Why do printers still suck 2018?

  1. Printers are delicate and complex machines. Printer parts are small and accuracy is very important. Small motors with carefully calibrated configurations require very little room for error when operating. Vibrations, high power, heat/cold, and general misuse will lead to maintenance problems sooner or later. Noise is a major complaint in the industry, many manufacturers have switched to plastic gears to reduce sound.
  2. Printers are designed with narrow specifications. Each printer model is carefully engineered to hit certain criteria and design parameters. Unfortunately most people choose a printer that is not properly designed for their printing needs or environment which leads to many common problems.
  3. Printing as an industry is not robustly profitable. Most of the innovations in printing involve finding ways to become more efficient with existing technologies (Ex. PageWide inkjet arrays, LED Laser, etc). Users generally want to do everything they can to cut down costs wherever they can because printing is a hard dollar cost that everyone can see impacting their pocketbook.
  4. Most people do not properly maintain their printer. Inkjets in particular require consistent maintenance to keep the print heads and cartridges clear from clots. Jams are often not properly handled resulting in worn rollers and gears, which leads to jams and then worn parts…
  5. Many printers are designed to be swapped rather than fixed. This is the nature of the beast. For example if you buy a new printer for under $100.00 then chances are its not worth anyone’s time to fix it. A tech would likely charge more than half of the value of a new printer just to look at it. Parts are generally not available for low end printers so anything beyond a common repair is a lost cause. In essence you tend to get what you pay for.
  6. Users tend to find ways to break printers that developers couldn’t have thought of. More features means more points of failure which will lead to more headaches. Using the printer within the specifications of its design is important to a happy printer relationship. The less your printer is spec’d to do the more budget can be invested in specializing for those features.
  7. Print hardware does not keep up with the software its forced to work with. A great example is an OS upgrade for a printer that currently works perfectly. No drivers means no printing in that situation. At some point a vendor must decide what is worth their time and effort to support and eat any losses associated with that decision.
  8. Printers never break at a convenient time. Users tend to only print right when they are done working or heading out the door. The timing of print errors quickly compounds any existing frustration and typically leads to additional problems or hardware failures.
  9. Print error messages are historically not user friendly. For example PC LOAD LETTER which became immortalized from a scene in the movie Office Space. A less popular but still significant print error would be lp0 on fire. Print error messages have improved significantly with the addition of better control panels, LCD screens, Embedded Web Servers and administration software but previous confrontations with printers remain fresh in many users minds.
  10. There are many elements to any printer problem. The output that you see in the paper tray is a result of a series of events including but not limited to the print application, print driver, print spooling service, print server, physical connection, firmware and finally the physical printer components themselves. It takes a while to learn proper isolation techniques so you can quickly and efficiently fix printer problems which most people don’t have the time or interest in doing.
  11. New cartridges are coming out all the time. This means that older ink/toner becomes harder to find and more expensive. Newer machines won’t accept the old ink you have from your last printer. Manufacturers are also working to develop even the smallest improvements in ink or toner cartridge formulas to give them an edge in quality over the competition. Advances in cartridge technology temporarily set back 3rd party cartridge manufacturers who cut into the printer manufacturer’s profit.

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