HP Device Eases Printing Pains

SAN FRANCISCO (05/04/2000) - Hewlett-Packard Co. is taking the work out of printing. HP's new Print to Mail device will fold documents, seal them for mailing if they're printed on special media, and even slap on postage if you have an account with the electronic postage service.

The $650 attachment works with two of the company's monochrome laser printers, the LaserJet 4000 and LaserJet 4050.

The folding mechanism offers a limited number of fold types, but it is designed for untrained users to operate. Print shops generally consider commercial folding machines to be persnickety and unfriendly to set up and run, so any folder that proves easy to use without special training is quite a breakthrough.

In addition to printing and folding ordinary letter- or legal-size paper, the Print to Mail prints on specialized business forms designed to be folded and pressure sealed, then opened at perforated tear-off edges. Some forms are opaque and can be used for mailing PINs or other confidential information.

There are also self-mailer check forms available that can be printed using magnetic ink character recognition technology, though of course the magnetic "ink" is actually powdered laser-printer toner. With an optional memory card installed in the printer, users can stop the system after it prints the checks, sign them, and re-insert them for folding and sealing. The forms are produced by Moore Inc. Price varies by type--as an example, plain letter-size forms cost $79 per 1000.

The system has a few drawbacks. It requires disconnecting the duplexer, if your printer has one, so it can't print on both sides of the page. Also, it can't collate or fold multipart forms.