Refilling Inkjet Printers

This is an interestine topic as it involves cost savings and technology. Was using an inkjet printer from Epson, the original maching obviously came with original ink catridges. Used it for a week and then had no work to print. Left the printer neatly covered and away from dust. A few weeks later, could be a month later came back to use it and boom boom, it refused to print. The colors were so pale that you could not make any sense of the printout. The black color portions did not print at all. Took it to the dealer as it was in the warranty period. He first looked at the printer, took off the catridges and looked at them too. He even smelt them, stopped short of tasting the ink though. His conclusion was delivered as seriously as a doctor telling the patient that he had just been diagnosed with cancer! Aaww he said, the ink catridges had dried up and needed to be replaced. Showed him the warranty and he promptly claimed that the warranty did not cover the ink catridges!!!. He said that I had to buy a new set. Here below is the remaining part of the story, sounds more like a consumer insult but it is worth reading.

The sales guy walked us to the shelves that had the ink catridges. He first asked us whether we needed original or compatible. Being wallet-wise I asked him the price difference, the compatibles were almost 40% cheaper so we requested for those. He hovered around the shelf a couple of times, picked the intercom phone spoke to someone and came back with another AaaaW. This time the it was a sad story, this particular printer model could not accept compatibles, we had to pay for the original ink cartridges.

Ok that translated to around 50 U.S$ for the set. Just to keep things in perspective, the entire printer cost us just 70 U.S$ and it came with a set of catridges remember that. We gently picked the pack from the shelf as if holding some expensive crystal ware. Kept looking back at the shelves to see if something there could lighten the burden on our wallet. Around 20 meters away from the cash counter we noticed a shelf full of Epson printers. Noticed a printer selling for just 60 U.S$ along with the set of original in catridges ofcourse. Three minutes later, we ditched the ink catridges that we picked up and cradled the 60 U.S$ printer in our arms. Paid the cash and drove home.

With documents waiting to be printed, we quickly installed the printer and opened the lid. This is the BIG surprise, the ink catridges used in this Epson printer were EXACTLY the same as the ones needed in the printer that needed the catrdige replacement. Unplugged the new printer, plugged the old printer switched the catridges and WOW WOW it worked.

Printer manufacturers expect users to use only their brand of ink catridges in the printer. And the original ink catridges cost around 4 to 5 times more than a ink filling system, at least twice the cost of other compatible ink catridges. And if you do not use the original ink catridges, expect your warranty to be terminated with immediate effect! For some reason, consumers and government trade bodies seem to be accepting this norm without any complaints. Imagine a DVD drive manufacturer like Sony or Mitsubishi forcing you to use only their disks in the machines that wear their brand.

If you have ever visited IT malls in Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and India you will notice the wide supply and demand for compatible ink systems for ink jet printers. The cost savings is huge and the difference between print quality when comparing, genuine and compatible ink is very little and sometimes barely noticeable.

In many cases, a particular printer might be outdated and taken off the production and selling shelf. If you happen to still be using such a printer, compatible ink systems might be the only option. While we do not sell any such equipment the information is meant to update your knowledge with available options.

So let us see how the costing for this adventure worked. Had we purchased the new catridges, we would end up paying 50 U.S$ and this ONLY for the catridges. Since we got the new printer with a brand new set of catridges at just 60 U.S$, it means that the new printer was worth just 10 U.S$.

Now here is an another interesting and useful twist to this story. So we had two printers now, one a brand new one with no catridges and effectively costing us just 10 U.S$. Here is what we did with this printer. We took this printer to a shop in a nearby shopping mall. Down in the basement were all kinds of IT shops, about half a dozen of this did one type of business. They reconstructed printers and fitted them with ink supply systems. The cost of doing this for our printer would be 30 U.S$ we were told. Basically it consists of a set of ink catridges connected with tubes to a set of ink tanks. The catridges fit snugly into the printer, since they match the shape and size of the originals. The ink moves from the external tank set through the tubes and into the catridges. When the tanks get low on ink, you just open the small stop plugs use a syringe (without needles) and fill them from in bottles.

We got it done and it works amazingly well, a little over 7 months now and we have done loads and loads of both black and white and colored document printing. Very impressed with the quality. The first payment of 30 U.S$ included the tanks, the catridges and also ink to fill the tank and catridges, that is a lot of ink.

So what about the ink for subsequent fills. Here is the deal,  a bottle of 1 litre is priced at just 20 U.S$. And is that cheap YES YES YES. If you needed 4 colors, you pay 80 U.S$ but each bottle has a whooping 1 litre of ink. Compare this to the price of 50 U.S$ for the original set, each of the 4 colors has a volume of just 60ml. Just to make the cost comparison clear, if you paid a litre of each color of the original ink (4 litres) you would end up paying 800 U.S$> Ofcourse Epson does not sell loose ink but the cost of using original catridges with that much ink would work out to this figure. So you are comparing 80 U.S$ (4 litres of loose compatible ink) against 800 U.S$ for 4 litres of genuine ink (in many many catridges ofcourse).

A few important things that you should know. The printer seller will cut off the warranty on the machine if a modification for the ink system is made. Printer manufacturers are so paranoid about using ink sales that, they even go to the extent of lab testing residue ink on the print head to check whether a replacement ink has been used. But thinsgs are not all that scary, here is what we would recommend. Try the ink system only for cheap to mid range priced printers. Most printers come with a one year warranty, do not change the ink systems during this period.