Why Is Printer Ink So Darned Expensive?

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In a time when leading computer manufacturers have revolutionized the way the world works, there are still a few things that people still prefer doing the old-fashioned way. For example, some individuals still prefer reading a physical copy of a book or a document. For them, nothing beats feeling the leaves of paper between one’s fingers. However, there is one big downside to producing printed material: the cost of printer ink.

Sure, cheaper alternatives like high-quality remanufactured printer cartridges exist. But the fact remains that people spend lots of money to replace their ink cartridges regularly. So why are these cartridges so expensive? Here are a couple of reasons why:

Expensive Ink Keeps Manufacturers Afloat


When big companies like Brother, Lexmark, and HP launch a new printer, it is highly likely that they have created ink cartridges specific to that one printer. Why? Because these companies get their money’s worth on inks. If you examine the production cost versus the retail prices of good printers and inks, printers are usually sold at cost. And unfortunately, consumers are unwilling to spend more for durable printers. Manufacturers don’t get to make a profit on their printers, so they insist on having consumers buy pricey ink cartridges instead.

Printer Ink (in General) is Difficult to Produce

It’s not all about making big profits for printer companies, as the process of creating one ink cartridge is not a walk in the park. After all, manufacturers need to create a cartridge that can withstand the demands of the printing process for thousands of pages without breaking. For example, some Canon printers use high heat to fire ink towards the paper in bubbles—hence their “Bubble Jet” branding. Other printers need to vaporize or squirt ink at 30 miles per hour, at a rate of 36,000 drops per second, through a nozzle thinner than a follicle of human hair. The formula of printer ink is also not the same as ball pen ink, since it shouldn’t dry up when the printer is not in use.


With all these considerations, manufacturers usually spend three to five years on R&D—and create thousands of prototypes—to create the perfect ink cartridge. Since spending all that time and creating those prototypes cost a lot, they need to recoup their expenses.

As these arguments demonstrate, the high prices for ink cartridges are not just some arbitrary number plucked by printer companies from thin air.

Cheaper Printer Ink Cartridges Do Exist


However, not all hope is lost. Some printer manufacturers, such as Kodak, have released multifunction inkjet models that feature cheaper cartridges. And of course, there are the re-manufactured ink cartridges mentioned earlier. Not only do they offer the same quality as the original, expensive ones—these remanufactured versions are also created from the recycled parts of OEM ink cartridges. Hence, these not only allow you to save money but helps you save the environment as well.

With these innovations helping lower the price of printer ink for the average consumer, spending a lot on printer ink is going to be a thing of the past.

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