Copier Duty Cycle – A Terrible Metric

August 12, 2022

3 min read

copier duty cycle

When you are looking to get a new copier, there is generally a great question that is asked: How capable is this copier for my print volume? The idea is sound, and it needs to be asked. We suggest each of our clients consider the recommended use numbers of a manufacturer, but these numbers are not the duty cycle.

We have been selling printers and copiers for about 30 years and wanted to help our clients understand what they should be looking at when they are buying or leasing a copier. We want to help you know what a duty cycle is and what you should consider instead when deciding if a copier is right for you.

What Is Printer Duty Cycle or Copier Duty Cycle?

The basic definition we have heard from our manufacturer partners is the duty cycle is the number of pages a printer or copier can go before it fails and does damage to the unit. This is not simply a paper jam, but to where the product has been physically damaged. It is a stat like how many miles you can drive a car  in a month before the engine blows up. It is not how many miles you should drive this car per month.

If you look at a lower end copier like a Xerox VersaLink C405, the duty cycle on this desktop copier is 85,000 pages.  Now, 85,000 pages is a LOT of paper. It is actually 17 boxes of paper. Each box of paper has 10 reams of paper, which is 500 sheets each.

No dealer in their right mind would ever suggest a 36 page-per-minute desktop copier that costs roughly $1,000 would print 85,000 pages. To even print 85,000 pages, the device would have to run over 2,800 pages a day. This would be an amazing amount of printing to do on a daily basis. This is assuming the office was open all 30 days in a month. If the office was only open 22 days (taking off weekends), then you would be looking at 3,863 pages a day. Or more than seven reams of paper.

Xerox recommends a user print up to 8,500 pages a month for monthly print volume to perform well for the entire life of the product. Other manufacturers seem to have similar ratios. A good rule of thumb on printer duty cycle is to take 10% of that number and use that as your suggested print volume. Each device can differ slightly, but this will have you in the right ballpark.

So Is Duty Cycle Useless?

The printer manufacturer stat of duty cycle is not useless. It does help you know how robust a copier is at some level before it is super-destroyed. If one copier has a duty cycle of 40,000 pages a month, and the other is at 300,000 pages a month, then it is safe to say the 300,000 page-per-month device is likely going to last for more total pages. It is not quite as cut and dry if the duty cycle difference is 70,000 and 90,000 pages. Those would be pretty equal machines, because most people are not going to run anywhere near those numbers per month.

Other Things to Know

There are a few other things to know about the duty cycle.

  • Laser printers are normally higher than inkjet printers.
  • High printer speed units generally have higher duty cycles (more pages printed in the same amount of time.)
  • It doesn’t account for paper jams or toner supplies.
  • It is usually based on 8.5″ x 11″ paper or A4 paper in Europe.
  • The duty cycle volumes are not recommended as monthly print volumes
  • It doesn’t matter if it is a laser printer, inkjet printer or a multifunction printer.

We hope when you see a printer’s duty cycle, you will realize it is useful for robustness of the product, but pretty worthless as a number you would ever want to print with the printer or copier.

We suggest you use 10% of the duty cycle as a default maximum if you cannot find the current recommended print volume from the print manufacturer.

We are here to help and would love to help you get a printer or copier that can do the right amount of monthly prints for your company.

Written By: Editorial Team

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