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Printer Earth

A Printer That Uses No Consumables 240

Posted by kdawson
from the insert-to-recycle dept.
jimboh2k sends word of a printer introduced by Japanese company Sanwa Newtec, called the PrePeat RP-3100 (a play on "repeat"). It prints on A4-sized sheets of PET plastic, and these sheets can be reused up to 1,000 times, the company says. The printer uses heat transfer technology rather than ink, and so has no consumables. There's a video of the printer in operation at the link. The PrePeat costs about $5,600 and a supply of 1,000 plastic sheets will set you back another $3,300. However, the company gives a use case in which a corporation saves $7,360 per year on consumables, as well as putting less CO2 into the atmosphere. So far the PrePeat is available only in Japan.
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A Printer That Uses No Consumables

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  • Yes but.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by budword (680846) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:11PM (#31127982)

    Are there Linux drivers ?

  • by kent_eh (543303) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:12PM (#31128002)
    These proprietary plastic sheets sound a bit like a consumable to me.
    Yeah, they're re-usable. But if it's stuck in a filing cabinet then you can't re-use it now can you.
    • by cohensh (1358679) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:23PM (#31128094)
      Unless it runs without electricity it consumes that as well.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by timeOday (582209)
        Hear, hear. I'm holding out for a perpetual motion printer that consumes no energy to do its work.
      • Unless it runs without electricity it consumes that as well.

        It's steam-powered, using waste heat generated from the CPU in your computer. The rivet work on the boiler is awesome.

      • Unless it runs without electricity it consumes that as well.

        Actually, it doesn't consume electrons. The utility company basically requires that you return all electrons they give you. If it consumed them, it'd require very few, E=Mc^2 and all...

    • by davester666 (731373) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:31PM (#31128162) Journal

      But now you can just file documents by date, and instead of buying new paper, just reuse the oldest sheets that have already been printed. This takes care of the document retention policy at the same time as making filing extremely easy.

      • And one less machine to buy when your company becomes a target of an SEC investigation! Just put the paper into the printer, hit "Erase", and the evidence is gone! It's like Magic! [/infomercial]
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by mysidia (191772)

          Somehow, I doubt that "erase" destroys the previous version beyond forensic analysis.

          • by karnal (22275)

            Nope, you have to print random dot patterns at least 7 times to make it difficult to recover, 25+ times to make it impossible.

            Hopefully they have a sheet feeder on it so you can just tape the ends together to make it loop automatically!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Pro-tip: Anything that's "resuable" that has a limit on the number of times it can be re-used like, say CD-RWs or this plastic paper, are actually consumable.

      Still, if it really does last 1,000 times (which I doubt), and you're only printing stuff for temporary consumption (as in, you aren't keeping hard copies of anything locked in a filing cabinet), you actually could save enough money -- if you print enough, that is.

    • by Ephemeriis (315124) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:36PM (#31128226)

      These proprietary plastic sheets sound a bit like a consumable to me.

      Yeah, they're re-usable. But if it's stuck in a filing cabinet then you can't re-use it now can you.

      I've got a boss who prints crap out all the time. Just random junk. Instead of forwarding an email to me, he'll print it out and hand it to me. And those random bits of junk get thrown away pretty quickly.

      I routinely have to print out documentation for various clients... Take it on-site with me... And after I'm done there, the printout gets shredded.

      For non-permanent bits of information that you'd still like to take away from a computer screen, this could be very handy.

      • by dangitman (862676) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @02:01PM (#31128432)

        Instead of forwarding an email to me, he'll print it out and hand it to me.

        You're obviously one of the lucky ones, who doesn't have to deal with their boss forwarding emails to them.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Ephemeriis (315124)

          Instead of forwarding an email to me, he'll print it out and hand it to me.

          You're obviously one of the lucky ones, who doesn't have to deal with their boss forwarding emails to them.

          The emails he forwards to me are the stupid ones I don't need - chain letters and whatnot.

          The ones that I actually need, with useful links and product specs and whatnot, he prints out.

      • I've got a boss who prints crap out all the time. Just random junk. Instead of forwarding an email to me, he'll print it out and hand it to me. And those random bits of junk get thrown away pretty quickly.

        What makes you think that will also not happen a lot with these re-usable sheets?

        That's the biggest problem I see, far too many people will treat them like paper and just get rid of them anyway. It might (might) work if you mandated that all printing only be done on this paper, but honestly the overhead o

      • by kimvette (919543)

        I've got a boss who prints crap out all the time. Just random junk. Instead of forwarding an email to me, he'll print it out and hand it to me. And those random bits of junk get thrown away pretty quickly.

        Have you been forgetting to put cover sheets on your TPS reports again? Didn't you get the memo? I'll go ahead and get you a copy of the memo.

      • by natehoy (1608657)

        At $3.30 per sheet, your boss would have to hand you one page per working day for several years in order to pay for each sheet of this, and that's assuming he doesn't circle something with permanent marker, fold it, crease it, wrinkle it, spill coffee on it, or staple it to another document. If any one of those things happen it can't be fed through a printer again.

        And "heat transfer" means some form of toner and a crapload of electricity. So you still have a consumable and electricity to contend with, and

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      It's obviously not designed for printing fileable stuff. Probably more useful for printing things that change daily, like work assignments/maps/other instructions, or menus for the cafeteria, signs about the latest and greatest, and the like. It probably beats replacing everything with an electronic screen.

      Niche application, but a decent one.

    • Not to mention...

      For me when ever I print something out it is for the following reasons

      1. It is something I needed stored for a long time and put cabinet and pulled back if I need it again and it is not on my computer.
      2. For something I will need to take a pen and sketch or in general mark up... Check boxes, take extra notes around or highlight key fields.
      3. Something I can fold up into say a booklet (a lot of people doesn't like doing this but I do) so I can read more carefully.

      This type of printing will m

      • Well to trade anecdotes, I am pretty much the exact opposite, the only things that I print out are stuff I need once, hotel reservations, train tickets(in Germany you can buy and print-out train tickets for long distance travel online, much easier than trying to get a real ticket). After I have taken the train trip or stayed at the hotel there is little reason for me to store the documents for later(though the caveat is the German train conductors tend to punch holes in the paper....)

        This is perfect for
        • by timeOday (582209)
          Where I work, I could swear many of printouts are never even looked at. There's always a stack of printouts on the printer, just sitting there. (Incidentally, an awful lot of them do not appear to be work-related).
        • by Shin-LaC (1333529)
          In Italy, when I buy train tickets online, I get the reservation info on my phone by SMS. When the train conductor comes, he asks me for the car and seat (in case I decided to move to some other empty seat) and checks my reservation code on his PDA. There's no paper involved.
    • Yeah, they're re-usable. But if it's stuck in a filing cabinet then you can't re-use it now can you.

      And, even in a good office, I'd be amazed if even half of them got recycled into the system, and not lost/thrown away.

      Confidential documents?
      * Recovery of the last print might be possible?
      * It's a pain to erase the pages (refeeding into an appliance)

    • by jbengt (874751)
      Better in a filing cabinet rather than on a cold radiator. My co-worker placed his file folder full of engineering documents on thermal copy/fax paper at the end of one summer. First time the heat turned on in the fall, he had a folder full of black paper. Thermal copiers are old, abandoned tech, though reusable plastic thermal paper may be new.
    • by Ihmhi (1206036)

      By that logic we'll never have anything truly green.

      This is not the most appropriate tool for hard copies of records that are going to be stashed in a filing cabinet for twenty years. However, for uses in which the paper is used once or twice and then discarded (handouts at a meeting, internal memos, etc.) this would be perfect.

      A business with at least 100 people in it could probably justify the expense.

  • by ErikZ (55491) * on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:17PM (#31128036)

    Great, so long as you never pin the paper up, fold, wrinkle or spindle it. Never get oil on from your fingers on it, coffee stains, pen marks, or tape residue.

    Until they include a box that will shred the old "Paper", melt down and extrude new paper, this is worthless.

    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Here, use these. [google.com]
    • you're forgetting the number 1 thing that happens to paper as soon as it is printed. Usually whoever gets the stack of paper (because if you're just going to do one sheet, may as well just read it and display it on the computer, will tap the stack against the desk and then staple it. Pretty much if you staple something 10-20 times, it's corners become a horrible mess (my wife is a teacher, remember back to those posters stapled to the bulletin board).

      Although i guess that's a feature, if you can't use sta
    • by westlake (615356)

      Great, so long as you never pin the paper up, fold, wrinkle or spindle it. Never get oil on from your fingers on it, coffee stains, pen marks, or tape residue.

      How well these print-outs stand up to light and heat?

      Can you leave them on the seat of your car on a hot summer's day?

      If document retention is an issue, will an ordinary fire safe or cabinet do the job?

  • usefullness? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by green1 (322787) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:17PM (#31128044)

    That's great and all, but if I was keeping the physical piece of "paper" I wouldn't need to print it in the first place, and if I did need to print it, I would want it to be permanent, so I wouldn't be ever re-using the sheet. I print things either because other people need them, so I'd be giving away all my expensive plastic sheets in no time flat. Or because I need to keep a permanent copy, so I would never re-use the plastic. Many of those I didn't give away would have been cut up to make quick reference cards, labels, etc.

    If they came up with a way to do this with plain paper (say some form of laser etching which required no toner/ink/film/etc) I'd be interested, but as long as it only works with it's own proprietary "paper" this is pretty much useless.

    • Re:usefullness? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oh2 (520684) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:21PM (#31128078) Homepage Journal
      A lot of hardcopy is only read/used once or twice and then recycled. Sounds like a great idea to me.
    • Vast numbers of trees are killed every year because office workers print out stuff for each other, then chuck them in the bin /recycle box.
       

    • by Dutch Gun (899105)

      Or because I need to keep a permanent copy, so I would never re-use the plastic.

      It's curious you say that... You consider a paper copy "permanent"? I've always considered the electronic copy to be the "permanent" and original document (presuming it's well backed-up), while a paper copy is a transient snapshot, something that can be handed out for easy reference during a meeting and discarded at whim, because one can always print more.

      I wonder if the lack of paperless offices around the world are as much about psychology as practicality? There are probably very few cases where printe

      • by Shinobi (19308)

        It's quite simple: We KNOW paper can last over 1000 years and still readable with some care. Otoh, there's magnetic media from the 70's that will never ever again be readable, simply because the media has degraded. And even worse, there's optical media from the 90's and early 2000 that has already simply degraded(Lost a couple of thousand photos that way: Burned on quality CD's, stored in envelopes in a climate-controlled vault. Got it out last year, to drag it all on to DVD's instead, noticed that the CD's

  • For writing on these sheets with?
  • Yeah (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:21PM (#31128072) Journal

    This is nice, but misses the purpose of more than half of most printing - to distribute to other people and to mark up your own copies. If I give anyone else the sheet, it's no longer recyclable by me. If I mark up a hard copy - or just make notes while I'm in a meeting - it's no longer reuseable. What about staples?

    If I've got a dozen people in my office, it would be cheaper to simply buy them each a KindleDX - and I'll never run out of paper there.

    (Yes, I'm being negative today. I'm sure this has a niche - like a training center where you can update your handouts for each class, as long as thy can't take them home)

    • Oh come on.

      Paper clips.
      Bulldog clips.

       

  • I really wonder how much savings can be gotten here. Personally I'd estimate about 70% of my prints ends up in my archive: I only print out stuff that I want on paper for administrative reasons. For looking up later, or for tax/legal reasons.

    The 30% rest is mostly misprints, and of those about half ends up in my archives again: I always attach receipts from shops to a standard A4 size paper, number them, and in future I can always find them again.

    And what is still left over... well my little kid loves to

  • Despite the naysayers this sounds like a great addition to many offices. Lots of paper sent for recycling.

    In my case that means shredding it, turning it into paper briquettes and burning it in my woodburning stove. Like free heating from the old office waste... Actually come to think of it this is a shit product, forget the running costs, look at the capital expenditure!

     

    • by grumbel (592662)

      It kind of sounds interesting in theory, but I see two big issues. One is of course price, its way more expensive then just a laser printer and regular paper for a start. The other issue is simply user behavior, can you really train your users to behave well enough that a sheet survives anywhere near 1000 prints? Even 100 reprints sounds like a stretch, yet it is not enough to make it cheaper then paper. There are also use cases where its not clear how to handle them. What is if you want to mark something?

  • How easy is it to re-use plastic sheets if they've been torn, stapled, folded, dog-eared, and so on? In the real world things experience wear and tear. In most printers I'm familiar with, the paper path is fairly sensitive to these kinds of irregularities, so unless they are using something more like the bypass tray, I don't think that this printer is going to be all that reliable or fun to deal with.

  • False accounting? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by martinux (1742570)

    "about 0.3 yen a sheet/number of times of rewriting."

    Correct me if I'm wrong but this cost assumes you don't need to keep a hard-copy, i.e., you're printing to said sheet 1000 times.

    In other words, if you never keep a copy and always reuse the sheets you'll save cash... The ratio of sheets you wish to keep to sheets you consider disposable has to be high; why else would you print something if not for long-term reference?

    Also, staples?

  • If you ask me, I think that epaper, eink, or some other bistable and non-emissive display technology will be the way that people in the future will manage documents that aren't intended for permanent posterity.

    And with the unit itself priced at over $5K, I really don't see this taking off anytime soon.

  • by p51d007 (656414) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @01:36PM (#31128224)
    years, I've seen "green" ideas come and go, but still here we are 30 years later, and we are still putting ink or toner on paper. In the mid 80's, the "paperless" office idea was run up the flag pole, and friends of mine said I better look for another line of work. I just laughed. I said as long as we have a government, with regulations, we'll have paper. These idiots have to justify their jobs some how, and paper reports is how they do it. When the HIPPA laws came into being a few years ago, my work load INCREASED, just from the extra copying & printing those silly laws generated. For the past few years, I've tried until I'm blue in the face to talk people into going toward electronic filing & document storage, only to be told no, because "we've always done it with paper". It's a mind set...people don't like change and sometimes will push against change. In the early 80's, fax machines were taking off big time, but it was hard to convince people to give up messenger services and go with a fax machine. The fax was faster, cheaper than using a courier service, but, some would say "we've always had a courier". Now, I'm having the same problem getting people to give up a fax machine, because scan to e-mail is faster, and cheaper, but people say "we've always had a fax machine". People just don't brace technology sometimes. I gave up trying to change peoples minds. I show them the benefit, the cost savings, the time savings, and if they don't get it, I just let it go. Their money, not mine. Human nature......go figure.
    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @02:08PM (#31128474) Journal

      That doesn't mean we don't generate paper. I go through 500-1000LF of 36" wide paper a month, plus probably 1500-2000 sheets of letter (we only have 4 employees). What we don't do is keep the paper. Everything either gets scanned and the paper recycled, or printed to PDF and never committed to dead tree form. The savings isn't in paper and printing - it's in storage. I was looking at having to buy storage space and filing cabinets (very expensive for large format drawings). At $1-$1.50 a sheet at the service house, it was cheaper to scan and recycle than to buy cabinets and store. Two years ago we dropped $15k on a large format scanner (well, it copies and prints, too). The result is everything we've ever designed it on the servers (and backed up in two places) and at our fingertips in less than a minute, and I'm not paying for a storage unit somewhere.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wvmarle (1070040)

      Now, I'm having the same problem getting people to give up a fax machine, because scan to e-mail is faster, and cheaper, but people say "we've always had a fax machine".

      Sending a fax: (1) walk to fax machine, (2) put down document, (3) enter fax number, (4) press send, and done.

      Scan and send as e-mail: (1) walk to scanner (same as my fax, printer and copier so at least it has a sheet feeder, most stand-alone scanners don't), (2) put down document, (3) return to computer and open scan software, (4) scan document, (5) enter name and location to store scan file, (6) create new e-mail, (7) enter address, (8) enter subject and body, (9) add attachment, (10) remember where it w

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by PyroMite (1225634)
        The procedure at my office would be:

        1. Put down document on printer/scanner combo device's page feeder
        2. Type the email address of recipient on the touch screen display on that device
        3. Push send.

        Benefits aside from speed and ease of use are that now the recipient has a digital copy without having to scan it themselves and in my experience the quality is pretty much always better than a fax machine.

        I know you said that for you faxing was the easier option, but I don't think gp was advocating the
      • by selven (1556643)

        Or get the best of both worlds and use a fax to email [srfax.com] service [efax.com]

    • Fax machines live on because of security concerns. E-mail still isn't viewed as a secure medium by many businesses and government offices. Also just about everyone has a fax number and machine that you know someone is going to monitor as opposed to a spam filtered and ignored "main" e-mail address.

      Also do scanned and e-mailed signed documents carry the same legal weight as signed documents that were faxed? In theory they are exactly the same, but no one seems to view the e-mail method as legit.

      • by tftp (111690)

        Also do scanned and e-mailed signed documents carry the same legal weight as signed documents that were faxed?

        As far as I know, they do. Scanned images are much clearer and have better resolution, and the PDF with the scan can be digitally signed too.

        In fact your comment exposed another hole in this "reusable paper" plan - many papers are printed so that someone can sign them, stamp them, or both.

  • In any normal company, I would rather buy a large eBook reader (such as the iRex), that also has an option of annotating documents. In that way you don't have the weight of the initial expenses. And you have things like (rudimentary) search options and such. A long running tablet PC may also step into this niche. It's amazes me that many of these eBook readers don't come with a "printer driver". It would be a good way of converting documents to the right format and it would serve as a nice way of showing th

  • I know, I know, I just dumped on this in a previous post - but I've found an application (at least for my office).

    I deal with architectural prints which are usually D or E size (thats ~A1/A0 I believe). Often we'll have architects send us 6 or 7 revisions of 10-20 sheets for a small project. It's nice to be able to see them "full size" and make minor marks, but when the next revision comes out that set gets recycled. We could easily reuse these sheets several times. Of course, we'd need some kind of heat pe

  • And that can be reprinted in less than 0.01 seconds. In color!
    It needs no. consumables. at. all!

    I’s called a display!

    • by tepples (727027)
      A piece of reusable paper does not require continuous electric power just to view.
  • The whole problem with this concept, is that it fails to realize is that, as seemingly insignificant a piece of paper is, it is a thing, and it does have value. This value is in its permanence. Good paper products will utterly outlive us, and that's why we use them.

    It is why some people insist on a paper audit trail when we vote.

    It is why we tend to like to get paper receipts and statements.

    It is like even a pointless award or certificate, but printed on nice paper, can mean a great deal emotionally.

    So,

  • ... or any other isolated work environment, like a submarine, military base, etc.

    But as soon as those plastic sheets start making it home in people's brief-cases and notepads, the cost of operation starts to creep up.

    Its an interesting niche product that solves one problem ( consumables ) at the expense of creating another problem ( proprietary, expensive print substrate ).

    -S

  • stupid execs (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheSHAD0W (258774) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @02:45PM (#31128788) Homepage

    All it takes is for one management-type to keep a 100-page report on her shelf to blow your entire savings for the year.

  • by cyn1c77 (928549)
    I would say that "A4-sized sheets of PET plastic" count as consumables. This is a marketing scam.
  • by Ancient_Hacker (751168) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @04:17PM (#31129486)

    The math just does not work out.

    At $5,600 for the printer, just the interest alone is $300 a year. For that you can buy 100,000 sheets of copy paper a year. If you expect the printer to last 5 years, that's another $1,100 that could go towards buying almost 400,000 sheets of paper.

    And I doubt if the plastic sheets can be reused more than 10 times in a typical office situation. They're going to get wrinkled, bent, curled, and soiled after just ten cycles. Most printers balk at feeding paper that is even slightly curled. Let's assume 10 uses is a practical limit. So this 33 cent sheet of plastic is now costing you 3 cents a page, ten times more than the equivalent piece of paper.

    Now a good deal.

  • Cost (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Saturday February 13, 2010 @05:31PM (#31130070)

    I keep having to do math to debunk so many reports. The page that uses .3 yen as the sheet cost does not take into account sheets that are not returned. They are calculating it as if it is a closed system where every sheet print will be returned in re-printable condition. Pages can be lost, damaged , written on, or stored and never returned. The true cost of using these sheets is as follows;

    ((purchase cost) + (replacement cost of non returned sheets))/cycle size

    Replacement cost is the cost to replace each failed sheet (damaged or not returned) over the life of one page as follows;
    (purchase cost * failure rate * cycle size)

    Therefore with a purchase cost of 300yen, a failure rate of 10% (I am being generous) and a cycle of 1000 the cost per printing would be;

    (300 +(300*.1*1000))/1000 = 30yen.

    Even with the questionable power costs added that would be almost 4 times as expensive as plain paper.

    Bump that up to a 30% failure and you get a cost of 91 yen/printing and 11x the cost of plain paper. To the "no shedding costs" comments; there is still a cost to erase the pages before they are returned to the printer for recycling.

    They also do not factor the cost of collecting, sorting and cleaning the returned pages .

    Another aspect not touched on is print speed. According to the specifications the printer takes 3 to 6 seconds per page to print. I am talking about the commercial printers not the desktop version. Yeah I am going to wait ten minutes to print 100 pages. That is very poor throughput.

    • by BlacKat (114545)

      The printer also erases the pages... so no actual requirement to "clean" the pages, just feed them in and it erases and writes the new info onto the page.

      Not saying I think this is a great idea for home use, but maybe some businesses could use it.

      However, unless they've figured out how to make this special paper not turn black if placed on or near a heat source, these pages will be somewhat useless.

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Cleaning as in dirt, spills, erasable markers etc. You would not want to waste $3.30 just because of a little coffee. The website says they can be washed with water then dried before re-use. There are also documents that are confidential that should be erased before putting back into the sheet pile.

  • I've lived over here in Japan for the better part of 10 years, and I can totally see how this could make a difference. Every meeting I go to has a paper agenda handed out at the door, which is promptly thrown away as soon as I'm back to my office. My pigeonhole fills up every few days with--I'm not kidding--paper versions of the emails I've gotten.

    Culturally, Japan is a lot more hands-on than the US. A lot of paperwork is still done by hand and most purchases are done with cash. Paper, actually, is a sacr

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