What Is the Future of Electrophotography?
Looking at how printers will shift in the industry
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For the most part, the direction and purpose of inkjet is clear. What isn’t so clear is where electrophotography (EP) will be placed, its role in the industry, and (most importantly) which type of printers will sustain it—and even grow. Since inkjet improved its printing quality, more print volumes have shifted from EP to inkjet because of productivity and cost. That should be the consistent trend moving forward…but where does that leave EP?
Small EP printers are expected to decline greatly as ordering print shifts from brick-and-mortar shops to online. Even when ordering face-to-face, it is expected that some of those print jobs will be redirected to a centralized production center, with larger production equipment, that can produce at a lower cost. However, small MFPs that serve walk-up customers needing the job done right then and there will still be necessary, but in much smaller quantities.
What also isn’t so clear yet (and is more unpredictable) is what will happen in the EP mid- to high-production range that cover a variety of printers from $25,000 to $140,000. Those printers offer the typical differences in running cost (in general, the larger the capital investment, the lower the click charge). High EP production—which includes printers such as the Canon imagePRESS C9010VP/C10010VP, Ricoh Pro C9200, Konica Minolta AccurioPress C12000/C14000, Xerox Iridesse, and FujiFilm Revoria—is doing well. In fact, this range is close to full recovery of pre-pandemic sales numbers by taking advantage of low average monthly print volume (AMPV) HP Indigo 7 series and Xerox iGens devices, as well as capturing some print volume consolidations.
Not as successful, however, is the mid-range EP production that includes printers like the Canon imagePRESS C810/910, Ricoh Pro C7200, Konica Minolta AccurioPress C4070/C4080/C7100, and Xerox Versants. These devices are in the range of less than $70,000 and, as of today, are very far from their pre-pandemic numbers. All of this can change based on what will be the most common/demanding AMPVs in the EP production market. Only then will we know which printers can succeed and bring a profitable business to their vendors.
The EP mid+ production market is estimated globally at 126 billion A4 pages. Vendors have a clear goal to keep and grow their print volume market shares, even in a declining (but still large) EP market. This will come at a cost…either when some of their mid+ EP print volumes shift to their lower running cost larger production inkjet printers or when they reduce their EP click charges to be more competitive (as we have been seeing lately).
Even though cost is a strong part of any customer buying criteria, it is not everything. We have sometimes seen that the lowest cost printers are not necessarily the most successful. Besides a good price strategy, vendors will need to cover as much ground as possible at these unpredictable times in the mid+ EP market until there is more clarity of which printers will better fulfill market demand.
This is what Canon could be doing strategically by introducing their new Canon imagePRESS V1000. Now they have a solution for every customer need in the mid+ EP market which (again) should be consolidated into a few printer types—from the imageRUNNER C810/910 going through to the new imagePRESS V1000 and then the imagePRESS C9010VP/C10010VP.
Canon is not the only one, as Konica Minolta and Xerox are also covering similar grounds with the former’s AccurioPress C4070/80, 7100, and 12000/14000 as well as the latter’s Versant 280/4100 and Iridesse presses.
We don’t yet know which EP printers will be the most successful and sustainable in the coming years, but we do know that there will still be a market for EP as not every print service provider will have the print volumes to justify an inkjet investment. We also know that there are far too many options for a market that is declining. Covering as much market ground as possible, even at a cost, will drive leadership and strong positioning for when the EP market consolidates into a fewer printer types. This should drive more profitability to vendors.
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