|MFPA Overview: What is the MFPA?|
What's the MFPA?
It's simple. Get office machines, computer peripherals, and Internet resources to talk to each other and they'll become more capable, easier-to-use, easier-to-build and more efficient. The MFPA (Multifunction Products Association) is a coalition of over 30 major office equipment, computer hardware and computer software developers and manufacturers all dedicated to achieving this goal.
Since August, 1993, the MFPA sponsors and develops open standards for communications between printers, copiers, scanners, fax machines, and computers as well as standards for design and development of products that combine one or more of these functions in one unit (MFP's), or couple single-function equipment to achieve multifunctionality.
What is an "MFP"?
Spelled out: Multi Function Product/Printer/Peripheral. Also called Multi Function Device, All-in-One etc.
Office equipment for paper management connected to a PC or network that handles two or more of the following functions: printing, scanning, copying or faxing.
MFPs exist in a wide performance and functionality range and most can be categorized in the following:
Is a Multi-function device a better choice than several single-function devices?As always, "it depends".
The quality and reliability of individual functions in an MFP is now at a level where they parallel single-function devices.
If you contemplate buying new shared printers and copiers there's every reason to consider buying digital copiers and use them for both purposes.
If you want to equip your home or small office, a fax-machine MFP is a good choice as it saves space and decreases running costs as all output functionality shares the same ink or toner.
Note that especially in terms of the lower-end MFPs, capacity might not be equal to that of a single-function device. For example, if you only need printing, an MFP is probably not the best choice as you are spending money on additional features you don't need. On the other hand, an MFP is a great choice for most businesses that need printers, copiers, scanners, and probably facsimile.
What are the main choices in technologies?
Regarding printing, most lowend MFPs use inkjet technology, but an increasing number use laser technology. For best black-n-white quality at a low cost-per-page, buy a laser MFP. If you want color and a low (initial) price, inkjet is the choice. Beware: color inkjet printing is expensive on a cost-per-page basis, frequently reaching $0.28 per page for ink, as compared with B&W laser printing at about $0.03.
Expect most MFPs to use USB ("Universal Serial Bus") in the future. All PCs sold today have a USB port, and Windows 98 supports automatic installation of USB devices. USB is good for the slower MFP products, but it doesn't have the bandwidth for higher speed devices.
If the MFP will be shared (typical for a digital copier) check before purchase that you can print, fax and scan via the network (at least optionally). You never know when you'll need it.
Some examples of benefits
Software tools and add-onsWhen you buy an MFP you may get software for utilizing the MFP's features from a PC. E.g. an MFP with fax capability typically allows paper faxing as well as faxing from/to the PC. It's also common that you get some form of personal document management tool as part of the package. This makes it easier to manage received faxes and scanned images and documents.
For connecting an MFP to the network either the MFP manufacturer provides the connectivity, or you can buy from third-party providers. Printing is what most provide network connectivity for, but there's a trend to also enable scanning and faxing via the network.