By Elizabeth Gooding
There was a time when I thought that inkjet OEMs were buying up all the used printers to keep them off the market so that they could sell newer, more expensive devices. There was a robust after-market for toner devices and for finishing equipment, but we weren’t seeing any second-hand production inkjet hitting the market.
I asked Eric Hawkinson, VP Marketing with Canon Solutions America if there was any truth to my conspiracy theory. Of course if there really was a conspiracy he wouldn’t tell me, right? I asked if having used printers come on the market was a problem for OEMs. He said that CSA will sell and support “pre-owned” equipment, but “it’s like the golden ticket*. They’re really hard to find.” That of course, is a better explanation for why we hadn’t seen more used equipment on the market – they are still in production with the original customer.
I spoke to Eric Weisner, General Manager of HP PageWide Industrial Division about how long some of their HP devices have been in production. He mentioned one client that has had an HP inkjet web press in production since 2009. That’s like a 1985 Toyota Camry, you buy tires, oil and gas and the thing just keeps taking you where you want to go.
A deal on used equipment can be very attractive for companies at the smaller end of the market; those that are large enough to want continuous feed inkjet, but small enough that a continuous device represents a big investment. It’s also attractive when the company can justify one machine, but would prefer to have redundancy.
While it’s still rare, some used printers are starting to make it onto the market. Recently I’ve interviewed several clients had the opportunity to buy “pre-owned” inkjet equipment from Ricoh or Canon. These companies described themselves as “lucky” that a used machine came available when they were looking – rather than saying that they went looking for a used machine. They certainly acted like they had found a golden ticket.
Is Used Inkjet a Good Idea?
In general, production inkjet equipment has a long useful life so, if you find a device that can deliver the quality and productivity you want, the age of the device should not be the main factor. The bigger questions are:
- Who will you buy it from?
- Who will support it?
- Is it upgradeable?
The first two questions are intertwined. Who you buy it from may determine who will support it and whether you can even get a support program for the device. If you buy it direct from the current owner, or through a third party broker, you may get a better price on the equipment, but you may not get a very good deal on supplies or service. Like the used car business, buying a certified pre-owned product can cost a bit more, but it minimizes risk and typically offers added benefits like warranty protection and access to upgrades.
That last consideration, whether the model you are looking at has upgradeable features, is important. If it does, you may be better off purchasing from the OEM to take advantage of potential upgrade options. Recognizing that inkjet is a major investment, OEMs have been working on making new technology improvements backward compatible with the prior generation (or two) of devices. The upgrades are not necessarily free (although some are) but new ink, new head technology, new drying or screening technology can have a big impact on quality and or productivity. Not all devices are field upgradeable, but it’s worth understanding the options. You may have an opportunity to buy an older printer and upgrade it rather than buying a new device.
Even if you find a device directly, you can still talk to the OEM about whether they will certify and support the device for you. See, no conspiracy theory after all.
*In ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” Willy Wonka hides five “Golden Tickets” in chocolate Wonka Bars. Finders of the tickets receive a factory tour and a lifetime supply of chocolate. You may find a used printer, but probably not a lifetime supply of ink.