Customer Voices Reflected in New Epson Business Inkjets

Epson's corporate vision calls for the company to leverage its core technologies as it focuses on core growth markets. In printers for example, Epson is emphasizing the advantages of its proprietary Micro Piezo technology as it seeks to boost sales of its products in commerce, industry and business, and also in emerging economies. In this article we shine the spotlight on the GP-C800 and GP-M800, a pair of new business inkjet printers designed exclusively for use with fanfold paper.

GP-C800 & GP-M800 fanfold-paper business inkjet printers

When printing on fanfold paper, one of the biggest challenges is finding a way to prevent paper dust from clogging the print head nozzles. To overcome this challenging issue, Epson engineers developed a new mechanism and also implemented other changes based on comments received from customers.

A foray into Taiwan's pharmaceutical bag market

Pharmaceutical bag
The bags have a two-ply structure. The front
side (left) is made of paper, and the back
side (right) is made of plastic. When separated
along the perforated line, they become a bag.

The GP-C800 and GP-M800 were developed at the strong request of Epson Taiwan Technology
& Trading Ltd. Taiwan has seen the number of patients at large general hospitals soar in
recent years due to healthcare reforms that
have made medical treatment more affordable. Medicine dispensed at hospitals comes in a special kind of bag that, in Taiwan, is made from fanfold paper (Photo 1) with the back side made of plastic. Large hospitals that dispense big quantities of prescription drugs print information and instructions for the drugs on the pharmaceutical bags, making the use of jam-resistant fanfold paper an efficient option.
Detailed market research into problems customers face when printing on these fanfold paper pharmaceutical bags revealed a demand for color printing. Color printing can offer a number of advantages. For example, color photos of drugs can help prevent mix-ups, and warnings printed in red can help enhance patient safety and put them at ease. Epson thus came up with a strategy of entering this market with a color inkjet printer that uses fanfold paper.

Note: Since there is also demand for monochrome printing, Epson simultaneously released a monochrome printer (the GP-M800) along with the color model (the GP-C800).

A printer essentially developed with customers

Particularly close attention was paid to customers' ease-of-use during the product development phase. The development team made repeated trips to Taiwan's largest hospital to identify customer needs down to the smallest detail.

Operation panel with easy-to-press buttons

For example, the operation panel on the top front of the printer. The buttons on the panel are designed to be easy to press even for people with long fingernails and people wearing gloves. Also, though not readily obvious, the grips on the sides of the printer are deep, making it easier and safer to transport the printer when needed. The top cover design was also modified in line with customer wishes. Instead of opening upward, the top cover slides sideways to open, allowing the printer to be installed in spaces where upward space is limited. Moreover, the unit stops printing when the cover is opened because customers could feel anxious if the print head was still operating while exposed.

Grips on the side of the printer
The deep grips make it easier and safer to carry the printer.

A handmade prototype was quickly readied and shown to potential users. The development team gauged their reactions and gathered feedback that was then incorporated into the design. This process was reiterated numerous times to ensure that development progressed in the right direction.

Development was thus almost a joint project through which Epson built a very close relationship with its customers.

New mechanism provides protection against paper dust

The biggest obstacle when it comes to printing on fanfold paper is paper dust. Paper dust is present around the perforations that form the tear edge of a sheet, as well as around the sprocket holes along the edges of the sheets. Fanfold paper thus produces a lot more dust than ordinary paper, dust that can clog nozzles and reduce print head durability.

Dealing a knockout blow to the paper dust problem was a newly developed head protection system. To achieve this, Epson designed a revolutionary structure using new components materials designed to protect the print head. Thanks to this innovation, these printers are now among the most durable in their class with a total prints* rating of 1.2 million sheets.

The new head protection system
A cover that covers both end of a pharmaceutical bag is the key to the system.
Both the cover and the platen are made of metal.

* Total prints when using paper the same size (6.5 x 7.5 inches) as that used for pharmaceutical bags in Taiwan.

Global roll-out

The appeal of printing on fanfold paper is twofold. First, you can product a huge number of prints after loading a new stack of paper; and second, the paper is not susceptible to paper jams because it is forwarded by sprockets that engage holes along the outside edges of the paper. Among the more attractive features of inkjet printers are the quietness, energy efficiency, ability to print sharp, clear, and easily read barcodes, and, of course, their ability to print in color. With all these advantages, the GP-C800 and GP-M800 should find a wider global market beyond the Taiwanese pharmaceutical bag market.

In the GP-C800 and GP-M800, Epson has come up with a pair of products that fits in with its policy of focusing on meeting specific market needs in business. Going forward, the company plans to further accelerate these efforts, and already has a number of exciting new products in the pipeline.