The first question I want to ask is, what is one of the most consumed products which, is measure for measure more expensive than vintage champagne?
If you are keen eyed and have been using your passively acquired skills of deduction after watching Sherlock (BBC) or Elementary (NBC) you may have spotted the answer. Ink. Printer Ink to be sure.
My second question is you going through more Ink than previously (in the last 10 years)?
The answer I will deduce is yes.
The story begins or is picked up 10 years ago. If you were to take as an example, Epson T032 Ink Cartridge (2002), the cartridge would contain 16ml of ink, its current counterpart the T089 (2008) holds 3.5ml of ink.
“Well the size of the cartridge has gotten smaller as all technology has become more compact.”, I hear you say. The answer is no, the cartridge is the same size, also this is not just an Epson thing. The case of the dwindling ink also includes HP and Canon. In the same time A HP cartridge measured 10 years ago 42ml of ink and was sold at £20, now it is 5ml and sold at £13.
Once you take the dead cartridges to the coroners table you can see the cause of the shortage. HP ink cartridges use sponges to hold ink. On opening the cartridges you can see that the sponges have become smaller and smaller over the years. The rest of the cartridge is left empty. Epson on the other hand use a small tank, which has been reduced in size.
What has happened?
The business strategy has shifted in recent years to higher frequency of consumer purchases. To enable this strategy companies have lowered the amount of ink but kept the cartridges the same size, forcing people to buy cartridges more often. Companies have also added chips to printers to stop non-manufacturer ink from being used as well as marketing practises to discourage using refills.
When it comes to ink types; colour ink is the worse culprit for disappearing ink. All three major printer manufacturers, Canon, HP and Epson offer a tri colour ink cartridge (cyan, magenta and yellow) with usually with less than 2ml of ink for each colour. The problem is when one ink runs out the entire cartridge stops working, and needs to be replaced.
With shrinking amounts of ink, has enabled the manufactures to create XL products, the same cartridge but with more ink. An example of this is the HP300 with 5ml of ink and the Xl version has 16ml of ink sold with a £12 price difference. It seems that the manufacturers are doing a production run with low ink levels and then adding more ink half way through at negligible cost. These cartridges still hold less ink than previously still.
The Cost of Printing
Printer companies argue that they are not ripping off the consumer to raise their profits. Companies talk about the upfront cost of the printer, the cost per page and that the measurement of ink is not an effective way to measure the cost of printing. Epson has mentioned that printer heads are now more efficient, meaning in turn that the printer is able to print more pages with the same amount of ink.
We can except that technology has advanced but it does not make sense that there has been a 5 fold decrease in the amount of ink with the price staying nearly the same, and therefore more expensive to print. The printers can print more pages but could they not print even more with more ink in the cartridge.
At present printer ink is a few euros a litre with the cost to manufacture one cartridge around 50p. When a cartridge costs £20, that is one large profit margin. It does seem that manufactures are subsidising the cost of printers though their ink cartridges. 10 years ago a printer would cost upwards of £150 now printer prices start around £30.
Even in using strategies to dissuade consumers from buying refilled ink from remanufactures. Remanufactures have cornered a third of the ink cartridge market in the UK. I know that when I choose ink for my printer I will compare the offers at my local store including refilled cartridges and 9 times out of 10 I buy refills because it is half the price with more ink. The companies are trying to trap consumers by getting them to buy their printer and then for the life of the printer keep giving them money regularly for more ink. In my experience when I use non-HP ink in my printer, I don’t get the predicted ink levels dialogue when I print. I only ever had one problem with a refilled ink cartridge and it was I believe a blip because it has never happened again.
How can I make less ink go further?
Ink can be made to stretch further by utilising a few strategies.
Learn how to customize your printer profile. Fast draft or draft printing will generally use less ink. If you are copying something does it need to be the best quality? Think about what you print.
For black text set the printer to black ink only. This will stretch your colour ink cartridge. Usually the black ink will hold more ink than colour. When you print black in normal mode your printer will use all the different inks to make black even with the black ink being full. If your black ink is nearly empty and the documents are not important, print in blue or red. This will utilise the colour ink left in the tri colour cartridge.
Last but not least buy a printer that uses separate inks.