Kiosk printers 101: How to ensure reliablility
Anyone who has dealt with printers knows they have a bad tendency of jamming, running out of ink and generally being a pain in the neck. Kiosk printers are no exception to that rule, but they can prove reliable if you follow a few simple steps. Also, they are rapidly expanding beyond the realm of receipts into 3D printing, tag printing and other tasks, so choosing a reliable printer is more important than ever.
Printers aren't just for paper
Kiosk printers are expanding into every direction lately. Toys "R" Us witnessed the power of kiosk printing first hand when it deployed PieceMaker's 3D printer, which allowed children to craft their own toys. Children used the kiosk touchscreen to select their toy and add their own colors or words to the toy. Another company is constructing pizzas with 80-year old yeast and a 3D printer.
The company, Card Isle, is using kiosk printers to change the greeting card industry. The company developed a kiosk that allows users to create custom greeting cards from the artwork to the actual greeting.
Microcom is using printers for the airport industry by printing linerless bag tags, according to Andrea Flowers, national account manager, Microcom. These are just a few examples of new uses for kiosk printers, and as printers become more advanced, it becomes more critical to integrate them properly to ensure they work as intended. Below are a few tips to follow:
Don't skimp on the printer
"In the printing industry, everybody wants to go cheap and that's a problem," Dave Dezse, Senior Vice President and Chief Technical Officer for Microcom, said in an interview.
Many kiosk businesses, according to Dezse, will attempt to purchase the cheapest printer possible. When the printer breaks, they will have to make a service call. When you add up the repair costs, it would have been more cost effective just to buy a more premium printer, according to Dezse.
Investing more money into a kiosk printer generally offers you higher-quality parts such as a better print head, cutter and stepper motor. This helps your printer last longer, avoid angry customers, and ultimately increase your return on investment.
Watch out for jams
No one likes ripping jammed paper out of a printer, and that goes double for consumers interacting with a kiosk.
"Paper jams can be tremendously frustrating for both users and operators, and the cost of repair can be quite excessive," Frank Ouyang, company chief manager of Panda Paper Roll Company, said in a story.
The best way to avoid this issue, according to Dezse, is to print as slowly as you can and design your kiosk to keep customer's hands away from the printer.
"If the users can put their hand over the slot they will do it," Dezse said. He suggests kiosk manufacturers develop a drop chute to prevent this issue. The idea behind the drop chute is that consumers typically understand its purpose and will wait for the media to drop into the chute rather than cover the printer opening which can cause a paper jam. It can also prevent consumers from pulling on the paper before it’s finished printing, an action that can cause more serious issues.
Printing speed can also cause jams if you make the device print faster than it is designed. It can also reduce overall quality. The only way to prevent this is to set the printer to, "print as slow as you can tolerate," Dezse said.
Build your kiosk with the peripherals in mind
Another big problem, according to Dezse, is when kiosk manufacturers design their kiosks and then try to find the right printer to shove into it. Kiosk and printer manufacturers alike run into trouble finding the best printer at the right size. Dezse can attest to the issue of pairing the right printer to a kiosk. He explains, “Even though we have a full line of kiosk printers that can print from one inch up to eight inches wide, we will consult with a customer that has a truly unique application. If that’s the case, our sales team will walk the customer through customizing an existing printer to fit their needs.”
Dezse understands the best way to ensure all components fit into a kiosk comfortably by explaining, "You start with the peripherals and design around that.” He continues, "You also need to consider where your kiosk will be located. If you plan to place your kiosk outdoors, then you will need to work in a more robust printer in your budget that can withstand heat and you will need some sort of cooling system within the kiosk itself."
If you have paper within the outdoor kiosk, you also need something in place to protect it from damage.
"You need to always consider airflow relative to the components in an outdoor unit. If there is paper in a kiosk, for instance, you want to ensure that paper is protected from humidity so that it doesn't get hung up or bogged down," Meridian CEO Chris Gilder said in a previous story.
Remember the customer
No matter what printer you choose, you still need to answer this basic question: "How will this device improve the customer's experience?" If it's designed poorly, it will cause frustration and a frustrated customer will likely avoid using that kiosk again, or even worse, tell their friends not to use that kiosk.
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Companies: Microcom Corporation