But how? At what speed? At what cost? With what specifications?
1. Key elements of a short-run printer for envelopes
2. Types of short-run envelope presses
3. How to choose a dedicated envelope printer
The feed system determines what range of envelope sizes you can print both by engine width and feed mechanics. Evaluate the published minimum and maximum length and width of feedable envelopes as well as maximum thickness. Also, consider if special window envelopes are required and how well it feeds.
Consider the design of the media path. Toner devices pull the envelope by pressure through a complex path which can crease or emboss the envelope, whereas inkjet devices use feed rollers to guide the envelope along a straight paper path. Design also impacts the ease of operation (i.e. clearing a paper jam) and accessibility for maintenance.
While consumers are putting away their loupes for cheaper envelopes, the "look" of the output is still important to understand as it will differ between print technologies. Does it have a shiny or a matte look? How well does it hit PMS colors? Consider what will work best for your book of business.
Consumable costs for the same job vary depending on the print technology. For example, toner devices require toner, drums, belts, and fusers or simply have a coverall click-charge, while inkjet requires just the ink and printhead. These different technologies will result in differing consumable costs, and ultimately, different profit potential.
Simply put: how fast do you need it? The supplier’s published speed is a starting point for evaluating solutions, but other aspects like job set-up time and ease of feeding also play a role in how quickly jobs can be completed.
The amount of time to set-up a print job plays a role in the job-cost and turnaround-speed. Understand what steps are required to setup a new print job both mechanically with adjusting the feeder for a different envelope size and electronically with making size, color, or placement adjustments,
Ease of operation can be critical for smaller shops who rely on various employees (even front-office staff) to step-in and operate equipment or larger shops who need back-up when the main operator is out for a day or two.
When equipment is down, job completion suffers. Evaluate what service options are available from your supplier and what other customers say about their service.
Toner-based devices were the first on the scene in the digital envelope press market. They utilize a system of belts, drums, fusers, and toner to heat and adhere toner onto an envelope. The output produced is shiny with some capability of matching PMS colors.
Such devices either require repayment for individual consumables or a click-charge per-piece resulting in a minimum cost-per-piece between $0.01 and $0.05, respectively.
Due to their ability to sit idle for extended periods of time, toner devices are good for print operations printing less than 10,000 envelopes per month.
Inkjet devices, like a Memjet envelope printer, are the newest devices in the digital envelope press market, developed to increase capabilities for short-run envelopes and bring down the cost-per-piece.
They utilize a printhead to drop ink onto the media, producing a matte look with the capability of matching PMS colors and full-bleed envelope printing.
Inkjet envelope printers require ink cartridges and a printhead which produce full-color work as low as $0.003 per piece.
Due to the importance of keeping the printhead nozzles wet and clear, inkjet devices are good for print operations printing over 10,000 envelopes per month.
Your monthly full-color, short-run envelope volume will be your starting point for determining if inkjet, toner, or even outsourcing is right for you.
If you print under 5,000 envelopes per month, acquiring a printer just for envelopes may not be worth the investment and so outsourcing makes more sense. Whereas, when printing over 10,000 envelopes each month, speed, profitability, and control over that work will become increasingly important—that is where inkjet becomes a better solution (especially with its various solutions, including a high-volume envelope printer for short-run envelopes).
What size envelopes do you need to feed? Compare the maximum or minimum feed widths along with the feed thickness—how important is feeding cardstock or heavy invitations? Do you need to print on coated stock? Are you okay with purchasing special window envelopes for toner devices?
This will typically correlate with your monthly volume—the higher the volume, the more you need a fast envelope press. Evaluate both published operating speeds of various equipment and what users say about their real-world experience.
Consider what look is best for your book of business—matte (inkjet) or shiny (toner). Other considerations may include the capability of printing full-bleeds or matching PMS colors.