Ink printers use two types of cartridges; ink tanks (which supply ink to a printhead built into the printer) and printhead cartridges which have a printhead as part of the cartridge. You can significantly reduce the cost of printing by using compatible cartridges, refilled cartridges and ink refill kits.
The Ink Tank cartridges are freely available as compatibles, usually manufactured in Asia. You can get ink tanks refilled but new compatibles can be supplied at the same price as, or less than, a refill and the quality has improved dramatically over the last few years.
In spite of this general improvement in quality there are still poor quality cartridges available so it is best that you deal with a supplier that you know and trust.
Some Print Head ink cartridges, where patents over the print head have expired, are also available as compatibles. Otherwise they are either commercially refilled or do it yourself ink refill kits are available. Refilled printhead cartridges are now available from several factories in Asia, generally at a price that makes commercial refilling in New Zealand either marginal or uneconomic.
Because factory refilled cartridges are batch tested there is no guarantee that every cartridge will work so it is important that you know and trust your supplier who should have a clear refund or replacement guarantee.
A big price advantage comes from using ink refill kits. The best refill kits are easy to use with two provisos. First the refiller must read the instructions before starting the refill. Second, the user must be happy about doing the refilling. Refilling is more about the refiller’s attitude than aptitude. A person who is nervous or unhappy about refilling should not buy a refill kit.
The quality of ink refill kits varies widely. It should have comprehensive instructions, a clip to hold the cartridge while you are filling it and the necessary ink and tools to enable you to fill the cartridge correctly. Refill kits are not complex but you should stay away from those that do not fit the above criteria.
Finally there are Continuous Ink Supply Systems (CISS). This is where replacement cartridges are linked to external ink tanks that stand alongside the printer. Although CISS appear to be a good idea I have found them difficult and tricky to fit and have concluded that any end user needs to be reasonably technically proficient.
People often try CISS or Refill Kits when the real problem is that they have the wrong printer for the job and they should invest in a machine that may cost a little more but that has larger ink cartridges and lower running costs. Often, by buying the right printer, and using compatible cartridges, you can lower your costs to 2 cents a page or less.
These options, compatible ink cartridges, refillled ink cartridges and ink refill kits, give you a wide choice as to how you obtain your printer ink.
On the subject of third party ink and cartridges, in a stunning result for aftermarket ink suppliers, a recent (April 2007) test carried out by the authoritative technology review website TrustedReviews.com has found that inks supplied by third party suppliers produced better quality results than inks supplied by printer manufacturers.
In spite of manufacturer’s claims that print quality may be impaired if consumers use third party ink in their printers, the test panel found the opposite. According to the author of the report:
“Our panel preferred prints produced with ink from a third party provider over those produced with manufacturer’s own products.”
Another key finding was that across all four brands third party ink and paper combinations won more top scores than prints produced with original brand inks and papers.
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