Why you should know the duty cycle of your printer

I often get asked to explain what the term ‘duty cycle’ means and why it’s important to keep it in mind when choosing a printer.

Why does duty cycle mean?

As with any new piece of equipment, you want to know if it’s going to be suitable for the type of work you need it to carry out before you buy. Part of the manufacturing process is stress testing. This is where the item is deliberately pushed to its limits, often to breaking point, in order to determine its maximum capacity to perform whatever task it is designed to do.

In printers, duty cycle is the number that’s based on the results of stress testing. It represents the absolute number of pages that can be printed per month at the rated print quality of a machine. In other words, the duty cycle is intended to show how much a given printer can produce over a one-month period without any errors or jams.

If the stats for a printer indicate that the duty cycle is 1,000 pages per month, the manufacturer is essentially saying that you can expect to print a maximum of that volume per month without any issues. This does not mean that you can produce that given number of pages each and every month, but it is an extremely useful figure to use when comparing printer quality.

Why is duty cycle quoted?

Duty cycle is associated with robustness of a device, so you may want to purchase a printer with a monthly duty cycle well beyond your needs to ensure trouble free operation.

You may find that cheaper models may promise 8,000 pages per month and a typical workgroup printer may claim a 250,000-page monthly limit. There is no industry standard for duty cycle, so one vendor’s figures can vary from another’s, so be careful and do your homework.

But be careful, there is a catch.

Another factor to consider is how long a printer can last when printing at duty cycle level and for how long before it becomes a problem.

How can you tell whether you’re being sold the printer that you really need?

In addition to duty cycle, there is also another number that can help you to determine whether a particular printer is suited for you and for the volume of printing in your office. When speaking to vendors, I would definitely suggest that you ask them to provide the monthly recommended print volume for each machine that you are considering.

Recommended monthly print volume is the number of printed pages per month within the stated range for optimum device performance based on factors including:

  • Supplies
  • Maintenance intervals, and
  • Device engine life

This is the real monthly usage value that guarantees smooth and uninterrupted performance of your device.

Are you looking to buy a new printer? Ask these seven questions to make sure you get the one you really need. Or, fill in the form to the right to download a copy of our handy Buyer’s Guide for Desktop Printers and MFDs.

Beata Ulman

Product Marketing Manager at Ricoh UK & Ireland

Read all articles by Beata Ulman