Ricoh C720

Barney Cox
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

It may cost a bit more than its light production rivals, but in the performance and reliability stakes, it's hard to beat, finds Barney Cox

Ricoh's C720 and C720S stand out from the rest of the light production crowd in one respect; they keep churning out pages at their rated speed of 72 A4 ppm regardless of the weight of the paper or whether it is coated or not. Most machines with the light production tag sprint along at rated speed on skinny stocks, but slow down to half, or even a third, of that as the paper gets thicker.

In fact, Ricoh's professional printing solutions marketing manager Karen Lawrence is trying to coin a term to accurately position the product.

"We look at it as the high end of light production because no matter what you put through, all the way from 60 to 300gsm on coated and uncoated stock, it prints at 72 A4 ppm," she says. "Comparing it to machines such as the Xerox 700, Canon ImageRunner Advance Pro 9070 and the Konica Minolta bizHub Pro 6501, isn't comparing apples with apples."

Those rivals would agree, maybe not for the reason Lawrence suggests, but rather down to price. The printer-only version, the C720, starts at £87,000, while the C720S with scanner starts at £95,000, which is more in line with rivals such as Canon's ImagePress 6000 and Xerox's DocuColor 7002 production machines.

However anyone chooses to define the C720 range, the machines round out Ricoh's colour professional print offering with a lower-cost lighter-duty version of the bigger, and at £145,000 significantly pricier, C900. There are plenty of similarities between the two ranges. The core imaging technology, including the heavy-duty fuser, that ensures that consistent throughput, are the same, as is the pulverised toner and the tight (+/- 0.5mm) front-to-back registration, which Lawrence says is proving advantageous.

While other firms have introduced chemical toner, especially in light production machines, and are migrating it up their ranges, Ricoh has plumped for tried and tested technology. It has allowed the firm to get the machines on the market more quickly, while Lawrence says customers benefit from a wider colour gamut and one that exactly matches the C900.

That's significant, as several of the 20 or so machines that have been installed in the UK since the launch in the spring have gone in alongside C900s. Lawrence says the bad old days when everyone bought two digital presses to ensure one was working at any moment are long gone, and the difference in monthly volumes and the price of the C720 and the C900, means for volume applications one C900 is a better bet than a pair of C720s. For firms that need additional capacity to support a C900, the C720 is proving popular.

The average monthly print volume (AMPV) of the C720 is 40,000 A4 pages, exactly half that of the C900's 80,000. Of course, if you're particularly busy, the duty cycle is 320,000, although the maximum recommended monthly amount to ensure the machine lasts its anticipated five-year, 115m-page life is 190,000.

Those page volumes put the machine squarely in the light production, rather than the production, space. Light production AMPVs range from 20,000-75,000 A4 pages per month with 35,000 being the most common figure for the rivals.

Downtime drop
Aside from pages per month Lawrence says that another important measure is pages between operator visits, either for scheduled or unscheduled maintenance. She claims that compared to a "typical" figure of 40,000 pages between visits in light production, the C720 staggeringly manages ten times that number, assuming the operator indulges in a little planned maintenance themselves in the meantime.

It's easy to see why Ricoh wanted to get into this market; as Lawrence explains, it's the fastest growing segment in professional print.

"We felt we needed to be in there," she says. "And the economic climate has only increased the emphasis on the light production market."

The split so far between CRDs and commercial printers opting for the C720 series is 65/35, and of the two models the scanner-equipped C720S predominates.

"Inplants in particular still have to deal with hard copy document input," she says. "Customers need to be flexible in the way they accept jobs, so the scanner is part of providing a total workflow solution."

Other workflow tools that are proving popular include NowPrint, Ricoh's Software as a Service (SaaS) web-to-print platform, which was launched at Ipex.

"We're being asked more and more to deliver more than just the hardware and to provide solutions that help customers to develop their businesses," she says. "NowPrint is suitable for firms taking their first steps into web-to-print particularly as it is a low monthly fee rather than a £30,000-£40,000 upfront cost for software and hardware."

She adds that for firms that outgrow NowPrint Ricoh offers EFI's Digital StoreFront web-to-print package. Unlike the C900, the only digital front-end offered with the C720 is EFI's Fiery. But it is supplied with the full graphic arts package including Command Workstation as standard.

"This sector has been telling us there's no need for the Creo front-end as the EFI Fiery does everything it needs to and it's likely to be the most familiar," she says.

Strong finish
If you need to integrate the C720 with other machines, then EFI's MicroPress job-splitting and load-balancing tool is an option, which she adds is popular in mixed monochrome and colour shops. Ricoh's portfolio of variable-data software range spans a wide spectrum from mail merging up to full image personalisation and cross-media via DirectSmile. For C720 users though, Lawrence expects Objectif Lune's PlanetPress and PrintShop Mail to be the preferred packages.
Inline finishing options include GBC's stream punch for wire binding and the Plockmatic bookletmaker, which also has a squareback option.

"Inline finishing is important, especially for CRDs who need to reduce their spending on labour and training to operate offline finishing," she says.

Except for ring binding and perfect binding, which are only available on the bigger machine, the rest of the Ricoh range of finishers and stackers are available, with a maximum stacking capacity of 13,000 sheets.

The paper feeds are also the same as the C900 with air-assistance and, through the combination of multiple units, capable of holding up to 11,000 sheets online. Likewise it will handle the same maximum size of sheet, SRA3.

With the C720 Ricoh has got itself a place at the light production table; it's a fiercely fought market, with some strong competition and keen pricing, although headline price is only a part of the picture and the more personal volume-based discussions about the click could well be the clincher. While it's specification is certainly competitive, the price looks to be a little too high. However for firms with a lot of work on heavier stocks the productivity may settle the matter for the heavyweight lightweight.

Speed 72A4ppm on coated and uncoated at all weights supported
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: from £95,000
Contact Ricoh 020 8261 4000


Canon imagePress C6000
Canon's entry-level machine may slow down to 41ppm for 221-300gsm stocks, but it handles higher volumes.
Speed 41.2-60 A4 ppm
Stock range 80-300gsm
Max sheet size 330x487mm
AMPV 150,000
Price £80,000
Contact Canon UK 01737 220000

Canon ImageRunner Advance C9070 PRO
The ImageRunner advance is fast on thinner stocks, but add weight or a coating and it finds the going tough. It's also got a lower AMPV, but also a correspondingly lower price point.
Speed 21.6-70 A4 ppm
Max sheet size 330.2x488mm
AMPV 35,000
Price from £70,000
Contact Canon UK 01737 220000

Konica Minolta bizhub Pro C6501
The C6501 has plenty of power for the price. A choice of machines and 24 finishing options means a configuration for your applications is more than likely available.
Speed 65 A4 ppm
Max sheet size 330x488mm
Stock range 64–300gsm
AMPV not supplied
Price £71,614
Contact Konica Minolta 01908 200400

Océ CS665 Pro
This machine, which is based on Konica Minolta's bizHub Pro C6501, is available with three different front-ends.
Speed 32-65 A4 ppm
Stock range 64-300gsm
AMPV 35,000-75,000
Price from £ 64,000
Contact Océ UK 0870 600 5544

Xerox 700 Digital Colour Press
The 700 is the most keenly priced competitor and has been a storming success since it was unveiled at Drupa.
Speed 35-70 A4 ppm
Max sheet size 330x488mm
AMPV 20,000-75,000
Price from £42,000
Contact Xerox UK 0870 873 4519

Xerox DocuColor 7002 Digital Press
The 7002 is the latest press in the successful DocuColor range, which created and defined the production digital market.
Speed 70 A4 ppm
Max sheet size 320x488mm
AMPV 75,000-250,000
Price from £90,000
Contact Xerox UK 0870 873 4519


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