Is Printer Ink a Scam?

b2ap3_thumbnail_ink400.jpgHave you ever gone shopping for new printer ink, paid the retail price, only to walk away feeling like you've been ripped off? With ink jet printers especially, buying the three new ink cartridges needed for photo printing will end up costing more than the printer itself! Why is ink so pricy and what can be done about it?

As much as printer ink costs, you would think that it's a magic potion that will solve the world's problems. You already know printing ink is expensive, but to show exactly how much it costs, we can look at calculations from the New York Times. In 2008, the NYT analyzed the ink from HP's 02 Black Ink Cartridge and discovered that one gallon of the stuff cost $4,294.58. To save money, you can have your $20 ink cartridges refilled for around $10, bringing the gallon price down to $2,000, what a bargain! While it's doubtful that any of us will ever need 1 gallon of printer ink (a single cartridge holds 10-20 milliliters), even a few cartridges purchased every year will still put a big dent in your office supply budget.

How does HP sleep at night? Thom Brown, HP's marketing manager, explains to why printer ink is so expensive, "Ink technology is expensive to develop, and you pay for reliability and image quality. These liquids are completely different from a technology standpoint." Mr. Brown failed to talk about the magic chemical composition that makes printer ink so pricy, and why it's any different from the ink that comes inside a $1 pack of pens. We are sure HP's black ink recipe is written down and stored in the same vault as Coca-Cola's secret formula.

Thom Brown is saying that all the wonderful advancements in printing technology (why a printed image looks so much more amazing today than it did 20 years ago) are funded from the markup of printer ink. Brown goes on to estimate that HP spends $1 billion a year on ink research and development. Granted, nobody wants to go back to using Dot Matrix printers, but if it were put to a vote, the average consumer would agree with us and say, "The current printing quality is sufficient. Can we scratch the $1billion development program and have cheap ink?"

The most compelling argument for Mr. Brown's case comes for the extreme performance requirements of printer ink. "Inks must be formulated to withstand heating to 300 degrees, vaporization, and being squirted at 30 miles per hour, at a rate of 36,000 drops per second, through a nozzle one-third the size of a human hair. After all that it must dry almost instantly on the paper." These are crazy performance demands that goopy pen ink can't meet. However, all of this science fails to take the sting out of the ink cartridge price tag.

If your business is still using ink jet cartridges for your printing needs, then you may be better off financially buying for your office a Gutenberg printing press. An even more reasonable solution is to buy a laser printer. While the toner in a laser printer is still expensive, you will at least get a few thousand pages out of it before it needs to be replaced.

SMART Services can help you find the right printer for your business. Every business has different printing needs, and we will be happy to work with you to discover the most economical way to print. This way, you won't feel like you're getting ripped off with every refill. We can also take the printer setup that you use and install a network printer server in order to streamline operations, improve network speeds, and reduce the number of printers used. We also have the capabilities to set print quotas, so you can prevent your employees from wasting your precious ink supply. We even offer paperless solutions so that your business can skip out on printing altogether! For a free print management consultation, call us at 586 258-0650.

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