Joseph Herrin (08-18-2015)
I have a lot to report as Yahweh is doing a quick work in moving some things forward relating to the ministry to men in prison, as well as other areas of my life. I received a tremendous response from readers in relation to my previous post that mentioned a need to automate the record keeping and mailing list for men in prison. About a dozen people with computer skills in Microsoft Excel, Access, or other applications and programming languages, wrote to suggest ways to accomplish what I described in the post, as well as to volunteer their time to do the actual work of application development. I wish I could have accepted every person’s offer. Brothers and sisters were expressing a sincere desire to contribute to the furtherance of the ministry to men in prison, as well as desiring to give back for the blessings they have received through the Heart4God and Parables Blog websites.
In the end, I was led to accept one of the first offers I received. This came from a brother in Christ who works regularly with MS Excel and Visual Basic, the programming language that serves as a customization tool for the Microsoft Office Suite. I am looking forward to automating these data keeping processes, and having all the information relating to each prisoner readily available on computer. The efficiencies gained will enable me to continue to scale up as more men write to me every week asking to receive the newsletters.
Coinciding with this, I have received another unanticipated blessing. When I first began the prison ministry newsletters in 2009 I was able to use a small inkjet printer for all my publishing needs. Soon, the cost of purchasing replacement ink cartridges became very expensive as the business model for the majority of printer manufacturers is to sell people printers inexpensively, even at a loss, and then to charge huge mark-ups on the cost of consumables such as ink and toner. I tried various methods of saving money, such as refilling ink cartridges, eventually buying a bottle feed system that ran tubes from large tanks of ink directly to the printer.
This worked for a while, but it did have problems and required regular adjustments and repairs. It was also messy. Additionally, the inkjet printer I was using did not offer duplexing (printing on both sides of the paper), so I had to print all the odd numbered pages and then feed them back through upside down and print all of even numbered pages. I had to hope that I did not get confused and feed the paper in wrong and have to start over.
Once the number of men on the mailing list scaled up to about 30 a week, and I was averaging about 600 pages of print a week, it became necessary to migrate to a color laser printer. Prices had come down enough to make this affordable. Laser print offered a number of advantages. Unlike inkjet print, the laser print did not smudge or run when it got wet. The laser printer was faster, and it produced an overall nicer looking printed product. The printer I purchased also had a duplexing feature.
For the past couple of years I have been using a Brother HL-4150CDN printer. These printers are little workhorses. I could not begin to estimate how many hundred reams of paper I have printed during this time (a ream contains 500 sheets of paper). As time has gone by, however, it has become obvious that I was overtaxing the printers, requiring that I replace the image drum, drive belt, and waste toner container, and at times the entire printer, more frequently. If I did not do so, the quality of the printout would suffer. All of these parts are expensive, as is the toner itself. Brother charges about $120 per toner cartridge, and the printer contains four of them. In recent months I have been replacing an average of about 3 toner cartridges per week.
When I began using laser printers, I once more looked for more cost efficient ways to keep the printer running. I began refilling my toner cartridges. I would buy bottles of toner, and in most instances I could refill a toner cartridge twice before its print quality became degraded to the point that it had to be thrown away. I also found inexpensive toner cartridges on Ebay that retail for about $20 each. However, these cartridges sometimes leaked or had other problems, but on average they still provided a significant savings over purchasing the OEM cartridges.
In the past 6-8 months I have purchased two replacement printers on Ebay. They normally retail new for about $500. I was able to snag some used, low page count printers for about $200 each. Just salvaging the image drum, and drive belt would have been worth the price, but they also came with toner cartridges and my old printer was wearing out. I have been finding that the printers are wearing out much quicker of late, and the reason is obvious. Brother suggests a monthly workload of 500-3,000 pages for this particular model. I am now at a place where I am printing almost 4,000 pages every week.
All this printing was producing a lot of waste. The toner cartridges are fairly large, and all of them are individually boxed, and wrapped in plastic and Styrofoam padding. I do not have on-site trash pick-up at the rural location I have my motorhome parked at. I have been having to haul my trash on my trike about 9 miles to the nearest dumpster. I have also had to find room to store consumables. Lately I have kept a spare printer, replacement image drum, drive belt, and waste toner cartridge, and several cases of toner cartridges on hand. I have them tucked away in different spots inside my bus, as well as in the trailer I pull behind my bus.
I have considered hiring a print business to perform bulk printing for me. I would then store the bulk newsletters off-site where I could pull the necessary newsletters each week and affix a mailing label to them, fold them, affix postage to them, and mail them. The problem is that I currently have 122 distinct newsletter editions that I send out, so it is difficult to achieve any economy of scale. Ordering small print runs of each newsletter edition is extremely expensive. In the best case scenario I have found, it would cost me nearly ten times as much to have the job outsourced as to do it myself.
One day last week I was praying about the matter. It was time to replace some more parts on my printer, or replace the printer itself. I spoke to the Father about whether He would have me to get a more capable printer, or to pursue some other avenue. The next day a brother in Christ wrote to me and said he wanted to help me in some way with the prison ministry. In his e-mail he specifically asked if I had a need for a new printer. The Father’s hand was evidently guiding in the matter, so I prayed about it, did some research, and shared with this brother what I had in mind.
For some years I have been looking at solid ink printers. Few people are familiar with this technology, though it has been around since the early 1990s. Solid ink printers use solid blocks of ink that look and smell very much like the material Crayons are made of. These blocks are loaded into the printer in the place of using ink or toner cartridges. They have no external packaging, no mechanism to surround them, so they generate much less waste. In fact, it is estimated that solid ink printers generate 1/10th of the waste of a similar capacity laser printer.
This is very attractive to me as it means less trips to the dumpster as well as less space needed to store consumables.
Solid Ink Blocks
Loading Solid Ink Blocks
Because the user is not replacing the imaging unit, or an electronic/mechanical cartridge every time they add ink in one of these printers, the cost of consumables is far less than for laser printers. There is a different business model used with solid ink printers. The manufacturer charges a high cost for the printer and a much lower cost for consumables. It is estimated that a black print page runs about 1.3 cents, and 3 cents for color when using solid ink. This compares with a laser printer that is over 10 cents for a black page, and about 15 cents for color.
I became acquainted with this type of printer about 20 years ago when a friend with a graphic arts business told me about them. The initial cost of purchasing a solid ink printer has kept me from looking at them as a viable solution until now. The only company selling this type of printer (that I am aware of) is Xerox. They acquired the technology when they bought Tektronix’s color printing and imaging division in 2000. The highest capacity solid ink printer they offer, the ColorQube 8880, is the only one that has a monthly duty rating high enough to satisfy my current print requirements while also allowing some room for growth. It has a recommended monthly duty cycle of 15,000 pages, but is capable of 120,000 images per month (though it would be unsustainable at such a high duty cycle).
The print quality of solid ink is equal to laser quality, and because the ink hardens just like wax, it will not run or smear when it gets wet. Its melting point is above 200 degrees, so it will not melt and run if left in the Sun. The vivid colors produced by this printer will be greatly appreciated by the men in prison whose daily lives are so bereft of color and beauty. A final consideration for me was space. Remarkably, for a printer with five times the duty rating of the laser printer I have been using, its footprint is only a couple inches larger than the Brother HL-4150CDN.
Not every factor is in favor of this printer, however. It cannot be turned off and on as readily as a laser printer. It takes the printer 12 minutes to warm up as it has to melt the ink. It also has to purge the printhead of dried ink every time it has been shut down and restarted, and this uses up ink. Consequently, it is best to leave the printer turned on all the time (I normally did this with my laser printer, anyway.) Also, the printer has to be turned off for at least 30 minutes before moving it. This is to allow the well of melted ink to harden so that it does not slosh around the inside of the printer damaging critical parts. And if you do not like the smell of melted Crayons, you would likely not desire to be around one of these printers very long.
My main concern, however, is maintenance. I am a trained printer technician as printer repair was part of my job duties when I worked in computer management at a healthcare complex. I later taught computer management, including printer repair, at a local technical college for two years. I have never worked with solid ink printers, however. I may not be able to do as much of the maintenance myself. This is a real concern, for printers, especially those that are heavily used, do have breakdowns. The printer does come with a one year onsite maintenance agreement as part of the cost of purchase. This covers all parts and labor. Additional extended warranties can be purchased through the printer seller, such as Amazon.
I informed this brother who had inquired whether I had a need to purchase another printer, that I had been praying about replacing my printer the day before he contacted me. I shared with him my thoughts about solid ink printers. I told him I knew that the cost was likely more than he had in mind, so I did not want him to think there was any expectation on my part that he should bear the entire cost. Other brothers and sisters have sent financial gifts of late, and I was confident the Father would provide whatever was needed for the continuance of the ministry. I encouraged this brother to pray about it, and then to just give as the Spirit led him.
This morning I saw that the brother sent a financial gift via PayPal for $2,200, enough to cover the entire cost of the printer. What a tremendous gift! This leads me to remark somewhat on the numbers relating to this printer. I would never select a printer simply because of some significance in its nomenclature, but I do look at such things to see what significance they convey.
You may have noted from the video that the printer can hold a total of 2,200 sheets of paper if all the paper trays are purchased. (In the configuration I have selected it hold 625 sheets.) It also handles up to 220 gsm paper (a weight specification). The number 22 has been a theme throughout my life and ministry. The divine significance of the number 22 relates to the removal of the flesh and the work of the cross.
Additionally, the model number 8880 evokes reference to the number 888 which is the gematria value for the name of Christ in Greek. The English name Jesus in the Greek language is Iesous. Each Greek letter is also a number, and the value of the characters in the name Iesous come to the sum of 888.
If you want to observe something quite remarkable relating to Christ, the number 888, and the element Oxygen, I encourage you to read the short article titled Gospel Chemistry.
I placed the order for the Xerox ColorQube 8880 printer today. I anticipate that by next week I will be using it to turn out beautiful, full-color newsletters for men in prison.
An additional blessing is that I will be able to pass along my old printer to my daughter Kristin who has recently set her heart to begin producing newsletters to share with the young women of her church and those in the community to whom she ministers.
I have more to share, as I have been making progress on other projects as well, and the Father’s blessings have been abundant, but I will save that news for another post.
My sincere thanks go out to all those who took the time to respond to the previous blog post and to offer their insight, skills, and time to the furtherance of the ministry to men in prison.
May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.
Heart4God Website: http://www.heart4god.ws
Parables Blog: www.parablesblog.blogspot.com
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063