Product of the week: Xerox Colour 550/560

Barney Cox
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

If you took boxing as your guide, you would class Xerox's latest digital printer, the 550/560, as a featherweight or bantamweight as it sits below standard 'lightweight' production models.

Digital printers are defined by average monthly print volume (AMPV), the sweet spot for the number of A4 pages per month that the machine is built to produce during its life. Vendors will tweak the up-front price, the click charge and any servicing costs to reflect this figure. Give a lightweight machine heavyweight volumes that will hammer it into the ropes and you’ll pay extra in running costs. On the other hand, over-specify your machine and you’ll pay more up front and if you don’t punch your weight and hit the agreed monthly volumes, you’ll find yourself clobbered with additional costs too.

With an AMPV of 10,000–50,000 pages per month, the 550/560 sits neatly below, but with a little blurring between, its slightly bigger brother, the Xerox 700, with an AMPV of 20,000–75,000.

Indeed Xerox UK product marketing manager Malcolm Glynn says that the 550/560 is a baby version of the 700.

While it may not be designed to churn out so many pages, the 550/560 packs a heavyweight feature set that belies its price point and with a choice of 50 or 60 A4 colour pages per minute (with the right stocks) it can sprint when needed.

Enhanced image quality
It’s not Xerox’s first offering in this sector – it replaces the DocuColor 252/260 products – but is designed to cover a broader range of bases. Enhancements include image quality, media handling and finishing.

Although its predecessor had 2,400dpi resolution, the new machine has enhanced image quality to produce crisper results. It uses the EA low-melt toner, like the 700, to ensure a better match to that machine and to the finish of the stock used. Front-to-back image registration, long the bugbear of digital production, has been improved, with the tolerance halved to 1.2mm. And while coated stock could be printed in the previous machine, it couldn’t be handled by the inline finishers, which is remedied in the 550/560’s range of light-production finishers. Finishing options range from a simple catch tray, through an offsetting catch tray, an advanced finisher, a professional finisher and a light-production finisher. The advanced finisher offers five-sheet stapling and two- or four-hole punching, the professional finisher adds bi-folding and saddle-stitch bookletmaking to that.

The light-production finisher handles coated stocks and comes with an interposer input tray, if needed for combining pre-printed materials, and is available with a bookletmaker or a bookletmaker plus folder.

For space-squeezed environments one big change is that all stocks, up to the maximum 300gsm, can be handled by the trays within the main unit, rather than requiring the external, oversized, high-capacity feeder.

"This is the first device that spans the gap between high-end office and light-production," says Glynn. "It has all the features demanded by the office market, such as scanning and faxing, combined with production features of good image quality and colour, and the tools to make it easy to manage and control colour, especially for matching brand."

Glynn says there was a demand from high-end office users to introduce those features to enable the production in-house of professional-looking documents – in particular through the coated stock and colour management.

That might send a chill through the hearts of many printers, worried that the customers down the road or, in the case of inplants, the colleagues down the corridor are all of a sudden going to print everything they need themselves.

"In-house production is an application for the machine, but that’s not the primary aim," says Glynn. "It makes it easier for people to enhance what they are producing, but it’s not designed to poach outsourced work back into the office."

He sees it suiting a number of different niches for print service providers.

"It minimises the risk for anyone dipping their toes into digital," he says. "If I was a traditional printer wanting to test the market with my customers, I’d see this as a very good fit."

He also sees the machine as suitable for established digital printers and quick printers.

"The commonality with the rest of the Xerox portfolio makes it an ideal complement for taking the very short-run work of more productive digital presses."

As with all of Xerox’s machines, the 550/560 can be supplied with several different controllers depending on the requirements and preference, something which few light-production rivals offer, and unique in this even lighter sector of the market.

The most basic option is an embedded Fiery, which is likely to be perfect for the office environment. For more production-oriented environments, the choice is Xerox’s standard selection of standalone controllers, its own Freeflow print server, the Creo CX or EFI Fiery.

Like most machines in this sector of the market, heavier and coated stocks slow the machine down, as it needs to do more work to fuse the toner to the paper, with a 50% cut in speed for the heaviest stocks (155–300gsm if coated and 177–300gsm uncoated) to 25/30 A4ppm, depending on whether it’s the 550 (50ppm) or 560 (60ppm) machine. Although for A3 and SRA3 sheets, which are likely to be the bread-and-butter format for commercial work, the performance penalty is a little less stiff falling from 25/30 to 14/14 for A3 and 22/27 to 12/12 for SRA3 sheets.

One niggle with the machine is that, although it can automatically duplex on lighter-weight stocks up to 176gsm, for heavier stocks duplexing is manual using the bypass tray, which could make ensuring front-to-back integrity difficult if you envisage using personalisation.

Pricing for the 550/560 starts from £25,000.

Aside from the Toshiba Tec, which is something of an unknown quantity in production environments, and not actively targeted there, the Xerox is significantly cheaper than rival light-production offerings, which are nearer to the price of the Xerox 700, and even so, the 700 is keenly priced against those competitors. While it might be seductive to consider the lower click charges that are likely to be offered with higher-priced, higher-volume machines, a lower up-front cost is likely to be easier to finance, and a more conservative approach to volume growth, making it a less risky way to make a digital debut, which may contribute to the 550/560’s success.

A4 550: 25-50ppm/560: 30-60ppm
A3 550: 14-25ppm/560: 14-30ppm
SRA3 550: 12-24ppm/560: 12-27ppm

Max sheet size 330x488mm 

Stock weight 64-300gsm 

Resolution 2,400dpi

AMPV 10,000-50,000

Duty cycle 300,000

Workflow Creo CX, EFI Fiery (embedded or editorial), Xerox FreeFlow.

Price from £25,000 with embedded EFI Fiery

Contact Xerox 0870 873 4519


Canon ImageRunner Advance C9060 Pro
Launched a year ago Canon’s ImageRunner Advance is suitable for print-for-pay and CRD to sit at the top of the range above other products more suited to the office. Like many of the alternatives the C9060 Pro can handle higher volumes than the 550/560, but at a higher up-front price.
Speed 60ppm
Max sheet size 330.2x487.7mm
AMPV 35,000
Duty cycle 230,000
Workflow EFI Fiery
Price from £45,930
Contact Canon UK 01737 220000

Konica Minolta Bizhub Pro 6000
Konica’s latest light-production machines are the Pro series – for heavier-duty applications it has just launched the Bizhub Press range. Available in a range of configurations of feeds and finishers, including an inline bookletmaker, to suit different applications.
Speed 60 A4ppm
AMPV 31,500
Duty cycle 280,000
Workflow Creo or EFI Fiery
Price not supplied
Contact Konica Minolta Business Solutions 0800 833864

Ricoh Pro C720
Launched at the start of the year, Ricoh’s light-production machine is unusual in maintaining 72ppm regardless of the weight of the stock or if it is coated or not. However, the price tag is more heavyweight than the next machine up the Xerox range, the 700.
Speed 72 A4ppm
Max sheet size 330x488mm
Stock weight 60-300gsm
Resolution 1,200dpi
Monthly volumes AMPV: 40,000 Max: 320,000
Workflow EFI
Price C720: from £87,000/C720S (with scanner): from £95,000
Contact Ricoh 020 8261 4000

Toshiba Tec e-Studio 5520c Pro
Some print-for-pay firms have looked at the e-Studio. Interesting features include the ability to print on to 1,200mm long banner paper.
Speed 55 A4ppm
Max sheet size 320x450mm or 313x1,200mm
Max stock weight 300gsm
Resolution 1,200dpi
AMPV 138,000
Duty cycle 275,000 copies
Workflow EFI Fiery
Price £29,990.00
Contact Toshiba Tec 01932 580100



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