Old colour laser printers - are they worth the trouble ?


John Beardmore

The word in this newsgroup generally seems to have been that keeping old
monochrome laser printers going is good value for money.

Is the same true for colour printers ?

We've been given an old HP Colour LaserJet 5M, and a Xerox DocuPrint

We're told that the HP needs a new fuser, but we've not tested that yet
so I won't discuss that one any further now.

We have powered up the Xerox which having managed to print one test
sheet, now always fails with a "Wait: Adjusting Print Quality" message
when sending a print job. According to the troubleshooting info on the
Xerox web site, this is consistent with low toner levels, so it may be
that this machine needs little more than a toner top up.

The question is, is it worth it ? Even if we get these machines to a
point where they print reasonably reliably, will the cost of consumables
compete with more modern machines ?

Looking at the Xerox site, the cost per thousand sheets for consumables
stacks up like this:

Black toner £3.47
C, Y and M toners £41.62
Fuser Cleaner/Oil £6.56
Ex VAT Total £51.69

Though the site also lists 'Black Developer' what ever that is, and
'Waste Toner Bottle' though I assume we can reuse the one that is in the
machine forever ?

It doesn't give a capacity figure for 'Black Developer', but at £141.32
per batch, if it is consumed at the same rate as black toner, might
dominate the costs.

How does this stack up compared to more recent machines ? Are low cost
generic alternative consumables available ? Where's the best place to
get colour laser spares and supplies in the UK ?

Many thanks for all input,





Do you save any money overall if you buy a new car to get better gas mileage
if you have already paid off the car you own?

If the machines are working and make satisfactory prints then the total cost
of ownership is obviously far less than the cost of buying new machines as
the difference between the cost of consumables over the reasonable near
future between new and old machines is neglible compared to the cost of
buying new workgroup quality printers.

However if the output quality of the machines is not satisfactory then
clearly the capital investment for new equipment is preferable.

If you are not able to evaluate whether these printers are in good working
order on your own it is probably worth the cost of having them evaluated by
a repair service. Look at the cost of the estimate as seed money.


Though the site also lists 'Black Developer' what ever that is, and
'Waste Toner Bottle' though I assume we can reuse the one that is in the
machine forever ?

It doesn't give a capacity figure for 'Black Developer', but at £141.32
per batch, if it is consumed at the same rate as black toner, might
dominate the costs.

I can't remember the number of the Xerox printer I used to operate
at work (100 pages a minute), but I remember the 'developer'. It was
vary rare that we had to put a new bottle.
We did not re-use the same Waste Toner Bottle, we replaced it with
the empty bottle of toner as we added a new bottle -it used the same




Arthur Entlich

Hi John,

You have actually asked a very complex question. It's complex for a
number of reasons.

1) In some cases, color laser printers have gone through major evolution
in terms of speed and print quality (color accuracy, number of apparent
colors, resolution, consistency of toner distribution, etc.)

So, the first question is, are the printers you own able to provide the
quality of image you will be pleased with, and will they be fast enough.

Some older color lasers used proprietary memory which was very costly,
and if they need upgrades, that may be a factor (although it may be
possible that you can find that memory now used or in a liquidator's stock).

2) If the print quality is good, it may be that the older machines are
more ruggedly built or have higher duty cycles. The newer cheaper
machines are often not designed for heavy usage.

3) Back in the "good old days" before the inkjet printer business model
caught on, color laser printers had large acquisition costs, but
consumables were usually reasonable. This was more in line with real
production costs.

In recent years, color laser printers are sold in the same way as inkjet
printers. Many come new with "starter" cartridges which may only be
filled to 25% of capacity. Then on the very first replacement of the 4
cartridges and a few other consumables (fuser oil, drum or transfer
belt) the full cost of the machine is eclipsed.

The number you give for 1000 copies is difficult to evaluate because it
all depends upon coverage. Many manufacturers use 5% per color. That's
not very much. A densely types letter uses more. A full color
photo-like image might use 40-60% coverage for each color, meaning the
toner could be used up 8 to 12 times more rapidly.

In general, assuming consumables are still available for the older
machines (sometimes a problem), the cost is lower than new machines, in
part because the business model used back then was more real, in part
because the items may be older stock, liquidation or even generics made
by other manufacturers, so the price point isn't as aggressive.

Then again, if the manufacturer is trying to force people away from the
older machine, they may increase consumables to "encourage" people to
more to more profitable machines for the printer company.

I am not trying to give you a run around, it is just that the variables
are many and can skew the results. The best thing is to do a internet
search for some of the newer models and look at the cost of replacing
consumables, and the yields. Also, don't forget to look at the yields
on the toner cartridges they supply when you purchase the unit new.

As to empty toner bottles, yes, you could dump the excess waste toner
into something else and reuse the old bottle.

Regarding black toner versus developer, originally all electrostatic
printers and copiers required both a developer and a toner to operate.
They are both powders. Toner is a very finely ground mixture of
pigments and plastic resins. The developer was usually made up of very
small pellets of iron/ceramic composition. The developer was really an
intermediary which allowed the toner to mix with it, coat the ceramic
beads, and then this mix would end up on a magnetic cylinder, and like
iron fillings on the head of a magnet, this mix would make a "fur" that
stuck to the magnetic drum where ever the image was to appear. As the
electrostatic drum cam in close proximity to this fur, mainly the toner
would transfer, leaving the ceramic iron beads to be reused over and
over again. With time, some get used up, fused on the paper, some end
up in the waste toner tank, etc.

Canon and HP developed a way to make the developer incorporated with the
toner and all be used up together. Some newer Xerox machines use a
static drum rather than magnetic and use only toner with not developer
at all. But, yes, developer should last many toner charges.

Hope this answers most of your questions.


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