‘World’s Smallest’ A3-Capable MFP Makes Its Mark in Japan
Innovative Roof Cassette and Compact Design Offer an Easy Desktop Fit
Muratec looks to attract Japanese buyers with its new MFX-5180, which the company is marketing as the ‘world’s smallest A3-capable MFP’. Launched in September 2015 for the Japanese market only, the 18-ppm MFX-5180 provides four-in-one MFP functionality in a unit that’s a mere 45 cm wide and 53.8 cm deep. It’s compact enough to sit unobtrusively on desktops, and its small-office footprint should certainly appeal to space-sensitive businesses. Remarkably for such a diminutive multifunctional device, it supports A3 media and does so very neatly via what Muratec hails as a new design concept—the A3 ‘roof cassette’. “Traditional MFPs have been large simply by virtue of having an A3 cassette, explains Toru Hiraoka, Muratec’s Product Planning Department Manager. “The larger the paper cassette became, the bigger the device had to be, because the paper cassette was located under its print engine. With our roof cassette concept, we’ve kept the MFX-5180 compact by placing a 100-sheet capacity A3 cassette right below the scanner. Also, the size of the engine itself has been reduced successfully by limiting the media-handling capability of the second-layer cassette to a maximum sheet size of A4 SEF/LEF.”
The device’s roof cassette is certainly an impressive product design feature and means that space-strapped Japanese offices and businesses that need to print and copy to A3 are now able to do so, in-house.
“With our roof cassette concept, we’ve kept the MFX-5180 compact by placing a 100-sheet capacity A3 cassette right below the scanner.” –Muratec’s Toru Hiraoka
Another key hardware demand pertinent to the Japanese market is robust fax functionality. Whilst the use of fax as a medium of communication is on the wane in certain global territories, fax is firmly holding its ground in Japan, with many businesses still relying on fax communication for placing orders, invoicing and providing information to customers. Indeed, the MFX-5180 certainly packs in plenty of fax features via its optional Information server 6 software. It helps users to streamline business fax workflow processes by:
• Enabling the transmission of documents between a user’s PC and the fax, as well as allowing fax transmission via the internet
• Using the PC-Fax transmission method, a user can see an incoming fax on their PC, write something directly on it, and send it onwards to their colleague or client
• Allowing incoming faxes to be saved on the device’s hard drive and, using its OCR capability, the user can subsequently execute a full-text search on stored faxes or search by date using a calendar displayed on a PC
• Offering the ability to transfer incoming faxes to smartphones (when Muratec’s free FaxReply mobile app is installed), with the added convenience of allowing workers to be responsive anytime, anyplace (for example, a busy sales person can check an incoming customer fax while on the go and also add a note in the document and send back a reply using the FaxReply app)
Information server 6 provides additional scan flexibility for office workers, too. It allows users to scan to numerous destinations such as Evernote, PC, email or network folders. On top of this, mobile print capability is provided via the Muratec Mobile app, which is free to download from the Apple or Google Play stores, and allows workers to print PDF documents and image files stored on their smart devices.
Whilst Muratec is the originator, it is not the only vendor selling this device in the Japanese space. Konica Minolta has partnered with Muratec to rebadge the MFX-5180 and add it as the bizhub 1842f MFP to their hardware portfolio; it was subsequently launched in Japan in December 2015.
Konica Minolta’s bizhub 1842f MFP is the next generation model to the bizhub 1341f, and there are plenty more improvements over its predecessor, as Tomoaki Hashimoto, who oversees product planning for the Japanese market, is keen to point out. “The 1341f was able to print to B4 maximum, whereas the bizhub 1842f can print up to A3 size although it is almost as compact as 1341f. Whereas its predecessor had a monochrome LCD panel, this latest model features a 7" colour LCD touchscreen panel, which provides improved operability on the 1842f.”
“It also has a variety of fax functions to boost productivity and reduce waste in the office,” Hashimoto continued. “Users can check the scanned image of the original document on the operation panel in advance, which can prevent the wrong document from being transmitted. The device can store incoming faxes on its hard drive, which means that walk-up users can check a preview of the received fax prior to printing it out. The user will not need to print any unnecessary faxes, thus reducing the overall cost and waste.”
Muratec’s and Konica Minolta’s models both are only available in Japan, and the vendors have no plans to extend this right now, so what makes this device so well suited for this particular territory? Konica Minolta’s Hashimoto says that, “Often, Japanese customers will demand compactness because of limited office installation space, while requiring A3-capability. The 1842f’s compactness has received positive user feedback as it can be easily used in a small office environment or in a (minute) shop stockroom. In addition, due to the use of fax as a popular internal/external communication tool, in the past Japanese customers have tended to install a photocopy-dedicated device and a separate fax-dedicated machine to avoid losing incoming faxes and prevent transmitting anything to wrong destinations. Now, many manufacturers are terminating the production of fax machines, so we see the 1842f as a key opportunity for customers to replace their old machines with a new integrated device with robust fax features.”
Despite both vendors selling their respective models only in Japan, they are managing to coexist in the overall market as there is not too much overlap between their dealer networks, according to Hashimoto. Muratec owns a number of communication service dealers that sell telephone equipment and so on, while Konica Minolta sells the bizhub 1842f through both direct and dealers’ channels and liaises with office equipment dealers who mainly sell photocopiers.
Both Muratec and Konica Minolta report that both dealer and customer feedback has been positive so far, with dealers warming to the model’s clear-cut sales points, its compact and desktop-friendly size, and its ability to print on A3 paper. Certainly, when comparing the MFX-5180/bizhub 1842f device with similar models competing in the Asian market, it holds up favourably against its claim, offering the smallest width measurement of its class.
Given the ever-increasing trend for ever-decreasing device sizes, we’re sure that the MFX-5180/bizhub 1842f model will make a big impression on more than just cut-sheet media.