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What is the Explanation of Maximum Duty Cycles for a Printer?

written by: Rebecca Scudder•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 7/28/2009

Some printers say they have a maximum duty cycle of 100,000 pages. And a recommended monthly duty cycle of 2000- 5000 pages per month. Why the difference? And what does the maximum duty cycle mean for laser printers when one is made by HP and the other by Lexmark or Kyocera Mita?

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    Maximum duty cycles- and different printers

    LexmarkLexmark T650n stock photo  has printers rated for maximum monthly cycles of 200,000 pages- but they recommend the monthly page volume for those printers actually be in the range of 3000-20,000 pages. (T650n MSRP $749.) HP has printers with monthly duty cycles of 225,000 pages, and their recommended print volume is 3000-1500 pages. (HP LaserJet P4015n printer, MSRP $1199.)

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    So what is a maximum duty cycle, anyhow?

    Obviously, the maximum monthly cycle is not a number that really affects how many pages you should expect to print a month. Some speculation in different articles and forum postings on the Internet suggest that the maximum monthly cycle may be related to how many pages you could expect to print in a month without causing it to malfunction or damaging it permanently.

    Most of the practical information on the Internet said that, because the duty cycle in printers varied so much between manufacturers, and because each company's maximum numbers differed from their recommended numbers, it was of very limited utility in deciding whether to buy a printer.

    Don't, however, buy a printer with a maximum duty cycle of 2000 pages a month, and routinely print 5000. The printer is not meant to stand up to such high use. Parts will wear out far sooner that their expected lifetime and may cost you a great deal more in service calls.

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    What can you learn from the maximum duty cycle?

    To get a measure of use out of what the maximum duty cycle means for laser printers, do some approximations based on your normal volume of printing. If the recommended monthly average is from 3000 – 20,000 pages, divide the highest number by two. If you print more than 10000 black and white pages a month, you should consider getting a printer rated for a higher recommended duty cycle. If you are printing in color, remember that your print head is going across each page four times- and divide the maximum recommended number by four. If you are going to be printing more than 5000 pages in color a month, or a combination of color and black and white that is approaching the maximum recommended number, you should think about getting a printer rated for a higher maximum duty cycle. And remember, if you are doing duplex printing, you should multiply those sheet numbers by two.

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    What you should consider before buying a laser printer

    More importantly, for choosing the best printer for your needs, look at the supplies. If you are printing 5000 pages a mHP LJ cm2320 mfc stock Photo onth, and your printer has a 250 sheet paper tray, you are going to be putting new paper into the printer practically every work day. If your toner cartridge is rated for 2000 pages, you are going to replace that two to three times a month as well. Those toner cartridges are expensive. That personal sized laser printer is probably going to need its fusor changed a lot more often than the Lexmark T650n's standard 300000 pages too.

    Look for a printer where you can get a high yield printer cartridge that will last you a couple months, minimum. And get a printer that has the ability to add on paper trays until you can pack a week's worth of paper into the printer at a time. For your 5000 pages of printing, try to get trays that add up to at least 1000 sheets and a toner cartridge that gives you 20000 average copies.

    Find out what parts need to be replaced on the printer throughout its lifetime. There are drums, fusers, and rollers, filters, and sometimes developer, depending on the printer. Check fuser prices and the number of pages you can print before you need to replace the fuser unit. Remember, replacing the fuser can often cost half the price of buying the printer. However, the printer is a plastic box with trays, a few gears, memory, and the interface to the printer, without the fuser. When you replace the fuser, there is no reason why you will not get another 300000 pages of printing.

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    How to pick a printer

    HP Laser Jet p1505n image In conclusion, while knowing what the maximum duty cycle of a printer is can be a shortcut to eliminating certain printers from your search- or a pointer to go to a more powerful printer- the numbers themselves are not all that important. Look at what you need your printer to do and pick some models that look like they can handle the volume of printing you need. Then look at all the other variables of things you need to buy besides the printer itself, to give yourself the total cost of ownership for each one. Then you can make an informed decision that will suit your needs without being a money pit.