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Why Is Printer Ink So Expensive?

Author: Fuser Printer Parts Reference Number: AA-06396 Views: 1505 Created: 09-21-2018 10:40 am Last Updated: 09-21-2018 10:53 am 0 Rating/ Voters

Why Is Printer Ink So Expensive?

Consumer Reports explains, and tells you how to save on ink costs

 There's no joy in shopping for printer ink. It's expensive to buy, little fun to use, and before you know it—it's time to purchase it again.

And that's a constant cause of frustration among printer owners. In CR's annual printers survey, the expense of ink or toner replacement is the most common pain point for printer owners—affecting the owners of 1 in 5 printers.

One reason for the complaints could be that people underestimate the engineering that goes into printer ink, says Rich Sulin, who leads CR's printer-testing program.

"People don't see the science and engineering behind printing," he says. "So, it's easy to understand why shoppers have such a strong reaction to plunking down $50 to $100 for little black chunks of plastic."

The Engineering Is Complicated

The oldest ink drawing in the world was created 73,000 years ago, according to archaeologists. The ink used in early printers occupied the far opposite end of the longevity spectrum. Scott Williams, a chemistry professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, says that early printer inks were essentially a mix of food dye and water that would fade in just a few months.

"Companies like Epson, HP, Canon, they all had to do research in translating a dye to a pigment composition to be able to get the photographic quality everybody wanted," he says, while also producing prints that would last.

Today's inkjets have a tough job: firing thousands of drops of ink per second, representing four different colors, with tremendous accuracy. And it needs to be quick-drying and water- and smear-resistant, and avoid making the page curl up—while also preventing the tiny jets from clogging.

"Ink companies spend a lot of time to get the right blend of pigment, dye, and vehicle to be able to have a very stable small droplet for high-resolution printing," Williams says.

All of that research and development, of course, costs a lot of money—and that's where the price comes in.

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