A simple printing machine

The successor to the old-hand driven roneo machine is the digital duplicator machine, such as produced by Risograph of Japan.
Risographs are ideal for printing in many situations in the developing world. Recognising this, the company even offers a solar powered alternative for situations where grid power is not available.
Used mach {mosimage}The successor to the old-hand driven roneo machine is the digital duplicator machine, such as produced by Risograph of Japan.
Risographs are ideal for printing in many situations in the developing world. Recognising this, the company even offers a solar powered alternative for situations where grid power is not available.
Used machines are available at around 60% of the price of new machines.
Risograph of Japan claims to account for two-thirds of the modern high-quality digital duplicator market internationally. In Japan, almost every office has a Risograph or equivalent and is therefore able to undertake in-house printing of high-quality coloured labels, leaflets, documents and letters.
The Risograph looks similar to a photostat machine but does not work in the same way.
As with the old roneo machine, the template for printing is made on wax-covered paper. In the old days, the template was made by typing (with a heavy hand) onto the wax paper. In the modern machine, a scanner scans from the original document and sends the information about what to be duplicated in “Riso language” to the template paper.
This results in tiny holes being made in the template paper. In the printing process (both on the old and modern machines), the ink permeates these holes after the momentary impression against the drum
. However, the difference between the quality of the old and new product is huge. Also, while old-fashioned roneoing could only be done in black, modern digital duplicating allows for a variety of colours.
A different template must be made for each colour, and the drum must be changed for each colour. The paper being printed is passed through the machine once for each colour.
The Risograph has many advantages. It costs much less than a conventional printing machine. Although it generally costs more than a photostat machine, the Risograph can be used both for individual and mass run duplicating at pre-copy rates far below those of a photostat machine.
Risographs also print much faster than photostat machines – at 130 copies per minute or 7,800 per hour.
The cost of the template is about 30USc maximum (far below the equivalent costs in conventional printing); ink for duplicating costs about 0.2USc per sheet maximum (far below the costs for both conventional printing and photostating). The quality of black duplication is also generally far more refined than is achieved in photostating.
The cost of colour printing with a Risograph is far below that of colour photostating.
The Risograph’s operation is much simpler than that of a photostat machine. The paper to be printed by a photostat machine goes through a long, tortuous route; in the Risograph, the paper is moved once, on a straight path, for only about 220mm. There are thus far fewer possibilities for jams and breakdown. Risographs are known for their capacity to printing all day and night without hitch (as long as paper is supplied). Machine maintenance is minimal.
Unlike a photostat machine, which works via toner attracted to an electrostatic drum, the Risograph involves hardly any heat and few moving parts. Ink is replenished with new cartridges which cost around $30.
Flexibility is another feature. Paper of all sizes, including labels, envelopes and larger sizes, can be printed. Likewise, paper/card of many weights – between 46g to 210g – can be printed.
The Risograph’s limitations are:

  • As the process depends on quick ink absorption, glossy (coated) paper cannot be used.
  • Successive ‘passes’ have to be made of the paper to be printed. There is a limit to the number of colours which can be offered and each colour is pure/spot. Printing is therefore limited to the colours offered by Risograph and the subtle colour tones/combinations of conventional (offset) printing cannot be achieved.
  • Because the process relies on friction, slight overlaps in colour are common – colour registration is not as good as with conventional offset printing.
  • Because of this slight overlap, some ‘bleed’ is needed, so the print area for an A4 document should be designed (or zoomed on to the scanner) to be marginally (5%) smaller than full A4 size.
    The different colour templates (for the successive passes) can be produced manually (on paper) and placed on the machine for scanning. However, a major advance has been the ability to produce this on a normal personal computer (PC) linked to the Risograph. Via special printer software (no additional hardware is required), the separate colours are automatically transmitted in ‘Riso language’ to be printed separately in the successive passes.
    There are three basic types of Risograph machine.
  • The A4 printer, which costs about $3,500 (for all Risographs, the initial price includes the black drum; additional colour drums cost about $700-$850 each). This machine only prints on A4 paper.
  • The B4 printer which prints on a wider-than-A4 paper. This machine costs about $6,500.
  • The A3 machine, which prints on A3 paper and costs about $10,000-$12,000.
  • The A4 printer is offered with six possible standard colours besides black – brown, red, bright red, yellow, green and blue. The other models are offered with 19 possible standard colours besides black. A custom ink colour mixing service is offered for corporate colours. But, as with photostating and roneoing, the majority of duplicating is purely in black.
    The more basic models (the CR range) are offered with the option of solar powering via panels, which costs about $470. There is no charge for training, which normally takes half an hour. As the technology has been around for a long time, there are many service offices in developing countries. RISO AFRICA: shaun@risoafrica.co.za Tel +27 11 4632220 Fax +27 114632221

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