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Office Printers and the Duty Cycle: What does it mean?

Whether you are starting a new business, or simply have to face the inevitable task of replacing the printer that has been overly-abused by the staff for years, there may be some questions that need to be answered before you make a purchase. One of those most likely has to do with the specification attached to printers called "duty cycle." Of obvious importance (or else it would not earn a place on the specification tag in the first place), this is a term that many individuals know little about.

The duty cycle is simply the capacity at which the printer should operate. In other words, if a printer is listed with a duty cycle of "3000ppm," then it should not be purchased by an office that prints an average of 5000 pages per month, because this office would be running the printer about the suggested maximum capacity. This is exactly the reason that the figure is listed- as a guideline for individuals and companies as they seek a new piece of equipment, so they are assured they are buying an instrument capable of handling the typical workload that will be throw at it. Typical printers and all-in-one machines meant for home use will be listed with duty cycles in the range of one thousand to three thousand pages per month. For those who do a lot of printing at home, it might be wise to consider something like the Lexmark Intuition S505 that is approved for 5000 pages per month. If that is still not enough, you might have to make a jump up to the printers meant for office use.

Laser printers will typically have higher duty cycles, as they are usually intended for high-paced business use where many prints are made per day, so high capacities are necessary. For this reason, a typical laser printer aimed at a mid-sized company would have a duty cycle in the range of 25,000 to 100,000. The HP LaserJet P4010n is a very impressive example, able to turn out a whopping 175,000 pages per month.

You may ask, is it worth the additional price to get a machine with a higher duty cycle? Well, the answer really lies in your printing habits. If you do not print often, but want high quality when you do, then you may not care too much about the duty cycle, and would be better advised to focus of the print quality of the machine in question. However, for the company that is likely to grow in the near future, it might be wise to aim for a duty cycle that far exceeds what your office prints today, to account for the number of sheets that may be run per month in the following year. However, although important, the duty cycle does not tell you everything. You might be better off to look at the recommended use figure that often accompanies it. This will tell how many pages the machine can run while maintaining its best performance levels.

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