It’s been clear for a couple of years that technology is no longer the primary driver for growth in the graphics industry. Technology is still important, obviously, but these days it is print applications that tend to push innovation the hardest. One such application is the idea of distributed print buying via the cloud, something that various developers, such as HP and EFI, have taken a stab at. There is a lot to be gained from the approach, which allows print buyers to upload their files and order print via the cloud, so that the print can be printed close by. The ecological savings are obvious in that much of this type of on demand work will be digitally printed. And the approach also saves on transport related emissions.
Wepa which operates in the US is an interesting, though limited, example of the model. This cloud based print on demand management system is gaining considerable traction within the academic community for which it was developed in the USA. Although it is specifically for universities and colleges, Wepa is not exclusive to them and its kiosks can be installed anywhere. Wepa provides and supports on demand print kiosks which are based on technology from OKI, on college campuses across the USA. Print buyers can upload their files and order their print using all forms of electronic interaction from mobile phones via Windows and Mac apps, through to USB uploads and email. Users set up their own accounts into which they deposit funds or they can pay via PayPal.
All documents reside in the cloud and Wepa has multiple data centres to ensure redundancy and so that nothing gets lost. The print units in the kiosks can print monochrome or colour, simplex or duplex. The kiosks are monitored and hosts can get reports of usage, so they can track which kiosks are the most popular. Wepa owns and manages the print stations and takes care of all costs including paper, toners, and related consumables. It monitors usage so that the kiosks are always stocked.
This production model has proved to be very attractive to students and faculty alike. Wepa kiosks are available on many US university campuses including some huge colleges such as the University of California at Los Angeles which serves over 44,000 students plus a host of faculties and administrators. This is just one site, and the on demand model could very well be a habit that users take with them beyond campus. We could be looking at a sea change in peoples’ expectations for print on demand along with a substantial reduction in wasted print.
– Laurel Brunner