How Does a Digital Duplicator Work?

Standard Brand Digital DuplicatorIf you need to create mass copies, in the hundreds or even thousands, you may want to consider using a machine called a digital duplicator (found here). While you may never have seen a digital duplicator in person, they look very similar to a toner-based Xerox copy machine. So what is a digital duplicator and how do they work?

Are you familiar with ditto machines or mimeograph machines? I can still remember (perhaps this is showing my age) in school people asking for a ditto of something on the ditto machine. Both Ditto Machines (aka Spirit Duplicators) and Mimeograph machines utilize direct contact with paper to print text. Digital duplicators, in a way, borrow ideas from these technologies to create a modern-day ink-printing machine.

Using a digital duplicator is very similar to using a toner-based copy machine, like a Xerox copier, but the actual printing process is very different. Here is a step-by-step breakdown on how the process works.

  1. First you place your document, text facing down, on the glass scanning surface of the machine.
  2. The digital duplicator scans the image off the paper.
  3. The image is then burned onto a wax-based master via tiny dots. Different duplicators have different resolutions referred to as DPI (dots per inch).
  4. The master is then wrapped around an ink drum.
  5. The drum, filled with ink, squeezes ink out through the tiny holes on the master.
    As the drum rotates, it rolls over paper, leaving the image on the paper.
  6. The paper exits the machine and the process either continues with more paper or ends.

The ink dries very fast. If you are concerned about the ink not being dry enough, I recommend using an air paper jogger. They are designed to quickly dry ink for use with digital duplicators or even with offset printers.

One of the first digital duplicators created, around 1986, was made by the Riso Kaguka Corporation. Their machines were often referred to as Riso or Risograph machines. While Riso machines are still used today, digital duplicators made by Ricoh and Standard Duplicating are more commonly used.

So why would you want to use a digital duplicator? Ink is far less expensive than toner. If you plan on printing a lot of text, perhaps for a manual, menu, flier or other documentation, a duplicator makes a lot of sense.

So why are copy machines more popular? Copy machines are often used to create one, two or perhaps a few dozen copies at a time. In small quantities, toner-based copy machines cost less to operate. The most expensive part of using a digital duplicator is the master. The price, however, drops dramatically once you start making 25 or more copies.

Digital Duplicator SuppliesCopies made on a traditional copy machine typically run around $0.02 a copy. Duplicators, once you hit around 200 copies, costs about $0.004 a copy. Simply put, a duplicator (at 25 or more copies) costs less to operate. The text printing quality of a digital duplicator is just as good as a toner-based copy machine.

You can read more about duplicator operation costs by reading our Digital Duplicator School Guide found here.

You can find our entire selection of Standard digital duplicators here and our entire selection of Ricoh, Riso and Standard masters and inks here. Please feel free to call us at 1-800-658-8788 with any questions about digital duplicators.

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