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An Interview with Ije Rodgers, Sr. Product Manager, Ricoh Americas Corp.

As we have sought to bring you the broadest coverage possible of the printing industry, we look for unique stories and products from a variety of OEM manufacturers. Recently we had the opportunity to connect with Ije Rodgers, a Sr. Product Manager at Ricoh Americas Corp. The interview was conducted via email, and the transcript is here below.

1) How long has GelJet technology been around?
Ricoh launched the first GelJet product in 2005.

2) Is there something in particular that prompted Ricoh to develop this technology? Was it developed "organically" in-house?
Ricoh wanted to develop a new technology to complement our laser-based devices. Our GelJet technology was developed in-house.

3) What industries are ideally suited to embrace a technology like GelJet? How scalable are your GelJet products?
The Ricoh GELJET value proposition to our customers is to provide high quality full color output onto plain paper up to 8.5" x 14", surprisingly fast output speeds, plus standard double-sided printing at an extraordinarily low total cost of ownership. As such, our GelJet product line is attractive to small and medium size businesses who need a fast, reliable and affordable business color device.

Ricoh's GelJet product line has been successful in a number of industries and applications. In each case, the key advantages of our GelJet products have been their small size, low electricity consumption, low cost-per-page and fast print speeds. In addition, our vibrant viscous inks have been attractive to many customers.

We've had success in general business environments as personal devices or as a shared device in a small workteam. These devices can comfortably support volumes that range from 300 to 2,500 pages per month. In addition, many companies equip their remote employees with GelJet multifunction printers for their home offices. In retail stores where space is at a premium, the GelJet printers have been well-received.

We have had success with K-12 Education where school districts are looking for fast, affordable color printing solutions. Because of their compact size, and affordability, it is possible to place a GelJet product in every classroom. And because of their fast print speeds, GelJet printers can keep pace with the busy workload. Schools in particular like the cost-savings realized by printing in Economy Color Mode.

GelJet products have been successful in Real Estate applications. The low color cost per page is comparable to that of a laser device for a fraction of the initial hardware investment. And, our waterproof, fade-resistant gel inks are suitable for mailers and brochures.

4) What are the advantages to choosing to go with a GelJet system as opposed to "traditional" inkjet or laser printing?
Ricoh GelJet technology offers an eco-friendly business-class color solution that combines the affordability, small footprint, and convenience of inkjet technology with the speed, reliability, image quality, and advanced media handling capabilities of a duplex-capable color laser system.

Advantages of GelJet versus Laser
  • Smaller machine size
  • GelJet uses significantly less electricity than laser devices.
  • Economy Color Mode—Economy Color Mode automatically reduces ink density of graphic images, while maintaining normal density for text characters. The result is clear, easy-to-read text combined with eye-catching color at a cost-per-page that is about the same as black & white.
Advantages of GelJet versus Traditional Inkjet
  • Waterproof viscous inks—Quick drying gel-based waterproof viscous inks that dry on contact. Ricoh's ink formula allows for fast duplex printing.
  • Permanent, extra-wide print heads—GelJet printers and MFPs employ dual extra-wide print heads for greater coverage per pass, thus delivering improved speeds over conventional inkjet printers. In addition, GelJet prints heads are designed to last the life of the device eliminating the need to replace an expensive part.
  • Belt feeding system—borrowing from laser technology, Ricoh's innovative electrostatic Belt Feeding System technology that goes unnoticed by most users, also contributes greatly to its fast speed, reliability, and superior image quality. Conventional inkjet printers use rollers to grab the edges of each sheet of paper to push it beneath the print heads and through the paper path, leaving the sheet unsupported in certain areas between the rollers. This can result in poor image quality as the distance between the print heads and the paper can fluctuate, however minutely. It also makes the printer more susceptible to slight paper shifting that can affect registration, cause rippling from ink over-saturation, and increase the frequency of paper jams.

    Ricoh's electrostatic Belt Feeding System uses the power of static electricity to hold each sheet of paper firmly in place as it travels completely through the paper path. This eliminates the potential for misalignment and blurring that accompanies registration problems. Because the paper is completely supported at all times by the belt, the GelJet printer delivers pages with less curling and rippling, experiences fewer paper mis-feeds, and ensures proper alignment for two-sided prints. Further, this design maintains the appropriate distance between the paper and the print heads at all times for consistent, precise dot placement.
  • Low cost-per-page—GelJet consumable costs are incredibly low and are priced to deliver similar per-page costs as laser printers. In addition, Economy Color Mode delivers eye-catching color prints for about the cost of a black & white page to save even more!

5) Can you describe the process by which output is produced by GelJet? That is, how does it actually "work"?
Like any inkjet printer, Ricoh GelJet devices work by placing small drops of ink onto paper. The uniqueness of GelJet is achieved by the differences listed:

  • Viscous ink formula that is waterproof and fade resistant. This supports fast print speeds and fast automatic double-sided printing with plain paper.
  • Wide, permanent print heads that can cover large areas of the page quickly and never need replacing.
  • An electrostatic belt feeding system that holds each piece of paper firmly in the right position for optimal ink placement and faster printing
  • Aggressively price consumables for a low cost-per-page
  • Economy Color Mode printing that addresses the need for highlight color in printed documents.