Dec. 29 2006 10:17 AM

Mailing Systems Technology asked several leading companies in the address printing industry: What are the latest developments in address printers, and what should mail center managers take into account when considering making a purchase?


David Currie, national manager for address printers, Hasler

All popular tabletop address printers, including the complete line of Hasler HJ printers, are based on Hewlett Packard technology. Therefore, any new developments for one manufacturer are typically available to all others. High-quality address printers feed virtually all types of paper stock very well, while offering excellent print quality and exceptional reliability. This is important, since mail center managers have indicated that their primary concerns include the printer's ability to feed product, the quality level of the printing and the viability of the ink adhering to the mailpiece.


A recent development in addressing systems is the advent of a broad range of specialty inks that now give the volume mailer a real selection of solutions for coated stocks. Coated stocks are advantageous to commercial printers, because the presses can be run at high speeds and print both sides simultaneously. However, coated stocks have created challenges for ink drying when run through an address printer, which can reduce address and barcode print quality. With specialty inks, this problem is significantly reduced.


When searching for a reliable, good quality address printer, consider the ones incorporating the latest technology such as USB interface, thick and heavy product feeding, a choice of print area, the appropriate number of print modules and print heads, ability to handle different product thicknesses and extra durable construction. You should select a printer that offers large, cogged feed rollers with a print driver offering a feeding option that allows the operator to select the feed interval, thus providing the ability to print on hard- to-handle mailpieces or stocks that require more ink drying time. And, the printer should meet or exceed USPS standards for delivery point barcode readability. Some printers also offer a choice of output finishing options, including conveyors and drop catch trays to simplify mailing tasks.


There are also a number of logistical items to consider before acquiring an inkjet address printer, including:


  • The type and quantity of the mail run.


  • The frequency of mailings.


  • Whether it is permit, meter or re-cancelled stamps (most direct mail is permit mail as this assists in the pre-sort control).


  • Who will be the primary and back-up operators of the system, since address printers need to be connected to a PC?


  • The need to use list management software in order to comply with various USPS automation compatible mail regulations.


  • Recognizing how the lists will be managed if the mail center is going to support one or more departments.


  • Determining the amount of physical space needed, since most printers need a conveyor and catch tray for maximum efficiency and product handling.


    Most importantly, you should work closely with your local dealer or vendor to carefully evaluate your needs, ensuring selection of the most appropriate printer for your applications, space, capabilities and budget. It is also important to consider your organization's entire document handling needs. Select a dealer or vendor that provides a comprehensive document processing offering, including equipment such as folder/inserters and mailing systems, as it can significantly improve operating efficiencies and your bottom line.


    Sijbout De Vries, senior product marketing manager, Neopost

    In terms of features, the trend in the industry is for most address printers to be quite similar, differentiated mainly by levels of speed and volume. Our AS Series will continue to deliver the functionality and versatility that customers expect, but also combine address printing systems with easy-to-use software that ensures extensive cost-savings.


    Users can presort mail by running their databases through our business mailer software. This permits customers to take advantage of substantial USPS rate benefits. In fact, the rate reductions produced by the hardware/software package results in a cost-savings that allows our address printing systems to ultimately pay for themselves, and then some.


    In terms of functionality, increased personalization will be at the forefront of address printing system capabilities and user expectations. This is done by using true type fonts to produce variable addresses, return addresses, barcodes and even custom messages that can be designed to appear hand-written.


    With major advances in traditional inkjet printers, people have also come to expect the highest level of printing quality from their address printing systems, even when printing directly onto odd-shaped envelopes and mailpieces. We use a patented printing technology that produces up to 600 by 600 dots-per-inch printed images, providing sharp, crisp results for a more professional appearance, while ensuring that barcodes are easily read and processed.


    In addition, high levels of support provided customers lowers maintenance costs, resulting in reduced downtime. In the future, companies that don't offer this level of service and support will be at a decided disadvantage.


    In short, the future of address printing will certainly see higher levels of functionality, quality and reliability. But the real difference will be with cost-saving software and first-class customer support.


    William J. Longua, manager of Marketing Services, Rena Systems, Inc.

    Now that mid-range inkjet addressing systems technology has made equipment higher performing, more durable, more flexible and less costly, what are the latest developments that we can look for? Well, better performing inks, for one thing. Now that coated stocks have become more commonplace, we get many comments and questions about some of the problems in dealing with the glossy stocks, such as drying time and smearing.


    Fortunately, there are now significant advances in ink formulation. For example, Rena Systems, Inc. recently introduced Rena Easy-Ink, a new dye-based ink that significantly enhances drying capability. These quick-drying inks,· made with new Hewlett-Packard inkjet cartridges (not remanufactured cartridges), are anti-clogging and work with a wide range of materials. The new formula also produces a rich, dark ink color.


    Another recent development in inkjet addressing systems is greater thickness for material handling. The 2005 Model of the Rena Envelope Imager II, for example, has increased the material thickness capability from 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch. What should you look for when considering addressing systems? There are a number of checkpoints that should be on every mail center manager's list. Here are some factors when comparing the mid-range inkjet tabletop units with the high-end console systems.


    Footprint How much room are you going to dedicate to the equipment? Obviously, the less the better. The tabletop machines are great space savers as opposed to the console units. (The Rena Envelope Imager II measures just 17 inches long x 16 inches wide).


    Electrical requirements You don't want to have to add 220 volt circuits or 20 amp dedicated lines to deal with the heavy equipment. With the tabletop units, you simply plug into any wall outlet.


    Initial investment Some of the inkjet tabletop systems offer virtually the same through-put as the high-end console units (The Rena Envelope Imager II offers print speeds up to 24,000 envelopes per hour). So, why pay five times as much for a console?


    Durability The tabletop units can have a life cycle of millions of envelopes and offer print qualities from 200 dpi to 600 dpi. The Envelope Imager II also offers 8MB of RAM and a large print area of 11/2-inch height and 17.5-inch maximum length.


    Charles A. Rothofsky, marketing communications manager, Secap

    Mid-range addressing system technologies are responding to the needs of the market. While companies still demand reliable systems, wider print areas and excellent print quality, demand has increased for systems that are easier to operate and user-friendly. Advanced systems are centered on improving productivity and making the operator more in control of the mailing system.


    Highly developed systems are designed to work for the operator, instead of making the operator work the technology. · Focusing on increasing productivity of the mailing system has driven the development of highly intuitive systems that are simpler to use than in the past. The rapid increase in organizations adding mailing services to their organizations has driven this change. For example, integrated controls, high capacity feeders, and intelligent sorting conveyors, enable the address printing system to be operated by a single user making the addition of addressing and mailing services easier than in the past.


    Integrated controls provide the operator with a central location and easy-to-use interface for controlling the feeder, print base and heater table. Additionally, sophisticated electrical configurations enable a system to have a single speed control for truly empowering a user with the tools to get more done. High capacity feeders capable of holding approximately 2,500 #10 envelopes enable the operator to concentrate on managing the system, rather than keeping it fed. Finally, intelligent pre-sort conveyors assist the operator by easily identifying postal bundle breaks, speeding up  mail traying process and taking the guesswork out of the pre-sort process. By combining technology advances, addressing systems have been created that can truly be one-person operations, boosting productivity and freeing up valuable resources for mailing service providers.


    Mail center managers must consider many factors when looking at addressing systems. First and foremost are determining the types and sizes of media and the largest and average job size. Additionally, mailers need to decide whether spot color will be a service they offer to customers. These factors help determine the size and type of addressing system that will work best. Additionally, mail center managers need to consider their overall operation and settle on what personnel will be operating the equipment.


    The resources needed to effectively operate the equipment can grossly impact the cost of adding mailing services. The, addressing system should meet existing businesses requirements, but should also be able to grow with their business. Systems that can be operated by one person, as opposed to two or three people, help mailers work smarter and more productively while delivering a faster return on investment, turning mailing services into profit centers.


    Tim Rohach, Marketing Manager, Mail Creation Products, Pitney Bowes

    At Pitney Bowes, we are focusing on what our diverse customer base is asking for, and that's greater workflow automation and advanced process color print technology. We've found that our heavier mailers aren't just looking for output, but that their demanding workloads require an integrated, end-to-end solution. We've also seen a dramatic increase in the percentage of our customers that are now relying on direct mail as a key revenue driver, producing fast and cost-effective results. We've responded by delivering a unique, desktop product line that's just as diverse as our customer base.


    On our new DA400 & DA950 fixed head printers, we've incorporated "variable-speed intelligent," integrated peripherals. Our variable-speed, conveyor communicates with our printers by pausing when full, when the printer runs out of media or when a print error is detected. We've also added a height adjustable, high-output ink dryer, producing a cleaner finished mailpiece, as well as better managing printing on coated stock. Together, these peripherals can utilize a custom floor stand, freeing up desk space when stacking and dying is not necessary.


    We've also introduced a custom blend of inks, designed to improve first piece print quality. These low maintenance inks do not require constant capping and can maintain their initial print quality for extended periods of time. The DA950, our high-end desktop model, even includes a bulk quantity ink solution, enabling the mailer to feed up to 10 times more ink compared to a single cartridge, reducing both downtime and supply costs.


    On our new DA550e and DA750e shuttle head printers, we offer our advanced CMYK process color print technology, enabling the mailer to print vibrant, color graphic images. Our customers leverage this technology to drive-up the "openability" of direct mail marketing campaigns, as well as critical customer and membership communications.


    It is this reality that motivates us to deliver industry-leading technology that will help our customers "grow their business." These types of workflow automation and print technology improvements are what keep our customers looking to Pitney Bowes with confidence, as a key business partner, helping them get to the next level today and in the

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