Xerox takes wasteful cartridges out of print picture

ClearQube ink-stick technology yields significant environmental and cost ad

Both cost-conscious and environmentally conscious organizations are striving to do more with less these days. The rationale is simple: Investing in more energy-efficient hardware, for example, means lower energy bills and a smaller carbon footprint. Adjusting delivery routes to be more efficient means less fuel consumption, which again saves money while reducing an organization's environmental impact.

The printer room is by no means immune to the benefits of green tech. We're seeing more Energy Star-compliant printers that consume fewer watts. Most, if not all, print vendors let admins set machines to print dual-sided copies by default, which can effectively cut paper bills nearly in half. Moreover, software companies such as Equitrac and GreenPrint offer solutions to help reduce printouts of superfluous pages that, at best, would end up in the recycling bin.

Now Xerox has raised the green-printing bar another level for the business world by eliminating one of the most wasteful aspects of printing: the ink cartridge. With the introduction of its ColorQube 9200 series of A3-size MFPs, Xerox delivers a less expensive — and a far more environmentally friendly — alternative to laser printing.

The concept behind the ColorQube is pretty straightforward: The ink comes in the form of small sticks, resembling fat pieces of chalk. You pop the sticks into the printer, and they're melted into the printhead, which jets the ink onto the print drum. Paper is passed between a roller and the print drum under pressure, and the image is transferred to the paper. Once an ink stick is exhausted, you pop in a new one — there's nothing to throw away or recycle.

Compare that to laser printing, which is the industry standard. This form of printing requires ink contained in plastic and metal cartridges. Once a cartridge is exhausted, it's shipped back to the vendor for recycling — perhaps. This takes not only time, but there's the associated costs and environmental resources consumed from packaging and shipping. ColorQube has a clear advantage.

The ColorQube eco-friendly pluses don't end there. In a report about the line, InfoTrends notes the following:

Usually, any discussion of the consumable supplies for an office MFP leads to a detailed list of components ranging from toner cartridges, to drum units, cleaning units, and waste cartridges, to name just a few. With Xerox's ColorQube MFPs, however, that is not the case. In fact, apart from the ink sticks used in the machine there is only one other consumable supply item: a cleaning unit that has a life of 200,000 pages and a list price of $140.

The ink sticks also require far less packaging — seven times less — than ink cartridges, according to Xerox. That doesn't just mean less paper and plastic waste; it also means more sticks can fit in a single truck, which in turn means less fuel is burned transporting the solid ink. Chalk that up as another environmental benefit.

Just how substantial an environmental advantage does solid ink have over laser? By Xerox's account, solid ink has a 9 percent lower lifecycle energy demand and 10 percent lower global warming impact than laser. More impressive, the post-consumer solid waste generated by the solid ink MFD is 90 percent less than that of laser. (Xerox says its study was peer reviewed by the Rochester Institute of Technology to confirm that it adhered to generally accepted LCA methodologies.)

As a more detailed point of comparison, Jim Rise, vice president and general manager of Xerox's Solid Ink Business, said that printing 1 million pages on a laser printer would require the manufacturing of 965 pounds of various materials, including cartridges, fusers, and drums. Printing 1 million pages with ink sticks would require 272 pounds of materials.

Also of note: Xerox says it's worked on making its ColorQube MFPs more energy efficient, which hasn't been a strong suit for the company's previous models, according to Rise. The ink has a lower melting point, for example, and the machines are designed to enter a low-power mode when not in use. He says the new line meets the forthcoming Energy Star specs for MFPs, due out in July.

The ColorQube's environmental benefits over laser jet printing are indeed compelling to green-minded organizations — but in these tough economic times, eco-friendliness alone isn't necessarily a selling point. There's also the question of cost; if Xerox is, indeed, enjoying savings on packaging, shipping, and the like, are those savings being passed on to customers?

By both Xerox's and InfoTrends' account, the answer is yes. With the release of the ColorQube 9200 line, Xerox is offering tiered pricing for prints. Normally, companies pay for printing on a per-page basis. Black and white pages are 1 cent each; any page with even a trace of color (say, a blue hyperlink or a company logo) costs 8 cents.

By contrast, Xerox says it will charge 1 cent both for black and white pages, as well as pages with minimal amounts of color. Pages with an "intermediate level" of color — such as a chart or an image — would cost 3 cents. Only pages containing a large quantity of color would cost 8 cents.

There are certainly other considerations when MFP shopping, including speed, print quality, and features, but I've chosen to hone in on the environmental considerations of the ColorQube line. From that perspective, Xerox has come up with a remarkable technology, one that demonstrates how even seemingly small changes to a product component and its packaging can have significant environmental — and economical — benefits.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Xeroxlaser printerscolorqube

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ted Samson

Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?