The dawn of the digital
age took a while to filter through to the photocopier industry.
The main reasons for this were cost related, as the technology was
expensive and manufactures had already spent many years developing
systems . But as with all modern digital technology
it quickly comes of age and is soon standard in many everyday things.
The first digital
system appeared in the copier industry back in
the 90s with digital laser systems being integrated into older analogue
models to create a hybrid copier. These machines
were the first step towards the photocopiers we see today, but they
still relied on the older technology for their mechanical processes
e.g. paper feed and image creation. The only real change was in
how the image was written onto the drum.
The copier industry
still produced analogue
photocopiers along side the digital ones.This was partly because
they found problems in developing high-speed digital copiers
at a reasonable cost, and partly because they had plenty of reliable
analogue copiers that had years of development behind them, and
a proven track record.
The main turning
point for the photocopier industry came along when printer
technology and philosophy truly merged with the photocopier
in and around the late 90s early 00s. The major influences were
the way in which the paper was passed through the machine, additional
memory to store many pages at once or as it's known scan
once print many, and using cartridge based service items
as opposed to stripping down and rebuilding assemblies with new
individual parts. This cartridge based servicing is now prominently
used by such manufactures as Utax,
Mita and combined with the use of long
life components is by far the most cost effective and
low maintenance systems on the market today. To give an
example some of mid-range machines have a service interval of 500,000
copies. They also require less interim maintenance as the digital
process is far more stable, and requires less manual technical
adjustment compared to the old analogue machines.
The paper path is
now based on a printer and is therefore shorter and less prone to
jamming. Duplexing (automatic double siding) often
a problem area is now relatively trouble free as a large page
memory means only a small number of pages need be running
through the machines at any one time, no matter how many pages there
are in a given document. To give an example, an analogue copier
that duplexes will have as many as 20 pages at
a time running through a long paper path, but a digital machine
may only have 3 on a much shorter path, but both
machines would be producing the same document with the same number
of copies. You can obviously see the advantage digital copiers have.
Another new benefit
of the digital copier is many more features for your money, such
as document storage and digital manipulation of the output. Of course
the biggest feature of all is multi-function, which
is copying, faxing, printing, scanning and scan to email
all in one device. These functions were utilised quite early on
by manufacturers but they were only available to the higher end
of the market due to the cost and the technical expertise needed
to set the systems up. Now it is standard throughout the range of
all manufacturers, and has even evolved into it's own sub category
for small desktop multifunction copiers, that are available on the
high street from many printer and copier manufactures.
This is how the modern
incarnation of the photocopier has evolved over recent years, and
to reflect the new photocopiers roll in the modern office many manufacturers
have changed the generic term "photocopier"
to "multifunctional" in their company's
Until the world can
function without paper these copiers will be around in our offices
and homes for many years to come, and will probably become more
integrated into our everyday lives with even more functions.