Toshiba Corp has launched an innovative eco-friendly printer that can produce erasable mono prints on specially prepared plastic paper using the thermal printing technology commonly used in fax machines.
The new B-SX8R printer is already on sale in Japan, and is about to be market tested in Europe by Toshiba Tec Corp to see if it could be commercially viable in other mass markets. There is an interest in Japan because many organizations there are looking for ways of reducing carbon emissions as part of government initiatives in the country, said Mike Keane, European product manager for Toshiba Tec Europe.
Many organizations in Japan are following a course set by authorities to reduce CO2 emissions in the country by 6%. Toshiba claims adoption of its printer in certain business scenarios will lead to reduced C02 emissions during paper manufacture and waste processes from the level of 6.5kg per 1,000 sheets to only 1kg per 1,000 sheets of rewritable paper.
We want to gauge the level of interest outside Japan, Keane said. He said the printer could play a role in any closed-loop system where a sheet of paper could be recycled. Think of all the warehousing processes that depend on a picking list to be printed, or all the various forms of inventory listings and shipping documents that are normally printed and then thrown away as waste, he said. We believe there’s something to said for re-writable paper in all those cases.
Toshiba uses paper that carries an active layer of polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, plastic onto which heat-sensitive chemical pigments can be temporarily fused. The vendor claims that in test conditions it was able to reuse these special paper sheets at least 500 and up to 1,000 times.
The B-SX8R machine erases a previous image by passing the A4 sheet under a heating element that sits in front of the feeding mechanism. The paper is also washed to remove any marks or air contaminants.
Print quality is not high at 300 dpi, but it should be adequate for certain purposes, and the printer can push out sheets at reasonable speeds of up to 12 pages a minute. Any problems of ghost images and shadows should be resolved once the paper has been reused several times, Keane said.
Other vendors are looking into other similarly novel printing processes. HP is known to be working on reusable printing processes and is developing some new approaches for paper-like displays based on new materials and manufacturing methods.
A number of techniques are currently being investigated at HP Labs in Palo Alto, California. Notably, HP is looking at development of new viewing surfaces using bi-stable liquid crystal displays which can hold their image even when disconnected from their power supply. It is also looking into the use of new light-emitting devices that incorporate nanocrystals in polymers which could be manufactured using inkjet printing techniques.
Toshiba said that although each sheet of PET paper costs about $10, its systems would still offer cost benefits if its studies of total cost of ownership are correct. In a situation where an $8,000 B-SX8R printer was used to produce 800 sheets a day, it would work out cheaper than other laser printer options over a period of five years.