ITS Campus Computing Sites

Duplex Printing

Sites Uses Recycled Paper


Campus Computing Sites has switched to 30% post-consumer recycled paper for all black-and-white printing services and 100% post-consumer recycled paper for all color printing services. The acid-free recycled paper is Environmental Chlorine-Free (ECF).

All Campus Computing Sites printers can print double-sided (duplex). You need to manually select the duplex (2-sided) option. This procedure may vary from printer to printer.

January, 2011:
As we move to new printer models, specifically the HP 4515, we've found that duplex print has been more reliable than with the HP 4350/4300. We plan to continue analysis and solicit the campus community to assess whether duplex as a default setting is more desirable that simplex as a default.

When printing duplex, you are charged per printed side of paper. A regular 8x11 black and white duplex print-out would count as 2 pages of your standard computing services printing allocation.

Why don't we set duplex printing as the default in Sites?

Campus Computing Sites is often asked why we don't set our printers to print double-sided ("duplex") as a resource-saving strategy. We'd like to take this opportunity to describe our overall testing process and explain our current position on single vs. double-sided printing.

It is true that millions of sheets of paper pass through our printers! Last year Sites' printers processed over 23 million pages and we're projecting 4-8% growth this year. Our job is to aggressively test black-and-white and color print options for durability, speed, and the ability to work within our printing architecture. Our testing begins in a lab specifically designed for this purpose.

Before we can even begin testing a printer as a duplex printer, it must first demonstrate that it can serve reliably as a simplex (single-sided) model. The printer must print without error while accepting jobs from our technical printing architecture. Each print request must process, authenticate, filter, check for funding, send and receive data from each printer. Most printer models do not contain the correct firmware, network card or other specifications to even be considered for further testing. If the printer passes the first test (including integration with our accounting system) it can move on to field-testing.

The current backbone of our printing environment is the HP 4300/4350. However, we will continue to field-test other printer models (that pass our initial tests) in our Angell Hall site. We use Angell Hall for field-testing because we know that the printer will be hit with extremely aggressive and high-volume requests containing all types of jobs. (Our Angell Hall PC print queue processed over 3.1 million pages last year!) The printer must be able to successfully interpret the postscript and process single-sided print jobs equal to or better than the .00010% failure rate standard for our HP 4300.

Any potential candidate must also be faster than our HP 4300. More paper is wasted if individuals are forced to wait too long because they often abandon their print jobs. Print queues for an earlier generation of Sites printers sometimes piled up more than 150 jobs! In situations like this, we can assure you that the vast majority of those jobs were abandoned and up to 1,000 pages of paper were wasted. If a printer cannot pass the field test (speed and jam-rate) the printer is no longer considered a viable candidate.

Once we've identified an exceptional simplex model, we begin testing it as a duplex printer. Some of our users routinely choose duplex printing as an option, and we do receive some requests to make duplex printing the standard in our environment. It's worth noting that there are two locations where duplex printing is currently the default option. The Furstenberg Student Study Center is open to medical students only. However, the Learning Resource Center in the Taubman Medical Library is open to all eligible campus users who wish to work or print there. These sites have been set up this way because the unit hosting them has specifically requested duplex printing.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest problems with duplex printing is that it takes more than twice as long to process, resulting in longer queues and more abandoned jobs. Also, in analyzing error logs (printer malfunctions), we see a 200-500% increase in jams associated with duplex printing. These jams are the leading reason why system-wide duplex printing is not a viable model for our current environment. When considering our human resource support model (we pay our student roving staff $75,000 per year for printer support), it would cost between $150,000 and $375,000 to address the increased jam rate.

Additionally, these figures don't take into account increased printer maintenance costs, time demands on full-time staff, or higher vehicle costs to travel to sites to remedy the problems. The actual cost increase to support duplex printing would be very difficult to calculate but we do know it would be prohibitively high!

Print toner is also a consideration. We currently spend approximately 26% of our annual printing budget on toner. We purchase remanufactured toner because it costs 50% less than an originally manufactured company brand (OEM). It is also much more environmentally responsible to use remanufactured toner. Toner is extensively tested because any printer considered for Sites must be fiscally supportable with respect to its consumables (toner, maintenance kits, etc.).

Now, a few comments about paper. At Sites we pay about $.0049 per actual piece of paper. If we multiply that number by 22,956,030 (our 2004 total page count) we have a cost of $112,484. If we were to default to duplex printing we could save half that amount ($56,242) per year in paper costs. However, the high cost of maintenance (clearing jams and more) would dwarf the potential paper savings. In other words, if we were to default to system-wide duplex printing, we would not be able to support our printing environment. The models we choose must be supportable. Based on our testing, there is currently no duplex-capable system that meets our requirements.

In the end, we find that only a very small percentage of printers qualify for our demanding environment. If we find a printer that passes our initial tests, we must then compare it to our current model. If the new model better serves our needs, we begin replacing all older models, since supporting multiple printer types is very expensive and difficult in our Sites loadset environment.

Duplex printing will always be tested in our environment. Each new printer will be tested, and if we find one that can reliably provide duplex printouts and is supportable, we would consider making it the default setting. It seems counter-intuitive, but given our test data and observed performance in the field, we've found that single-sided printing is a more environmentally and financially viable solution than duplex printing.

The goal of the Campus Computing Sites is to provide high quality printing at the lowest possible price while implementing environmentally friendly practices whenever possible. We will continue to research products and options. If you have information or technical resources that can help in the quest to find good duplex printing, we certainly welcome your suggestions.

Please contact with additional questions and or concerns.