Computing - general &Curmudgeonliness 24 Jul 2007 10:50 am

Laser printer drum needs replacing. Solution: buy new printer!

I’ve been using a Brother HL-2040 laser printer for the last couple of years. It’s a small, cheap (available these days for under $100 after not too much shopping around) and fast (up to 20ppm) printer that produces good quality. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with it.

The toner cartridges for this printer cost around $75 (for the genuine item), and last for around 2,500 pages. That results in a fairly average cost per page.

The image transfer drum lasts for 12,000 pages, and costs around $120 (genuine item — once again, with not too much shopping around). In other words, the total price for a set of consumables is just on $200.

Remember… a whole printer with cartridge and drum costs under $100.

I’ve just inserted a toner cartridge, and my drum is up to 10,000 prints. In other words, when this toner runs out, the drum will be dead. (I’m not sure whether the printer’s software will disable printing until the drum is replaced.)

The only economically sensible thing to do will be to throw out a perfectly serviceable printer and buy a new one.

How silly is that?

And how does that make sense for the manufacturer? Surely Brother would be better off selling me a new drum for $20, rather than making me buy a whole new printer. The revenue for them (drum plus toner = $95 retail if they sell the drum for $20) would be about the same as for a whole printer, but the manufacturing costs would be MUCH lower: no case, no CPU, no RAM, no paper tray, no cables, no shipping carton, no manuals, etc.

And if I could buy a drum for $20, there’s a pretty good chance that I would buy five more Brother toner cartridges over the next couple of years. As it stands now, since I’ll need to buy a new printer anyway, I’ll be evaluating what’s available on the market. I may not buy a Brother printer at all.

The nett result of Brother’s drum pricing policy is this:

  • it’s bad for the environment because, one way or another, I have to throw out a working printer and buy a new one
  • it’s bad for Brother because if I buy another HL-2040, their costs are higher than if I were to buy just a drum and toner, but they get no extra revenue
  • it’s bad for Brother because they are sending me ‘to the market’, and I may not buy another Brother printer at all.

Now, I know all the reasons why spare parts and consumables are priced the way they are — it’s supposed to create a whole-of-life business/profitability model for the manufacturer. If they have to sell cheap up-front, at least they lock the buyer into consumables purchases over the life of the printer. But in this case, the price model is short-sighted, and it works to nobody’s benefit.

2 Responses to “Laser printer drum needs replacing. Solution: buy new printer!”

  1. on 10 Feb 2008 at 21:13 (Sydney) 1.The Flying Nerd » Blog Archive » New Brother laser printer installed - bad news for Brother! said …

    […] time ago, I wrote about the silliness of laser printer pricing compared to drum+toner […]

  2. on 21 Mar 2008 at 5:45 (Sydney) 2.David A said …

    Have to disagree with your assesment that the only economical solution is to purchase a new printer. What is your adversion to refurbished or knockoff equipment? Without much checking I found a drum for $60 and toner for $30 which is the same price as a refurbished printer, which I assume the $100 printer you write about would be, but for the same price you end up helping the environment. Still I do fault the manufacturer on this one for the pricing structure that does encourage dumping printers (that said – maybe you can sell your original printer to a refurbisher).