Why SMBs Should Avoid Inkjet Printers for General Use

Paul Mah

In my previous post where I offered some tips to SMBs about faxing, scanning, copying and printing, I briefly highlighted why inkjet printers are generally not a good idea for general-purpose business printing.

 

Today, I shall elaborate a little more on the rationale behind this advice.

 

The Cost of Inkjets

One major attraction to inkjet printers is undoubtedly its the relatively lower upfront cost in comparison to other printing technologies. It is an no secret, however, that the makers of inkjet printers have adopted a business model where such printers are often sold at marginal profits or even at a loss, which is recouped when users replace their used-up inkjet cartridges. While one particular vendor would tout the "good-as-new" quality inherent to the print head on a new cartridge, the truth is that the cost per page for inkjet printers is widely accepted to be far higher than that of laser printers.

 

In this context, inkjet printers where the primary colors are combined into a single physical cartridge are the worst culprits. If you were to compare the cost of replacing the individual color cartridges of some inkjet printers, you would in some cases find it similar to, or even exceeding, the price of a new printer with bundled ink cartridges. If anything, this should at least tell us something about the profit margins of inkjet cartridges.

 


Quality of Printouts

Another disadvantage of inkjets would be its higher susceptibility to smudging. Of course, modern inkjet printers and more advanced ink chemistry mean that this is generally not a problem these days. However, the fact is that a laser-printed copy does not have problems with smudging to begin with. In fact, I would even say that the best inkjet printers generally cannot match the quality of a standard laser printout for non-color general business printing.

 

Consider Color Laser

One common rationale for getting an inkjet printer would be its ability to produce color printouts at a relatively lower cost compared to the cost of buying a color laser printer. However, the price for color laser printers has dropped substantially over the years. As I shopped around over the past two weeks, I found at least three or four different color laser printers retailing at an average of US$300 -- there was even one model selling at just US$200. As a bonus, all these laser printers come with separate cartridges for the three primary colors as well as a fourth one for black.

 

Of course, it is true that higher-end color inkjets will beat a general-purpose color laser for vibrancy. Then again, higher-quality printouts would probably be done better at a professional print shop instead.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Oct 12, 2009 1:06 AM Eric B. Eric B.  says: in response to Darien Francis

Darien,

I agree with both of you, for different reasons. You are correct that the refill kits will save you tons of money over buying replacement inkjet cartridges from the manufacturers. However, Paul would be correct in that most laser jet cartridges are cheaper than inkjet cartridges based on the fact that they print thousands of pages each. I have a non-color HP laser jet that costs $30 for a drum and cartridge (4,000 sheets). My color HP would cost $300 for each of the color cartridges, but they last 4000 sheets. The Dell gets 2000 sheets per each of its color cartridges for $100 each. It all depends. The last time I used an HP ink jet, I never got thousands of pages from them.

So, I think its a decision of the user to risk destroying (and voiding their printer warranty), not to mention making a mess, if they are unable or unwilling to refill the toner themselves. Until the popularity of the inkjet printers wane, I don't see the manufactures changing their pricing models.

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Oct 12, 2009 8:20 AM Darien Francis Darien Francis  says:

I do not agree with most points in this article.

(1) I don't see a full comparison of the cost of the injket cartridge replacment versus the cost of the laser cartridges. Last time I checked the laser cartridge costs comparing hig dpi inkjet versus similar dpi laser was much higher.

(2) I do agree that printer manufacturers like HP undercut the cost of the inkjet printers to seduce buyers in purchasing them but the cost of the replacement cartridges..even the replacement of one batch is sometimes more than the initial cost of the printer.

However there is a solution.

The most cost effective approach is to get the best inkjet for your business, watch for the big discounts being offered, then refill the ink with high quality ink yourself.

Follow these steps:

(a) Purchase a printer that uses separate cartridges for each color range (usually Black, Yellow, Cyan and Magenta...the HP's that use the '02' types add Light Cyan & Light Magenta to gave very high color resolution)

- The cartridges that come with the printers ar usually only filled partially so they will be empty quickly.

(c) Purchase a refill kit from a reputable dealer.  I get mine from a company in NJ that has been supplying me for years with ink which exactly match the factory brands and specs and they supply kits which are very simple to use.

(d) Follow the refill instruction carefully and diligently you will be shocked at the savings.  Each refill bottle usually give you about six full capacity refills.  Each bottle sells for less that the price of ONE cartridge. You are saving a massive 85% on your ink costs.

I have done this for years and have several printers one for daily business use.  It is fast and fairly efficient.  The other will print up to 4800 dpi and I use that when very high resoution options are required includng photographs and high quality labels.

CONCLUSION:

You beat the inkjet printer manufacturs at their own game.  You get a printer at below cost sometimes and you don't use the overpriced cartridges.

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Oct 13, 2009 1:18 AM Paul Mah Paul Mah  says: in response to Darien Francis

Hi Darien,

Thanks for your comments and detailed explanation of how to go for refills. I agree that refill can make the economics of inkjet printing very attractive indeed.  However, the downside, as pointed out by Eric is the mess, and potential voiding of warranty.

Assuming that the above points are ignored, I think refillables will be excellent for a really small business, or a home-based one. Nothing like a the satisfaction of savingn one's own money while doing a refill.

However, my thinking in that a business with moderate to heavy printing needs will be left frustrated with the steps of refiling a catridge. Ditto if an SMB have many small branches located across the state or country.

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Oct 13, 2009 7:54 AM p1720 p1720  says: in response to Eric B.

Drum kit for use in the Dell 1720 printer which has a pagelife of 30000 pages , the Dell 1720 printer is based on a Lexmark print engine , but the toner kit and Drum kit is not interchangeable ( so you can't use the Dell cartridges in a Lexmark printer or vice versa as the products contain machine specific chips

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Oct 29, 2009 1:14 AM answermeaquestion answermeaquestion  says:

I think your position is outdated on 'Why SMBs Should Avoid Inkjet Printers for General Use'

The Cost of Inkjets

Most inkjet printers are 'consumer grade' quality products (you implied they are intended for businesses by mentioning them in your articlethey are not), but there are networkable 'business class' inkjet printers and all-in-ones that are designed for product life cycles exceeding 500,000 pages. For example, HP has produced the OfficeJet 3000. Newer models like the HP OfficeJet 8500 series utilize pigment inks that mimic toner durability and water/smudge resistance. These machines typically offer cost-per-page results much lower than laser printers.

Note: 'Business class' Continuous Ink Supply Systems (CISS) from Adaptive Ink (www.adaptiveink.com) can provide additional dramatic savings on color printing (even lower than monochrome lasers). They have CISSs with ink tanks up to 720ml that will provide nearly 40,000 pages of color printing for less than a penny per page.

Quality of Printouts

You mentioned the disadvantage of inkjet printers' higher susceptibility to smudging, adding that the best inkjet printers generally cannot match the quality of a standard laser printout for non-color general business printing. The latest generation of pigment inks resolves the smudging issue and can easily match the sharp-text quality of a 1200dpi laser printer even on plain paper. I've seen demonstrations where color inkjet pages were put in a tube of water and they did not smear. On high-quality paper, the print quality is definitely in favor of inkjets. Lasers produce acceptable photo quality output, but they do not approach the photo quality of the best inkjet photo printers or business inkjets.

Consider Color Laser

You stated: 'One common rationale for getting an inkjet printer would be its ability to produce color printouts at a relatively lower cost compared to the cost of buying a color laser printer.  However, the price for color laser printers has dropped substantially over the years. As I shopped around over the past two weeks, I found at least three or four different color laser printers retailing at an average of US$300 -- there was even one model selling at just US$200.  As a bonus, all these laser printers come with separate cartridges for the three primary colors as well as a fourth one for black.'

You failed to consider the high power requirements of laser printers, the high price of toner cartridges, fusers, image drums, etc.-laser printers have multiple consumables that need periodic replacement. Most business class inkjets require periodic replacement of reasonably price print heads and the per-page cost of the ink is much lower than that of toner.

You mentioned that 'higher-quality printouts would probably be done better at a professional print shop.' Unless a business is printing tens of thousands of copies of a static document, in-house business inkjets will produce professional offset print quality results at a lower cost. This does not even take into consideration the time and expense of working with the print shop.

Laser printing has been the 'accepted' technology utilized by business for years. Speed, reliability, features, and print quality were the likely reasons laser printers and office machines dominate the office environment. But, the current generation of inkjet printers provides the performance of laser printers while being dramatically lower-priced. Adaptive Ink has a Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS) that solves the ink cost issue that is considered to be the primary reason inkjets are not suitable for high volume office printing.

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May 7, 2013 4:49 AM Innah | Printer Ink Innah | Printer Ink  says:
Small business owners should know techniques that will enhance their productivity while cutting down their expenses and the right choice of printing device will surely spare them from waste. It will be important to not just look into the cost of one-time purchases because what really matters eventually is the amount of money that will be spend while the machine runs. Reply

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