A launch event for a new printer is a hard sell.
Fortunately for Epson, they’re a strong supporter of the best Formula One team on the planet, so with the lure of a Pit Lane and garage visit at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, they pulled a good crowd of tech media to see what’s hot in office equipment in 2017.
It’s Epson’s new Workforce Enterprise juggernaut and if you think the relentless pursuit of printer perfection has probably waned a little in the past decade or so, consider this, the new AMG Mercedes Petronas F1 car Epson sponsors:
Either Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas will most likely win many of this year’s races in it, because it’s the most technologically advanced automobile on the planet. To keep it that way, Mercedes spends a stonking $326 million a year trying to eke out an extra half-a-second a lap from it.
Epson spends $678 million a year on printer research and development.
Okay, try this. The 200 sensors on the AMG collect more than 100GB of data in a single race weekend. As it’s tearing up the track in Australia, the data is pinging into the team’s HQ in the UK 300 milliseconds after it’s collected.
In those 300 milliseconds, Epson’s new printer head can fire about 270,000,000 droplets of ink. 900 million drops hit a single page every second.
Apart from a brief stint of scanning our bums in the 80s, the printer is the least sexy piece of office equipment since sock garters for blokes.
But the Workplace Enterprise machine literally isn’t hot. At all. Look at how it keeps its cool over 5 minutes while the laser printer next to it burns through energy:
Another dull pic, right? But that’s a huge deal for Epson. Priscilla Dickason, Epson’s group product marketing manager, says going easier on the environment is the single biggest sell factor the company identifies these days, above print speed and quality.
It’s why, if you’ve been in the market for a new printer the past year or two, you’ve probably wondered why you threw a stupid amount of money at that new “laser printer”, only to see inkjets make a comeback. They run colder, and these days take a lot more ink in refillable bottles, use a lot less, and use it better.
Which brings us to this:
Yep, it’s another giant box made up of boxes. But the magic is inside.
You won’t see it in Australia for at least a year, but there are 20 PaperLabs already switched on in Japan, and orders are piling up around the world.
We first heard whispers of it as far back as 2015. It’s a shredder which recycles the shreds back into clean paper, without using water. About 6700 pages in a workday, in fact.
Dickason said the Japan experiment was a resounding success, and PaperLab is finally ready to go global.
But back to the Workforce Enterprise and another laboured inkjet printer-Formula One comparison.
Mercedes’ pit crew can change four tyres, wipe the driver’s visor, and adjust the rear and front wings in under two seconds. This post needs some action:
Epson’s new Workplace Enterprise printer can churn out 100 pages per minute.
So not so impressive as an F1 pit crew. But a good 30 pages per minute faster than anything else at its price point. And it can stack and staple up to 4000 of those pages as they churn, which is likely a lot more than the Mercedes pit crew could handle.
There was an amazing amount of enthusiasm at the launch for something so dull as an office printer, and as you might have noticed, I started to buy into it.
This thing can seriously move:
But Epson then sweetened the pot for the proudly nerdy crowd by letting them see the new version of its Moverio smartglasses.
Because Epson is at least as big a projector company as it is a printer company. And Moverio is all about projection technology, lobbing HoloLens-like images into your field of vision from a well-styled and comfortable headset.
I know because I got to try them, in the garage back at the F1 track. Unfortunately, because we were in the garage, no photos were allowed. I snapped this one at the launch:
But Epson and Mercedes are 100% committed to using Moverio as soon as practicable and they also got drone expert Dr Lin Fan in to show how you can use them to get a bird’s eye view from up there while you’re flying.
That’s a big deal, especially in Australia. You can get goggles that cover your face to do the same thing, but Australian regulations say drones must always be flown in direct line of sight.
Moverio is a clear answer to that problem. Epson will reveal more about that later, but for now, a Moverio demonstration, tickets to Pit Lane, a live Q&A session with Lewis Hamilton and delicious pastries is the new standard for luring tech journos to the launch of a new printer.
Which is unfortunate, because they can actually make life a lot easier for a lot of very dreary industries in technoparks and office lots around the world. And one very exciting industry.
“We shipped out 80 Epson printers here to Melbourne,” our AMG guy told us on a tour of the garage, struggling to keep all the carbon-fibre and brushed metal componentry from blindsiding his audience.
They chose Epson because printing is really important to the F1 garage, actually. It’s easy, and reliable, to hand out hard copies of designs and schematics, and when something has to be fixed within seconds, you don’t need a paper jam.
And when officials last year banned a lot of radio communication between the garage and drivers during the race, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg switched to a system of printing stickers out and sticking them over and around their steering wheels.
The ban’s been lifted this year, but Hamilton and his new teammate Valtteri Bottas are keeping the sticker system.
Printers still rule.
Well played, Epson.
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