It’s human nature to try and find the best possible deal when shopping around for anything, especially when we as shoppers know that we’re going to be spending a fair amount of money either way. Oftentimes we find that, to an extent, we don’t mind sacrificing quality if it saves us that extra dollar. So it’s easy to be tempted by the savings when comparing original equipment manufacturer inks to third party inks — but what’s the real difference? Consider the following as you make decisions about purchasing third party inks for your aqueous wide format printer:
1. Ink Composition and Delivery
When you compare the features of all brands of aqueous printers, ask yourself how the technology of one printer differs from the next. Sure, each printer may load a little differently. Each has different menu layouts and button positions. Mechanically speaking, they all do basically the same thing — feed and print media. So where is the bulk of the wide format technological race being run?
The answer is the delivery mechanism and the ink. These two components are symbiotic. The main component of the delivery system is the print head, and within this segment are two main competing technologies: thermal and piezo. The primary goal of the print delivery system is to apply the ink as fast and accurately as possible, while the primary goal of the ink is to dry as a durable coat of color as correctly and consistently as possible.
But there’s another, less well known component that is often overlooked when considering inks. As engineers push their technologies to new limits, they must overcome physical barriers such as heat and abrasion. Pushing a liquid with microscopic solids through an orifice about the circumference of a human hair without clogging or burning up the nozzle is a challenge.
To do this, engineers must address the elements that make up the ink. The ingredients they choose are based on laboratory testing and consistent baseline components. All OEM manufacturers have patents and licenses to protect their R&D investments. Third party manufacturers are left to do the best they can to copy the ingredients that go into their products. When you don’t have to meet the engineering standards, of course the cost is going to be less — at least at the cash register.
2. Manufacturer Warranty
Once the engineers achieve the best possible recipe, the inks are permanently coupled with the delivery system and the print models are sent to market. This allows the manufacturer to apply warranties based on what they know will be expected performance of their products.
Yes, some third party ink manufacturers offer warranties, but make sure to read the fine print. Inferior ink composition will almost always guarantee inferior performance, whether it shows in the quality of the color, the life of the print head, or somewhere unexpected.
3. Keeping Your Prints Consistent and Extending the Life of Your Machine
Buying base components from multiple suppliers and inconsistent manufacturing practices reduce the chance of batch consistency, resulting in product performance issues. Even when the color looks good most of the time, the toll all of these mix and match pieces take on the machine can be pretty serious — from print heads dying prematurely to an overheated print head burning out the entire controller board.
Ask yourself: is the money I save now worth the hassle of making a case of who’s at fault when my equipment is down? Is it worth the money it would cost to replace entire parts of your machine? Looking back, will you be confident that you got the most from your printer before it had to be replaced?
Nothing’s perfect, including OEM inks, but we believe our customers are better served when they know what to expect and who is responsible. OEM ink-related service issues are nearly unheard of, but premature equipment failures due to the use of sub-standard third party supplies are unfortunately quite common. We recommend doing your own research, reading reviews and comparing specifications before making the decision to purchase third party inks.
What have your experiences been with OEM versus third party ink? Do you have any advice or extra info that we forgot to mention here? Leave us a comment and let us know!