Epson is piloting a consumables free inkjet printer that comes pre-loaded with enough toner to produce 8,500 colour pages, a strategic move that would effectively cut out third party toner cartridge manufacturers that have encroached on sales.
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The EC-01 device comes with a sealed unit attached and when the ink runs dry the Japanese vendor will pick up the box, replace it and send it to be recycled. The initial trial is in schools with education specialist RM.
Nick Butler, managing director at Epson UK, said the product was being quietly introduced “to market test the idea of a printer that contains consumables for a reasonable amount of time”.
“We are trying to establish the principle of whether this business model will pay back the customer and ourselves,” he added. The vendor refused to comment further.
Vendors frequently sell low-end hardware as a loss leader in the expectation that they will be able to recoup profits on supplies but the rise of the remanufacturer community has often scuppered these plans.
In recent years Epson has brought several court cases against third party suppliers alleging patent infringement, including Medea International.
“This should lock out third party cartridge providers because it changes the nature of the business model,” said a source familiar with the situation.
At £275 including VAT, the EC-01 is around half the price of a standard inkjet with enough toner to produce the 8,500 colour pages.
On top of the competitive benefits to Epson, the model is billed as environmentally friendly because fewer toner cartridges will go into landfill.
It will also help schools get a clearer view of how much they print and prevent cartridges being stolen.