Usually, any discussion of the consumable supplies for an office MFP leads to a detailed list of components ranging from toner cartridges, to drum units, cleaning units, and waste cartridges, to name just a few. With Xerox's ColorQube MFPs, however, that is not the case. In fact, apart from the ink sticks used in the machine there is only one other consumable supply item: a cleaning unit that has a life of 200,000 pages and a list price of $140.
The ink sticks also require far less packaging -- seven times less -- than ink cartridges, according to Xerox. That doesn't just mean less paper and plastic waste; it also means more sticks can fit in a single truck, which in turn means less fuel is burned transporting the solid ink. Chalk that up as another environmental benefit.
[ HP earned recognition for developing eco-friendlier, money-saving packaging for its Pavilion dv6929wm line of notebooks. ]
Just how substantial an environmental advantage does solid ink have over laser? By Xerox's account, solid ink has a 9 percent lower lifecycle energy demand and 10 percent lower global warming impact than laser. More impressive, the post-consumer solid waste generated by the solid ink MFD is 90 percent less than that of laser. (Xerox says its study was peer reviewed by the Rochester Institute of Technology to confirm that it adhered to generally accepted LCA methodologies.)
As a more detailed point of comparison, Jim Rise, vice president and general manager of Xerox's Solid Ink Business, said that printing 1 million pages on a laser printer would require the manufacturing of 965 pounds of various materials, including cartridges, fusers, and drums. Printing 1 million pages with ink sticks would require 272 pounds of materials.
Also of note: Xerox says it's worked on making its ColorQube MFPs more energy efficient, which hasn't been a strong suit for the company's previous models, according to Rise. The ink has a lower melting point, for example, and the machines are designed to enter a low-power mode when not in use. He says the new line meets the forthcoming Energy Star specs for MFPs, due out in July.
The ColorQube's environmental benefits over laser jet printing are indeed compelling to green-minded organizations -- but in these tough economic times, eco-friendliness alone isn't necessarily a selling point. There's also the question of cost; if Xerox is, indeed, enjoying savings on packaging, shipping, and the like, are those savings being passed on to customers?