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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 sophisticated analogue 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, Olivetti and Kyocera 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 literature.

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.

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