There are few things more frustrating than walking over to the office printer, only to discover it spat out a bunch of blank pages. But with Epson’s newest product, the PaperLab office paper-making system, that’s the entire idea.
About the size of two ATMs, PaperLab takes used printer paper and creates fresh, new sheets at a rate of up to 14 A4-sized pages per minute. That’s equal to 6,720 sheets (or more than a case of paper) over an 8-hour workday. How fast is that? By comparison, Epson’s Workforce Pro printer, another eco-friendly device designed for high-volume business printing, outputs 20 pages per minute — but those sheets have ink all over them.
The machine works by turning used pages back into long, thin, cottony fibers. Those fibers are then reassembled into paper using binding agents. Depending on the binders used, the recycled paper can be different colors (including white, obviously), have varying strengths, contain certain fragrances, and even be flame resistant. Once the fibers are bound, pressure forming creates the page, and allows it to have various density, thickness, and sizes.
Epson is also billing the PaperLab as “the world’s first production system using a dry process.” But while it does require some water, it’s only an amount small enough to maintain a specific humidity level within the machine — so no extra plumbing is necessary.
This product from Epson, which has been making electronic printers since the early 1960s, could have huge ramifications for businesses. On the face of it, recycling paper in-house is potentially more cost-effective than constantly re-ordering stock for the supply closet — which, admittedly, this hulking machine would probably fill up, anyway. And from a security and privacy standpoint, PaperLab a great way to ensure a company’s private, printed data isn’t floating around out in the world.
But PaperLab could also be good for the environment. The device stands to reduce carbon emissions by cutting down the need for paper-hauling trucks, which drive from offices to collection centers, to recycling facilities, to stores and warehouses, and then back to offices.
Still, PaperLab isn’t available to the public just yet. Epson will be showing off a prototype at Eco-Products 2015, an annual convention being held next week in Tokyo. But the plan is to put the machine into production in Japan next year, with other countries getting systems at a later date. Here’s hoping that no one accidentally recycles those plans in the PaperLab.