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Threats to third-party cartridges analysed

September 30, 2016

An article questioned whether “third party’s over for print ink, or is it?”epson ink tanks

The article, on Movie TV Tech Geeks, cited the recent HP Inc firmware update, and started by noting that “we view inkjet printers with a mixture of love and resentment, like a guy who works in the mail room who has a jet-setting best friend currently travelling in Europe”, because “they print our reports, spreadsheets, presentations and photos in beautiful colours but at a huge cost in the form of expensive ink cartridges”.

The printers “can be cheap, throwaway appliances which can easily be replaced”, but “two sets of the inks themselves cost as much as the printer, and it gets more expensive as the pages go by”. The site points out that cartridges are “mostly designed to be used once” and “go straight to the landfill with hardly any suggestions from printer companies of what to do with them”, adding “thank heavens for third-party ink refillers who refill, reuse and refurbish these cartridges. But that may soon change, at least for current and newer printer models”.

Inkjet refills are “much cheaper alternatives to purchasing expensive inkjet inks”, but buyers “run the risk of voiding their printer’s warranty by using these refills as the inks are not certified for use with the printers”. In turn, it claims that “there is a true risk of printer breakdown due to a possible chemical mismatch between manufacturer and refill inks”, while quality “isn’t exact but [is] close to the originals”.

As printers “aren’t expensive in the first place”, many customers use refills “due to economic reasons”, and can replace the printer “after 10 or more sets of refills”, but OEMs are “constantly at war with third-party refillers through various ways”, with the site claiming that HP Inc had “found a way to stifle the third-party ink industry” with the firmware updates, blocking third-party cartridges and inviting “other printer companies” to potentially “follow suit to regain some revenue”.

The site points out that some third-parties “found themselves in trouble due to the update”, but adds that “as always, third parties manage to get around these problems and fight another day”. In this case, it refers to the “huge blow” of ink tanks and continuous ink supply systems (CISS), which can enable printers to “print indefinitely” and be refilled using bottles, eliminating the “messy manual process of injecting ink”.

This, it notes, caused OEMs to “face the music” and fight third-parties “at their own game”, with Epson’s ink tanks combatting refills by having each bottle feature a “serial code the user would enter during refills”. With Brother, HP Inc and Canon all also getting into the market, this “new flexibility however comes at a price”, with ink tank machines costing “three to four times as much as regular inkjets to cover the loss of revenue from ink cartridge sales”.

The bottles cost less or the same as cartridges “but have much longer lifespans”, but “that still doesn’t stop third-party bottled ink manufacturers”, and the site points out that despite worries about warranties, breakdowns or quality, the “expensive price of these printers still necessitates the existence of the low-cost printer market and their expensive cartridges for the not-so-heavy home users, thus continuing the love-hate relationship” of OEMs and third-party companies.

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