The Joy of Office Printing Machines

By Deane Barker on December 23, 2003

My office is considering buying a new copier/printer. Have you looked at these things lately? I’ve been through a half-dozen vendor presentations in the last few days (they talk a long time when the price tag approaches $20K), and I can’t believe the functionality available. One vendor dropped off a demo machine for a test drive, and I was just blown away. Consider:

  • Scan-to-email. You stick a 100-page document in the feeder, and the machine will query your LDAP server and give you a list of people you can email the resulting PDF to. (I’ve locked this down to internal addresses only — I have nightmares of someone accidentally sending a confidential document to a mailing list, or some spammer comandeering my copier.)
  • Document storage. Still printing from workstations only? How 1990s. Office machines have hard-drives now. You can “print” something to the hard drive in the machine where it will stay. If someone needs a copy of it, they walk up to the machine, select the file in a menu, and it prints.
  • Content indexing. The line between hardware and document management blurs. You can scan all your documents and the machine will keep them on the hard drive, run text recognition on them, and store the index. You can query the machine through a Web interface for, say, all the documents scanned with the word “batcave” in them.
  • User-sensitive print settings. Bob can print, but he has to print in paper saving mode. Bill can print in color, but not more than 10 sheets in a one-hour period. Fred can only print from noon to 1 p.m. when load is likely to be low.
  • Asynchronous printing. The printer is busy, so just print my document when you have a chance, store it in a special tray, and shoot me an email when you’re done telling me where I can find it.
  • Job histories, How many 10-page documents have been printed today? By whom? How many pages has Teddy the Tree Killer printed this month? Hook up ODBC and query the history like a database.
  • Web Configuration Interfaces. No more wading through dozens of menus on the little touchscreen. The printer is IP-addressable so just bring it up in a browser and there’s a full-featured interface right there.
  • Quick Change Engines. Something wrong with the machine? The technician will just bring a new engine down (they keep a half-dozen extras), pull yours out in one quick motion, stick the new one in just as fast, and take the broken engine back to the shop to be repaired.

These features don’t refer to any one machine — they’re a composite of the functionality I’ve seen in a dozen different brands this week: Canon, Kyocera-Mita, Ricoh, Lanier, etc. You’d think it would be a pain to set up, but I simply gave it the IP address of my SMTP server and that was about it. I did a scan-to-email about one minute after the demo machine showed up in the office.

These things are a geek paradise.



  1. Those things are all great, but don’t lose sight of what you really need it for. Can you still make copies of your posterior when nobody is looking?

  2. With all those features, how many people will still be frustrated just getting it to do a basic copy? I can see it now; each office with one of the super copiers will need to add CS (Copier Systems) staff.

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