Ever since I saw the first envelope press from Xante, I've wanted to be able to sell these. For those of us in the know the Okidata C9800 is the engine of choice for Xante, PSI and Oki themselves. To make a long story short, these systems will print up to A3 (11x17), take super thick stock and have an EFI Fiery built into the system for color matching. Pricing, well anywhere from $17K-$22K, a few years back I knew a print shop that picked up one up at a show for about $14.8 The claim to fame is that you'll print full color envelopes at 36 per minute, the cost for toner (color) would be about .02 cents (since you are print a small logo) and you could have a customer envelope feeder and conveyor. Each of these companies also added a few other tweaks to the system.
Commercial Trade Printer Helps Me Out
Since we've got that out of the way, a few years ago I met a commercial printer who just prints envelopes for the trade. He has at least three of the OKI C9800's with the feeders. I wasn't able to sell him anything however we hit it off since I was intrigued with envelope presses and how you could take an ordinary color laser printer and tweak it so the system could run envelopes all of the time.
Just about a year ago I asked this commercial printer if he would test a Ricoh SPC431DN for me, I was curious if this system could print envelopes without wrinkles and not misfeed. We ran the test with a envelope feeder he had, we disconnected the by-pass tray and the Ricoh C431DN ran all of the envelopes without misfeeding and without wrinkles. I then asked about the percentages of sizes of envelopes that he prints, I wanted to know what was the most common. He replied that just about 75% of his work is with DL10's and smaller.
Fast forward to about a month ago, one of my clients emailed me and asked if I could supply a system that would print envelopes for this mailings. he had been in touch with Pitney Bowes, however Pitney wanted him to sign a ridiculous 69 month lease for something like $250 for a Pitney Bowes envelope printer. Since I had the previous experience with the Ricoh SPC431DN, I figured it was worth the time to investigate. I researched the Pitney Bowes Envelope printer (sorry I forget the model number) and it seems the printer was nothing more than a noisy (saw a video of the system on youtube) inkjet system. The out put speed was fast, however it was inkjet and the cost was over $17K!
I went back to my customer asked for any appointment and found out that his needs are to print 2,000-2,500 envelopes at a time and they would be doing a mail merge from an excel database and a database in PB smartmailer (was not made aware of this until later). I asked for a file from the customer and they emailed me an excel database. Luckily we had a Ricoh SPC431DN in the showroom, but it was only equipped with one paper tray. In the next 90 minutes I printed off 200 or so envelopes without a hitch, no wrinkles no misfeeds, and the quality was awesome.
In order to put together a viable solution for the customer, I had to configure the system with three additional paper trays. However I was not able to test the system with the additional paper trays. From past experience I knew that I could set each paper tray to due a "roll over", meaning that when one tray was empty, the envelopes would then pull from tray two, then three and four. I made an assumption that if the system was capable of printing from one tray without issues then all of the other trays would work also (I crossed my fingers). So when I was ready for the install, I knew that I had to change all of the paper tray sizes to DL 10, change the media setting for each tray to envelope #1 and then set the auto "roll over" for each tray. I would also present a 36 month lease and also add in a maintenance agreement for the system with no toner. As far as the quantity of envelopes. I figured that each tray could hold about 100 envelopes since and envelop is three sheets of paper. Thus with four trays we could load 400 envelopes.
Probably the best thing
I did is to present the system with the Pro's and Con's. I pointed out the Pro's as:
- much lower image cost than inkjet
- could print color if needed
- print speed would be 40 envelopes per minute
- much lower acquisition price than pitney bowes
- maintenance agreement to ensure that the system was serviced properly
- I would be there to help with the install, setup and training
- you would have to empty the exit tray of the printer after every 100 envelopes or so
- most likely you'll require more maintenance, meaning that most of the consumable items, such as fuser, transfer belt and feed rollers will need to be replaced at earlier intervals
- speed you would not have the speed of the PitneyBowes but close to it
Funny my service engineer wanted no part of this, I was there a day after the install and worked with their person to configure the printer and all of the trays. They had boxes and boxes of envelopes and to say the least I was nervous, because I had not tested the envelopes that they had. I had tested what was in my office.
In 75 minutes we had finished the first job, 2,250 envelopes with no wrinkles, we did have a few misfeeds however I'm going to blame this on my because I was trying to fit too many of the envelopes in the trays. Even with 4 trays, I think we were able to get around 300-350 in at one time.
The customer was happy and when you come down to it, that's all that counts! I was pleased that the printer ran the way I thought it would. Even though this solution was just about printing a mailing list in black. It also opens the door for the customer to use color for "open now", "special offer", or something to that effect. But it also paved the way to talk about print mail and planet press in the future, as a matter of fact the customer agreed to seeing a demonstration for planet press.
I believe that "niche" printing markets are wide open, and if companies like Ricoh would just listen to their reps in the field instead of having blinders on then maybe we could see a Ricoh SPC431DN with a commercial envelope feeder, conveyor and a color matching system. Remember that more than 75% of the envelopes being printed are DL10's or smaller.
It's late and I've said too much already, thanks for reading and I hope this opens the door for more of us to place these printers in niche markets. BTW, I have a video of the system in action posted on the print4pay hotel forums!