What is duplex printing? 

When purchasing a printer - whether it is a multi-functional printer or a simple photograph printer - one property is advertised again and again by manufacturers. The hot topic is duplex printing which is also known as double-sided printing. Duplex printing has some advantages in direct comparison to normal printing but can also have disadvantages. The following guide shows what the advantages are and how we can best compensate for the disadvantages.

The definition of duplex printing

Today, users have a different definition of duplex printing from the one that they had some years ago. Duplex printing was originally defined as a two-stage printing process. Here, the image is printed in shades of grey in the first stage and then colours are added during the second stage. This is intended to increase the contrast in printed images.

Today, this definition of duplex printing is hardly ever used. Duplex printing now always refers to whenever paper is printed on both sides. This double-sided printing in the process can either be manual or automatic. With manual duplex printing, the user must turn the paper after the initial printing and insert it again so that the reverse side can be printed.

An automatic printer can perform this operation independently by moving the paper through several rolls and printing simultaneously on both sides. When looking to buy a printer from a dealer with a duplex function, buyers should look for the terms "duplex" or "duplex printer". If one of these two terms is present, the device can perform duplex printing automatically.

The arguments in favour of duplex printing 

Double-sided printing has some obvious advantages. This mode of printing is unbeatable especially when it comes to saving paper. You can print double-sided documents and thus save 50 percent when compared to normal printing. Duplex printing can be enormously helpful specifically in the business sector. However, it must be said that duplex printers are typically associated with higher purchase costs than normal printers. Is it also worth buying a duplex printer for private use? Basically this question is difficult to answer.

Duplex printing always makes sense where printer traffic can be described as moderate and ease of use is a particular priority. If documents are only printed on both sides a few times a month, manual duplex printing is also an option – a duplex printer is not necessary for this. However, a duplex printer is always a time-saver!

Duplex printing is always necessary, in any case, if documents need to be bound. Duplex printing is an indispensable tool when designing brochures or small books. In this case, the printer settings must be set precisely, so that no sheets of paper slip or are swapped in the paper output.

The negative characteristics of duplex printing

In addition to the obvious benefits of duplex printing, double-sided printing also has one or two disadvantages when considered in detail. It is important to highlight the purchase price which can be rather high for a high-quality duplex printer.

Particularly where time-saving is an important consideration for users, a high-quality printer which has two printing units from a well-known manufacturer should be purchased. Both sides can be printed at the same time when two printing units are used. If this mode is not available, sheets of paper must be taken in and printed twice where printing on both sides is required. An ink jet printer has comparatively longer printing times than if a laser printer is used.

This is due to the fact that when paper is printed on both sides, the first printed side has to dry before the reverse side can be printed. These waiting times are not necessary with a laser printer. However, even in this case, the paper has to be drawn into the printing unit twice. Both sides can be printed with a second printing unit at the same time but this makes the purchase price much higher.

Photographs with a duplex printer?

Generally, duplex printers are commonly used for printing simple texts. A high-quality duplex printer can also be used for brochure layouts. However, what if you need the printer to produce print-quality photographs on both sides? Double-sided photograph printing is theoretically possible, although the majority of units on the market do not offer borderless printing. Experience shows that high quality photographs by professional photographers should be printed without a border for better effect. This is not easily possible with a duplex printer.

Manual and automatic duplex printing

Manufacturers offer manual and automatic duplex printing, as already mentioned above, with automatic duplex printing, all the documents are printed in the chosen format when the relevant option in the printer menu is selected.

There are indeed also differences with manual duplex printing, as practical experience shows. There are older printers which manage with no duplex function and newer models which actively support manual duplex printing. If there is no support available, the user has to figure out by themselves how to insert paper in the paper tray so that the document is printed correctly on both sides. There is no assistance from the manufacturer.

However, if the printer supports manual duplex printing, it may be that there are instructions on the printer or printer driver showing how papers must be inserted. Often, the paper trays then have a marker, showing how the paper must be aligned. The paper must also be inserted correctly into the paper cartridge so that the printer ultimately just needs to print. With manual printing, more and more errors creep in compared with automatic duplex printing. Manual printing requires more time and practice before documents can be printed flawlessly in duplex mode. This time can lead to problems in the office as fast manipulations are required here.

Characteristics at a glance 

  • Manual duplex printing is suitable for small volumes
  • Automatic duplex printing is suitable for medium to high volumes
  • An automatic duplex printer is always recommended in the office.
  • Duplex printing with photographs only possible with edge

The particular features of duplex printers 

Manufacturers offer duplex printers in numerous versions, colours and shapes. Generally, users should look carefully when purchasing at the technical specifications. Those who use duplex printing in the office can even order models that sort and fold as well as print. Thus even more time can be saved which admittedly means higher purchase costs. Generally, a duplex printer is always recommended for the office - in private homes, it can be useful if the printer is used also for business purposes. Otherwise, a manual duplex printer or a printer, where the double-sided printing is carried out fully manually, is sufficient for most users. There is no integral support for duplex printing in this case.