A5 paper puts my printer on a go-slow

paper-462x346In the realms of technology in the average office, printers are undoubtedly the most bizarre, quirky, and deeply strange devices known to mankind. I accept that tape drives are in a world of pain all of their own, but we do our best to ignore them on the grounds of maintaining some sort of sanity. So printers it is.

A5 paper puts my printer on a go-slow

For the past few years, I’ve had an HP Color LaserJet 5500HDTN printer in my office (HP’s spelling of ‘color’, not mine). It’s a monster, doing A3 double-sided and having five paper trays and a hard disk. It has lasted well, and produced consistently high-quality copies, spitting them out at high speed too. That is until this week. I needed to do some printing on A5 paper, so loaded up a tray with 500 sheets. The print job was already on the printer’s own hard disk, so it was a few button presses to get 500 copies underway.

The printer ran like a racehorse until about the twelfth copy, at which point it slowed right down. Instead of the usual twenty-something sheets per minute, I was down to about five. Clearly, something was wrong. There was nothing in the printer log, no errors on the display, nothing visible in the web-server pages.

A hunt around the website eventually gave a clue as to the problem. Some users had reported the same issue when using A4 paper, but when loaded “front to back” in the paper tray, rather than “side to side”. When the paper isn’t the full width of the tray, it appears that the printer has to slow down after a dozen pages and drop into go-slow mode.

This is because the paper isn’t the full width of the output heater rollers, and hence there is a significant possibility that the rollers will overheat if the engine runs at full speed. Remember that the paper moving through the rollers removes a significant amount of heat from the fuser rollers. With A5 paper, it’s even worse of course.

So there we have it – a printer whose rated speed collapses if you use undersized paper. I never thought this would be the case, but reality has proven me wrong. It’s worth thinking about if you need a mix of paper sizes on your new office printer – do not assume that full speed is available on all sizes.

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