You’re a manufacturing organization that has had your new inkjet printer for a little while when messages start appearing telling production it’s time to replace the ink cartridges. The sticker shock you experience when you go to place your order with the manufacturer of your printer is felt by many who have had to do the same thing.
Buying new ink cartridges is a continuing expense that can be costly over time, especially if your organization purchases name-brand ink from the printer manufacturer. It is also important to note that the complexity when comparing an ink cartridge to, say, a laser toner cartridge is quite large.
Before generic, refilled, or remanufactured cartridges were available, they had to be purchased from the manufacturer of the printer, often with markups as high as 40 percent. However, the days when you were held hostage by the printer manufacturers are gone. Generic cartridges can be made for up to 80 percent less than the originals, which are referred to as OEM (for original equipment manufacturer) or “genuine ink.”
Original manufacturers such as Hewlett-Packard, Canon, Xerox, and Lexmark do not sell at heavily discounted prices, aside from certain companies and distributors. They mostly sell at the same prices across the board. They do not sell their products in bulk or in generic packaging to anybody. Their trademarks and brands are highly valuable assets.
Generic Cartridge Types
The option to buy generic cartridges has been available for many years, but some people are still wary of purchasing them. While there may have been some issues with early types, today’s cartridges are compatible but may not be exactly the same. Makers of generic cartridges often make slight changes to the design in order to avoid copyright or patent infringements. Also, there is the possibility of voiding the warranty on your printers when using generic products.
There are three types of generic cartridges. The recycled version is produced reusing some parts and material from previously used products. Any cartridge that has been produced using parts and material recovered from previously used products earn the name of “Recycled,” regardless of the process or technology used.
Refilled cartridges indicate that the remanufacturing process consists mainly of gaining access to the toner or ink container of a cartridge (sometimes by puncturing a hole, sometimes partially disassembling the cartridge) and refilling it with new ink or toner. This is usually all that is done to the cartridge, apart from inspecting it for damage and cleaning it. This is the process used by many small remanufacturing companies doing business mainly in their local areas. They usually deliver and collect empty cartridges at the same time. This simplified remanufacturing process gives these companies the ability to price their products lower than many competitors that sell remanufactured cartridges.
The third type is a remanufactured cartridge where a complete overhaul, usually involving a laser toner cartridge, is carried out. These cartridges are, in effect, rebuilt from the ground-up, essentially giving the customer a new unit.
Coding and Labeling Inks
In coding (bar coding) and labeling, the quality of the printed output is a prime consideration. The contrast between black and white areas and the bleeding of the ink on the edges of a printed output are just a few of the key components in ink development.
Attention to the quality of inks means that several advantages can be achieved. Less print head maintenance is required, reducing downtime on production lines. Sediment, sludge, or residue can be significantly reduced by using high-quality filtration processes.
Correct formulation of the inks decreases drying time, which is an important aspect for high-speed production lines. Typically, drying times of 100 microseconds to 2 seconds can be achieved. This attention to producing generic inks results in trouble-free conversion and lower costs for inks and make up fluids for OEM coders.
There are several products that are used in this industry. Continuous inkjet (CIJ) inks, as the name implies, are used with inkjet printers. Inkjet is a contactless printing process able to print on a wide variety of materials, such as paper, ceramics, glass, textiles, and plastics — both flat and embossed.
Dye-based inks are the standard ink type used in inkjet printers and consist of colorant that is fully dissolved and suspended in liquid. Another type, pigmented ink, consists of a very fine powder of solid colorant particles suspended in a liquid carrier.
Until a few years ago, the advantages of dye-based inks was a wider color range and lower cost, while their disadvantages were water solubility and faster fading of prints. Pigmented inks, on the other hand, lasted longer and were more water-resistant, but they had less color depth and were more expensive. Today, however, there is little difference between current dye-based and pigmented inks, with the slight edge going to the latter.
Another process is drop on demand (DOD), where the print heads digitally project micro-drops of ink through nozzles producing images directly on the substrate. This is in contrast with traditional printing, where a series of time- and money-consuming stages are required before printing a new image such as traditional processes screen like silkscreen printing, plate for offset, engraving cylinder for flexography, or pad for pad printing.
With good development processes, generic inks can be produced that are similar in quality to OEM inks but offer substantial savings to consumers. Generic inks can be viable alternatives to OEM manufacturers.
Pedro Sotelo, Sr. is president of PrintJet Corp., a manufacturer of alternative parts, replacement inks, and make up fluids for leading industrial coding equipment, based in Rockford, Ill. The company also markets a full line of new continuous ink jet (CIJ), drop on demand (DOD), high-resolution and bar-coding equipment. PrintJet serves a wide range of industries, including food and beverage, pharmaceutical, metal and wire, plastics, and automotive. For more, visit www.printjet.net.