Business has changed. Bigger demands and tighter staffs are driving companies to continuously search for ways to improve productivity without sacrificing quality or missing deadlines. Changes in government legislation have impacted businesses and changed the way they communicate with customers. Marketing is one area that has really felt the pinch. Telemarketing legislation and the national "Do Not Call" list and overall customer perception of unsolicited commercial e-mail (SPAM) is causing marketers to reevaluate their communication channels and look for viable alternatives. This search for effective media has resulted in a resurgence of direct mail marketing to reach their customers.


As a communication medium, direct mail is cost-effective, can be highly targeted, has excellent reach, can be tracked and can help maintain and build a relationship with customers. Additionally, it is a medium that can clearly communicate a company's message. Desktop marketing software equips even the casual user with the tools to accomplish goals effectively. However, once the message is created, getting the communications out to the prospects is where the work begins. For many companies, the options are either to outsource this work or tie up valuable resources.


Advances in technology are helping to make desktop marketing more efficient and productive. Easy-to-use direct mail tools that help marketers with this final mile of the job are available. Whether mail is being sent to generate leads, raise funds, distribute catalogs or magazines or simply to communicate with field offices, customers or channel members, address printers help reduce the time spent addressing mail and getting the mail into the mail stream. Printing addresses directly to the mailpiece helps companies beat deadlines and save money by providing them with the tools to eliminate the multi-step process of labeling. When combined with mail list processing software, address printers are equipped to deliver substantial results that directly impact the bottom line in any organization's mailing operations.


All Printers are not Created Equal

Address printers differ from the standard office inkjet or laser printer in a variety of ways. The first and most obvious difference is the physical construction. Many desktop address printers come with integrated display screens to control internal firmware that allows for the adjustment of the address position, orientation, print resolution and a host of other features. Desktop address printers now come with Microsoft Windows-based print drivers that open up the graphical interface of Windows, providing more control options for these printers.


Desktop address printers use specially formulated inks developed to deliver crisp, legible addresses that do not break down as mail is processed through high-speed USPS automation equipment, a distinct advantage over laser toner. The inks used in desktop address printers are designed to dry quickly and adhere to a wide range of mail-oriented media.


Address printers are designed to print at high speeds and handle considerably larger volume runs than the standard office printer. Depending on the model and the mailpiece, desktop address printers can print at speeds ranging from 2,000 to 30,000 pieces per hour. Some desktop address printers can even handle monthly volumes up to a million pieces per month, depending on the printer.


Unlike traditional office ink jet printers that are primarily constructed of plastics and lightweight materials, the typical address printer is made of heavy-duty industrial components and designed to be used in more abusive environments. Sophisticated circuit boards, media sensors and heavy-duty rollers and belts are used in address printers to provide smooth-running, consistent operation.


Like other business and office machinery, address printers do require regular preventative maintenance for consistent operation. Most are designed to be very service-friendly and parts can be quickly replaced to keep mailing operations moving. With proper care and scheduled maintenance, desktop address printers are able to deliver years of trouble-free operation.


Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

When a decision is made to add an address printer to your mix of office technology, there are several factors that should be considered. These factors include: What types of jobs will need to be run through the printer? What are the smallest and largest pieces that will need addressing? How much information needs to be printed on the mailpiece? Where does the printed information need to be? How much do you mail on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? Questions such as these help determine which address printer will best help solve your mailing challenges.


Once determining answers to the above questions, the print head technology can be selected. There are two types of print head technology used in desktop address printers: shuttling head technology or fixed head technology.


Address Printers: Shuttling Head vs. Fixed Head Printers

Shuttling print heads utilize a design similar to that of the typical office inkjet printer. A print head shuttles back and forth across the mailpiece to print the necessary information. A major benefit to this design is it equips the printer with the ability to print a wider area of the mailpiece. Since printing occurs as the mailpiece is feeding through the printer, virtually complete coverage can be easily achieved.


Speed on shuttling head printers is affected by the size of the mailpiece, resolution of the print and how much is being printed. Typical speed on desktop shuttling head printers can range from 1,000 to 10,000 mailpieces per hour. The design and mechanical process of shuttling head address printers can be limiting on the size and thickness of the mailpiece.


Unlike shuttling head printers, fixed head printers involve the use of an array of stationary inkjet print head banks mounted on a shaft. A fixed print head bank is a series of ink jet cartridges that are mounted together. Fixed print heads are manually adjusted by moving them along a shaft · to position them over the media, so that print is applied where it is needed. The average desktop fixed head printers consist of one or two fixed print head banks, with each print bank consisting of two to three inkjet cartridges. Each printer cartridge can deliver 1/2-inch of print, and the typical setup includes a three cartridge print head that can deliver a height of one and a half inches of print. Having multiple print banks enables a fixed head address printer to print different information in different places on a mailpiece in a single pass. The same technology used with desktop fixed head printers is also used on large console inkjet print systems.


A major advantage to the desktop fixed head printer's design over shuttling head printers is the speed at which they can print. The typical desktop fixed head print systems operate at speeds from 5,000 to 30,000 pieces per hour. A second advantage to the fixed head printer design in general is the capability of handling larger and thicker mailpieces than a typical shuttling head printer. Since the print head bank can accommodate more than one cartridge, spot color can easily be incorporated to allow for further customization of the print.


Mailing today is a far more efficient process than in years past. Printing directly onto the mailpiece has helped companies become more efficient and save money. Address printer technology provides businesses with the tools to operate at their own paces, drive costs down and beat their deadlines. With the increased popularity of desktop marketing, the address printer is another tool that can help make marketing departments more productive. Addressing technology has advanced to become user-friendly, simple to integrate into an office environment and to help deliver solid results to an organization's bottom line.


Charles A. Rothofsky is the marketing communications manager for Secap in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania. Secap is a supplier of desktop inkjet addressing printers, production and integrated addressing systems, mailing software, folding/inserting equipment, shipping solutions and tab and label affixing machines sold through a network of value-added dealers throughout North America. For more information, contact Secap at 800-523-0320 or visit