Epson’s Bruce Bealby raced in for a chat. He likes doing things at a pace. Especially as Epson is an Official Team Partner of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport.
Bruce explained that more than 150 of its products are currently integrated across the different departments of the reigning Formula One world champions – including inkjet printers, scanners, 3LCD projectors and wearable devices.
Bruce Bealby is General Manager Sales and Marketing for Epson’s consumer division. He has been with Epson Australia since 2002. That is a lot of both Epson and industry expertise.
One could say he’s in it for the long haul as he does ultra-marathons in his spare time. The interview is paraphrased to avoid copious repetition of “He said.”
GG: That is a long time with one company. It is great to see such dedication but why is Bruce Bealby still there?
I started working in product and marketing roles at Sony in the UK and Europe from 1994 to 2002. Those 7.5 years set me on a path.
I gained a job at Epson Australia (every Brit wants to escape the weather) and moved to Sydney as Business Marketing Manager of Video Display products. Through a series of promotions, I ended up General Manager – Sales and Marketing – Consumer Division for Australia and New Zealand.
But that does not explain why I have stayed there.
One of the main reasons is that Epson spends 5.2% of its revenue on research and development. That puts us up there in the top 20 or so companies in the world R&D wise. R&D changes the world, and I like that.
Next, we hold about 1,500 patents, and that also places us in the top 20 or so patent holders. It’s the innovation and subsequent patents that drive Epson.
Finally, our president Minoru Usui, himself an engineer, has a vision of creating value for our customers by pursuing technological innovation.
GG: Innovation is an easy word to use. Can you be more specific?
We created the world’s first compact, lightweight digital printer; the world’s first quartz watch; and the world’s first photo-quality inkjet printer. The technology behind these products did not exist before we made them.
Each of these products was developed from the ground up by Epson engineers. They aspired to bring certain value to the world or to create products that would benefit people’s lifestyles. Over the years, this approach has become deeply embedded in Epson’s DNA.
We are innovating in four key areas: inkjet (printers), visual (projectors), wearables (such as Moverio) and robotics.
By the way, do you know what Epson means? EP is a reference to the first printer developed for the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, and “Son” refers to the next generation- “EPSON – Son of Electronic Printer”.
Epson went public in 2003 on the Tokyo Stock Exchange – that was an exciting time.
GG: OK Bruce I get that Epson is an innovator. Why do you still make dot matrix printers?
To be fair, we make a huge range of inkjet, thermal and dot matrix printers.
Dot Matrix still has a place for tractor-feed, multi-part reports (original and up to ten parts) at up to 1,550 characters per second. They are the most reliable way of producing copious reams of reports.
We also invented the standard printer control language ESC/P (Epson Standard Code for Printers). And yes, it is true that most of these models use designs from several years ago. Don’t laugh but we have nine models, and they all fit a niche and are still selling well.
Other printers are for specific uses like labels, CD/DVD printing, receipt/POS printing, banking, kiosk ticket printers, mobile printers and more.
GG: OK to inkjets. It was a pretty bold move to abandon laser technology
The main reason we stopped making laser printers is that we did not develop the technology. We really could not add value as we have in the inkjet area with our patented PrecisionCore (Micro Piezo) printhead.
Equally, we found that lasers were less environmentally sustainable, used more electricity and were expensive to run regarding total cost of ownership.
It was also an ecological disaster. Buy a cheap laser printer, use it until it runs out of toner and then buy another. A vicious circle with many cheap printers ending up in the landfill.
Conversely, ink tank printers have many benefits for the user and are far friendlier to the environment.
GG: There is a huge trend to ink-tank printers, especially in South America, India and Asia. Why?
You could say that these markets are more value driven. They have discovered that continuous ink-tank printers have a far lower cost to run. And are far more reliable.
In fact, these markets were the biggest ‘offenders’ for modifying printers and refilling cartridges and causing all sorts of printhead issues. Refillable ink-tanks, Epson EcoTank is the answer.
Our entry-level MFC ET-2700, 10.5/5ppm (colour) printer costs $399. It comes with enough ink to print 6500/5200 (mono/colour) pages. After that replacement ink is $74 for 7,500/6,000 pages. That is about a cent a page!
GG: What printers sell the most?
Most people will always look for the lowest entry price, so our consumer ‘Expression’ inkjets fly out the door.
The more discerning user realises the value of EcoTank printers. We see a huge uptake in the small office home office (SOHO) markets. Here it is a case of the more you pay, the faster it gets – up to 16/8.8 ISO ppm.
It’s also interesting that many customers buy EcoTank printers not only for the cost benefits but also the convenience. A ‘set and forget’ printer offers real peace of mind for customers, especially when there are kids in the house.
Next category is photo printing. Our EcoTank uses five colours and will print photo quality up to borderless A3. The ET-77 series will print over 3500, 4 x 6-inch photos from one ink tank fill, each one taking just 27 seconds.
It’s a huge range, but every printer fills a niche.
GG: EcoTank may be the solution to cost but what about quality?
The quality of the print depends on the paper you use. If you match the right paper to the job while using a high-quality inkjet solution such as a PrecisionCore-powered EcoTank printer, you will get excellent, low-cost results.
As a result, we are seeing a massive increase in sales of EcoTank printers in Australia right now.
GG: Moving on to Epson projectors. Like printers, there is a huge range of home, business, education and large venue. Why?
It is all about cost and benefits.
Our home theatre projectors sell well and range in cost from around $1,149 to $8,999. When you consider that the top model, the EH-LS10500 will give you a stunning 1080p image up to 300-inches in size you can see the niche for media rooms.
Business projectors need to be in most boardrooms. These range from $499 (SVGA) to $2,700 (W-UXGA). Here resolution (W-UXGA) and brightness (4,000-5,000 lumens) are becoming the new standards.
Education uses some business projectors but is keen on the short throw, ultra-short throw and interactive overhead models.
And where we shine (to use a pun) is in the large venue projectors that start at $4,499 and go up many times from there. These are installation (often mounted in theatre ceilings) projectors that need low maintenance. Laser light sources fix issues of bulb replacement, and higher lumens up to 25,000 are best. You will have seen us a Vivid, The Bledisloe Cup and many major venues.
Where we see the newest demand is in high definition projector mapping for different shapes like buildings at Vivid in Sydney.
GG: Laser seems to be the answer to the future of projectors. What are you doing there?
At present, it’s a matter of cost. Laser light sources are great but are more expensive to make. Halogen bulbs are less costly.
3LCD projectors use a prism to separate light into its red, green and blue components. Each part of the light passes through a separate LCD panel. This combines into a single full-colour image and projects it through the lens. It gives superior colours.
DLP projectors bounce the light off a DLP chip with one mirror for each pixel. The reflected image then passes through a colour wheel that tints it.
Where our 3LCD might have both 3,000-lumen white brightness and 3,000 colour brightness most DLP only quote white lumens because their colour brightness is significantly less. This is why 3LCD projectors give much brighter and vibrant images.
GG: What about 4K projectors?
Some Epson projectors offer 4K ‘enhancement’ combined with UHD 4K Blu-ray and high dynamic range (HDR) support, motorised optics and lens position memory. These home cinema projectors combine the latest imaging technologies to bring movies to life with extra detail.
They feature 4K enhancement to bring a new level of finesse to the texture and resolution of the projected image, whether they’re displaying native 4K content or digitally upscaling Full HD 1080p content. This gives users the optimal visual experience with more depth, detail and natural yet intense colours. In fact, their expansive colour gamut displays the entire sRGB and DCI-P3 colour spaces.
GG: Last year I attended the Epson Moverio BT-300 smart glasses launch. How is that going?
Moverio smartglasses are finding interesting niches. For example, they are the only smartglasses that you can legally track and fly a drone with. It is now mandatory to be able to see the drone whenever it is flying.
Then there is the education market. We see things like a virtual ambulance and pharmacy. Many universities are still playing and experimenting with them. It is all about apps and use cases. Yes, there will be more models coming. It is all part of a bigger future.
GG: And what about the future?
I have not mentioned robotics. We have been a major supplier of industrial robots and robotics for over 30 years.
We are also working on sensors – pulsimeters, vital signs, gyro, earthquake sensors and so much more. These also go into the micro-devices we make – we merge technologies.
Our PrecisionCore piezoelectric printheads are always getting better, faster and higher print quality.
But my main message today is to stop being afraid to print. EcoTank is a great option for many customers, and it’s our job to make them aware of the options. We need to get that message through that it is safe, and low cost, to print again.
We also need to educate people that its safe to print their photos for better emotional connections. A photo on a smartphone just does not cut it.
GG: Final words?
Epson is more than a printer, scanner and projector maker.
Epson has a great culture and talented people. We are about discovery and making better products.
GadgetGuy’s take – well I never knew
I wondered why Epson stopped making lasers. Now I understand that company DNA dictates that it must innovate from the ground up. As it did not own that technology, it could not do too much with it.
We did speak about the humble inkjet printer. You know the one costs $50, and the replacement ink is $100. While Bruce did not say it, I could read between the lines that he wished EcoTanks were the only inkjets from a total cost of ownership perspective. Perhaps that is why many of his competitors are all going that way too.
And rightly so. A cheap inkjet can cost north of 35 cents a page – it does not take long (less than a couple of ream of paper) before EcoTanks are cheaper.
On the projector side, there is a good future for education, commercial and large venue use. But with 4K, 65/75-inch TV now from less than $1,000 the home cinema market needs a rethink.
And I do enjoy a good day at the F1 – hint, hint.
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