A Multifunction Printer, often referred to as a MFP, is a device that consolidates the functionality of a printer, copier, scanner, and sometimes fax into one machine. Multifunction Printers are becoming a common choice for businesses wanting to reduce costs and improve office workflows, but understanding what type of MFP is a fit for your business can seem a bit daunting. There’s a lot to consider when purchasing an MFP, but did you know there are actually different types of MFP’s out there? For a while, it seemed like most manufacturers divided up their products into segments based on a couple criteria.
- Speed in pages-per-minute (ppm) for print / copy / scan
- Duty-cycle / Robustness
- Color vs. Black & White
- Other Basic Functionality
It seems that manufacturers today are changing that up a bit in an effort to connect their products with the consumers searching for them. What resulted from this slight shift in marketing efforts are several new classifications.
- All-in-One MFP
- SOHO MFP
- Office MFP
- Production Printing MFP
Each of these new groupings talk more to the typical consumer type than before and seem aimed at helping customers ultimately connect with a machine that’s a good fit for their needs; a very daunting task for consumers of past.
Those small desktop machines designed for the home or home-office are often referred to as the All-in-One MFP. They typically focus on scanning and printing functionality and sometimes even come bundled with software aimed towards interests of a home user. The All-in-One will always include the basic printing and scanning functions, but sometimes will come with copy and fax capabilities as well, (though there are far less with fax). Machines that fit in this category in the past were not networked, but required connection via USB or Parallel. However, more modern machines, (within the last couple of years), have made the move to a standard support of Ethernet and/or Wi-Fi connections. There are more home-geared features found in this category that is not found in others, like DVD burning, “Lightscribe” functionality, and the ability to print directly from your camera or smart-card.
SOHO MFP’s, (short for Small Office / Home Office), can be either a desktop or a freestanding machine which is generally focused on basic print/copy/scan/fax functionality. A difference noted between this and the Office MFP segment machines is that these do not often come with simple document storage, retrieval, and authentication functions until at the larger end of this category. The line between this and the Office MFP might seem a bit blurry, but usually features like finishing functionality, duplexing, stapling, and hole-punching are not found in this segment. What you will find in a SOHO MFP are features like, automatic document feeder, greater fax capabilities, and faster speeds as compared to an All-in-One.
Probably the most commonly used office devices are Office MFP’s, which act as a central hub or office system. They are free-standing machines designed with fully featured print/copy/scan/fax functionalities as well as networked document storage, security, authentication, and the ability to run custom software. Some manufacturers supply a SDK, (software development kit), but you can also find 3rd party companies that design software and even create simple MFP user interfaces for these machines to better meet your business’s needs. Some Office MFP’s commonly feature advanced finishing functions like duplexing, stapling, hole-punching, and booklet-creation. While they are almost always networked, many offer USB and Parallel connections as well.
The big-boys are the Production Printing MFP’s. These are large free-standing, central printing-devices or reprographic-department devices. They are much bigger and subsequently more expensive than the Office MFP. There is a little give and take even with these machines though, in that they generally do not have the advanced network functions of the smaller machines. However, they are typically leaps and bounds ahead of other machines in terms of speed, quality of output, and finishing options. The focus in this family is definitely on production printing specifically. While most Production Printing MFP’s have a scanner; consumers looking for devices in this category rarely use this functionality, which is subsequently pretty basic.
Whichever category you look at, it seems manufacturers are working to better guide consumers towards devices that are not only easy to understand, but also fitting for users of all types. For a better understanding of what functionality you might need, please check out this article.