What Does Duty Cycle Mean When it Comes to Copiers and Printers?

Submitted by Mary Eberhart on Fri, 11/05/2021 - 07:41
duty cycle copiers and printers

When shopping for a new copier or printer, there are a couple of things you need to consider. The size of the machine, the features it comes with, and things like that are just the beginning. But have you heard of the duty cycle, and why it’s crucial to understand before purchasing a printer?  

As an authorized Xerox partner, we’ve been selling copiers and printers for quite some time, and we’ve seen businesses run their machines into the ground, and then complain about having endless service calls and part replacements. For the most part, it’s because they didn’t properly understand the duty cycle vs. recommended print volume of their machine before they bought it.  

In order to stop you from possibly making the same mistake, we wrote out this little guide on what exactly duty cycle means, and how to consider it properly before making the important purchase of a new copier or printer.  


What Does Duty Cycle Mean?

The duty cycle is the maximum number of prints that a machine can produce in a month. It’s used as a unit of measurement for the lifespan of copiers and printers, similar to miles on a car. Duty cycle is determined by the manufacturer, and to find it, they have to push a machine to its breaking point in order to see what it can handle.  

How is Duty Cycle Measured in Copiers and Printers?

Duty cycle is measured on a monthly basis, so if the duty cycle on your printer says 150,000, that means 150,000 prints per month. Depending on your monthly print volume and usage, the duty cycle of a machine will determine if it can handle your print load, or if it’s way too much.  

What Happens if I Exceed the Duty Cycle of My Machine?

It’s not very common for businesses to exceed the duty cycle on their machine, because it’s usually a pretty high number (please don’t take that as a challenge though). But, if it does happen, then you’ll likely be faced with a lot of service calls and device malfunctions.  

You’ll also need to replace parts and supplies way more often than normal. For example, feed rollers for paper have a tacky rubber feel when new, but when a lot of paper is pulled with them, over time paper particles make them less tacky, so you’ll have to replace them. The more you print, the faster they’ll need to be replaced.  


The Bigger the Printer, the Higher the Duty Cycle

Larger multifunction printers, such as the ones that can stand alone, have bigger engines inside of them, that can handle a higher print volume (hence the size). So if your organization prints a high volume each month, then it’s recommended that you get a larger machine that can handle your volume.  

Although printing technology has progressed significantly, there are now compact multifunction printers that can handle a fairly high print volume. Xerox has developed A4 machines with high-duty cycles so that you can print as much as you need without sacrificing space. As long as you don’t need any finishers or 11x17” capabilities, devices such as the Xerox VersaLink C605 and B605 are great machines for smaller work environments.  


Is Duty Cycle Important When Shopping for a New Printer?

Yes. Duty cycle is extremely important when shopping for a new copier or printer because you want to make sure that the machine you choose can handle the amount of paper you’re putting through day by day and month by month.  

The thing is, that while the duty cycle exists to represent the power of the printer, it’s not actually designed to print to that number each month. Instead, you should adhere to the recommended monthly print volume, which is about 10% of the duty cycle. So if the duty cycle of your printer says 120,000, then you’re really not meant to print over 12,000, or else you will start experiencing issues. That’s why it’s so important to understand how much you print before shopping for a new printer.  

Think of the speedometer on your car for example. It might say that you can drive up to 160mph, but it’s likely that you don’t run at 160mph everywhere you go, all of the time (if you want to be safe).  

Related reading: Duty Cycle vs. Recommended Monthly Print Volume 


Should I Go Out and Buy the Machine with the Highest Duty Cycle I Can Find?

Long story short- no. A higher duty cycle doesn’t mean a better machine, and in fact, most copiers and printers these days have a pretty high duty cycle compared to the average monthly prints from most businesses.  

The only reason that you’d want a machine with a specifically high duty cycle is if you’re printing a lot, more than 10,000 prints per month. Once you exceed 50,000 prints per month, it’s crucial for you to know the duty cycle of your machine so you know if it can handle a workload of that size.  

Another thing to consider if you’re putting your machine through a lot of usages is if you might need a backup copier or printer. This is because the more you use your machine, the more service calls you’ll eventually have to make, and the more supplies and parts that you’ll go through. If you only have one printer that is an integral part of your business, and you have a high monthly print volume, you’re a good candidate for a backup machine, just in case of a malfunction.  

While it’s not a common occurrence for a high-volume machine to have a high number of service calls, it’s a similar concept to your car, sometimes you have to get the oil changed, get new tires, and sometimes you just have to get it serviced or repaired.  


Ready to Buy a Copier or Printer?

Now you understand the importance of the duty cycle, how it’s measured, and some best practices related to it when shopping for a new printer. Already knowing this information makes the buying process significantly easier, and you can feel more confident knowing you’re getting the right machine for your organization.  

If you want to make the process even easier, we have a couple of other articles that you might want to take a look at:  

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