saving compact configuration.
Critical Factors to Consider with a Laser Printer or LED MFP
There are critical factors to keep in mind before committing to a purchase or lease of a LED Plotter or Laser Printer. Factors worth exploring are: ease of use, cost misconceptions, maintenance issues, potential portability issues, and several others; most of which are here to guide you through the potential stumbling blocks, ensuring you make an informed decision.
Monochromatic (Black & White) Printing
Most laser or LED Plotters only use black toner to print in black & white or grayscale. So most of these printers do not offer an option to print in color.
LED Plotters & Laser Printer Installation
Wide format laser printers & LED MFP plotters are substantial large heavy equipment that often require factory trained technicians to be properly installed. Installation usually comes at an additional expense.
Is an LED or Laser Printer Easy to Use?
Often with wide format plotters, there can be a learning curve to become familiar with the software as well as the nuances of the printer’s hardware. LED MFP plotters & laser printers often require some training to become familiar with the capabilities of these plotters. With most of these large plotters there is a technique to things like properly removing the occasional paper jam, whereby doing it improperly can certainly lead to frustration and a possible service call! These plotters are not usually simple plug-n-play devices.
Cost Considerations of LED or Laser MFP Plotters
While LED & Laser MFP plotters may boast efficiency, upfront costs can be deceptive. As previously stated, they are large heavy equipment, so freight to get it can be expensive, there is often a substantial installation fee beyond the high initial investment in the equipment. Since these plotters utilize toner and paper, evaluating the consumable costs are another factor. And this type of equipment strongly encourages preventative maintenance, so plan on seeing and paying a technician to come out a few times a year to keep your plotter running well. And when components require replacement that adds another dimension to your ongoing expenses. Calculate the Total Cost of Ownership to understand the long-term financial commitment accurately.
Print Volume and Speed of Laser & LED MFP Plotters
Assessing your actual printing needs is paramount – Don’t be swayed solely by impressive print speeds! High-speed output might be necessary if your volume substantiates it. If you intend to print a substantial amount of pages every day, it might be worthwhile; however, if the printer is spending a considerable amount of time dormant, it may be more printer than you need. Failing to match the device’s capabilities with your workload can lead to inefficient resource allocation and increased costs. Simply put, these plotters are designed for high usage.
Toner Efficiency in MFP Plotters
LED & Laser MFP plotters utilizing toner are lauded for their precision, but the efficiency of toner usage varies. Research the toner consumption rates and the cost of replacement cartridges. Overlooking this aspect could result in unexpected expenses. Also look into availability of toner; it’s nice to have options when it comes time to replenish supplies, if supply of toner is limited this can certainly disrupt your workflow.
Anticipate Maintenance Demands for Your Laser or LED Printer
Consider the maintenance requirements of the LED or Laser MFP plotter. Complex devices demand specialized expertise, leading to potential prolonged down-time if issues arise. Factor in the availability of technical support and service options to keep your printing equipment running smoothly. And as previously mentioned, anticipate and schedule-out for preventative maintenance to assure print quality remains and for the overall health of your new plotting equipment.
Compatibility Challenges With Your New Plotter
Before committing, assess the compatibility of the Laser or LED MFP plotter with your existing software and hardware infrastructure. Incompatibilities could hinder integration and workflow efficiency, requiring additional investments in updates or replacements. If you are thinking about purchasing an older model, beware that it may require a computer system that is running an older operating system, as the manufacturer of the MFP plotter may have not created more recent software drivers (software that allow your computer to effectively communicate with your MFP device) to work with more recent operating systems.
Safeguarding Your MFP Plotter Against Premature Obsolescence
Technological advancements are rapid. Often times a plotter will be offered at a super low price, just because it may be near discontinuation. Will your chosen LED MFP plotter remain relevant in the coming years? Research the device’s upgrade potential and its compatibility with evolving industry standards to avoid premature obsolescence.
MFP Plotter Portability
Again, wide format laser printers & LED MFP plotters are substantial large heavy equipment. The location where the new MFP plotter is installed, is typically where it stays; due to its size and weight, you may not want to ever move it. Although it may have casters, proper installation typically requires lowering permanent legs and properly balancing the plotter equipment; so its usually a good idea to call in a service technician to move most MFP plotters.
MFP Scanner Pitfalls
Although it may seem nice to have the scanning capability tied in with the plotter, there are several issues to consider:
- Potentially inferior scanner: In MFP configurations, lower quality scanners are often integrated in order to provide the plotter at a lower price tag.
- Software limitations: Some manufactures limit the capabilities of the equipment via software; this presents opportunity to up-sell features to you.
- Possible constraints when service is needed: When one aspect of the plotter goes down for service issues, it deems the entire plotter as inoperable. An example of this is if the scanner breaks down, you may not be able to print either.
- What to do when one major function outlasts the other? If you are fortunate when one aspect of the plotter becomes inoperable, that the other remains functional, this creates another issue. An example of this is if the printing functionality breaks down, and becomes cost prohibitive to fix, yet the scanner continues to function properly. At this point you become faced with a challenging decision:
- Replace the entire plotter scanner, or
- Keep the large device for the scanning capability and purchase another plotter.
Either choice is not optimally efficient.
Alternatives to Laser or LED MFP Plotters
If your volume does not substantiate a toner based plotter; you might be a good candidate for an inkjet printer paired with a stand alone scanner (if scanning is needed). Inkjet plotters are considerably less expensive, are usually less costly to ship, most often do not require installation, require little to no preventative maintenance, are easy to learn & use, and can easily be moved.
The allure of an LED or Laser MFP plotter using toner is in some cases worth considering, but the journey is riddled with pitfalls that can be prohibitive. By scrutinizing costs, print volume needs, maintenance demands, compatibility, and future-proofing, you can see that this type of plotting equipment only really benefits those that only print in black & white and have a high print volume. Our expert technicians are happy to assist you by assessing your print (and scan) needs, in order to make the right printer recommendation, call us now at (602) 224-9971, or contact us now, we’re happy to help!