Why printer ink can be more expensive than the printer itself


  • Printer ink can often be more expensive than the printer itself.
  • With an outdated “razor-and-blades” business model, printers are selling printers at a loss and making up for it by selling inks.
  • Printer companies are doing everything they can to eliminate the competition from cheaper, more sustainable third-party options by frequently updating the firmware in the cartridges.
  • Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.

A transcript of the video follows.

Teller: A gallon of printer ink can cost you $ 12,000. In cartridge form, it’s more expensive than vintage champagne and even human blood. In fact, buying a whole printer can be cheaper than buying new ink cartridges. Why is printer ink so expensive?

Let’s start with the first few printers. No, not that far. No come on There you are. Inkjet printers were first developed in the 1960s, and early computer inks were made from food coloring and water. Because of this, they would fade after a few months, so companies had to develop a dye that would provide lasting photographic quality. In 1988, Hewlett-Packard did just that with the first mass-market inkjet printer, which sold for about $ 1,000. But a lot has changed since then.

Today you can get a brand new printer for around $ 35. But there is a catch. If any of these printers run out of ink, you will need to purchase certain cartridges, and those cartridges are expensive. Why are the cartridges so expensive?

David Connet: Oh that’s simple: greed. And an outdated razor-and-blade model.

Teller: This is David Connett. He is the former editor of The Recycler and has been campaigning for change in the printing ink industry for years.

Connection: They sell the printers cheaply. They sell the consumables at a very expensive price. And it’s basically a formula: the cheaper the printer, the more expensive the consumables.

Teller: Once you’ve bought a printer that uses cartridges, you’re caught in a cycle. You have no choice but to buy them or to throw away your printer. Since a printer is typically a one-time purchase, companies don’t mind selling it at a loss and getting the money back by selling cartridges. For example, the HP Envy 4520 all-in-one printer costs $ 70, but is estimated to be $ 120 to manufacture. The loss they make on printers means companies have to sell ink cartridges to make a profit, and this model has created a battle between printer manufacturers and third-party ink suppliers. The companies are doing everything they can to ensure that you keep buying official ink cartridges. Manufacturers install microchips in their cartridges and often release firmware updates to prevent the use of third-party ink, which can be less expensive.

Connection: In the past year, nearly 900 firmware upgrades were issued by just nine printer manufacturers, nearly three a day. I mean, that’s either total incompetence because there’s so much to do, or it’s a definite camouflage tactic to control the market.

Teller: Printer manufacturers attribute the high costs to the research and development that goes into perfecting printer ink. However, the materials used cost very little.

Connection: The manufacturing costs of the ink are between 20 and 40 euros per liter.

Teller: And a lot of the ink you buy isn’t even used for printing. According to a 2018 test by Consumer Reports, more than half of the ink you buy could be lost in printhead cleaning maintenance cycles. And printers that use multi-color ink cartridges will also stop working once one color is used up, even if the other colors are still full. Nowadays you get even less for your money. Although the cartridges themselves are the same size and price, they often contain much less ink than they used to be. The ink in the cartridges of many manufacturers has shrunk from 20 mils to around 5 mils in the last few years without the price dropping. The full-size 20 mil cartridges are often still sold, but are often sold as extra-large cartridges for even more money. And some new cartridges can only contain 3 milliliters of ink. Some companies have even started ink subscriptions now and remotely disables your cartridges when you print more than the allotted pages. Laser printers offer a more cost-effective alternative to inkjet printers, but they produce a print image of lower quality. However, the real solution for many would be to offer more efficient ink cartridges.

Connection: This product can be developed better. You could reach out to the aftermarket to actually find a solution that works for everyone because that is ultimately bad for the consumer because it’s overpriced and expensive, and it’s bad for the environment because it doesn’t have to to be made that way.

Teller: We asked Canon and HP for a comment. HP responded with this statement:

“Original HP ink and toner cartridges provide customers with the best possible printing experience. We invest heavily in research and development every year to ensure the highest levels of print quality, safety and the environment. When customers buy HP, they help reduce plastic waste and we work. We work tirelessly working to maximize value for our customers, including Instant Ink, our subscription ink delivery service that includes ink, shipping and recycling. “

EDITORS NOTE: This video was originally posted on August 19, 2019.

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