Thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers are one of the most commonly utilized technologies available today for industrial marking. Capable of producing quality codes at an affordable price point, TIJ printers are frequently found throughout the manufacturing sector. Given that TIJ ink cartridges can be filled with ink for either porous or non-porous material applications, operators can use TIJ printers to mark a variety of materials, including:
Because of this diverse material compatibility, TIJ printers are used in industries ranging from pharmaceutical packaging and food production to building material manufacturing.
That said, one of the drawbacks of TIJ printing is that the cartridges run out of ink faster as compared to other marking technologies like CIJ printing. This is especially evident when companies rely on TIJ printers to complete high-quantity marking runs. Over time, continuously replacing TIJ cartridges can disproportionately affect company budgets.
To reduce these costs, many companies turn to third-party inkjet cartridges due to their lower prices. However, does this lower price come at the expense of anything else? Read below for our thoughts on aftermarket TIJ ink pros and cons.
The biggest benefit to using aftermarket ink cartridges is cost savings. Name-brand hardware producers like Videojet are known worldwide for their quality products and therefore are able to charge a premium price for their goods, including their TIJ cartridges.
For example, just one 42 ml cartridge of Videojet’s Flex Solvent WLK660081 formula costs $116.84. Videojet offers no bulk deals for these cartridges (at least not to public buyers), giving its TIJ customers no option but to spend excessive amounts of money on ink—unless they purchase through a third party.
Despite the claims from some TIJ manufacturers, many of today’s aftermarket ink supplies are compatible with name-brand printers and are available at significantly lower rates. For example, a quick search on Alibaba reveals several TIJ ink options that are available at rates ranging from $60-$80 per cartridge.
With these lower prices, companies can save significant capital on their yearly printing costs. However, choosing to go with a third-party ink supplier isn’t risk-free.
Although the lower prices of third-party inkjet cartridges can be enticing, buyers need to be wary.
Empty TIJ cartridges are easy to source in bulk from hardware suppliers like IUT (International United Technology). Once the cartridges are purchased, any company can fill them with ink and sell them on the market. Small companies across Asia, for example, commonly buy large amounts of TIJ cartridges to create third-party products for international distribution. As one might expect, these low entry barriers result in wildly different levels of ink quality and cartridge handling.
This lack of quality control can lead to a variety of issues, including:
Between having to match the chip to the appropriate printer brand and the time between filling the cartridge and transit, this can lead to very long and unpredictable lead times.
In certain situations, these quality control issues aren’t necessarily awful. For instance, if a company is located in a region where consistent code readability isn’t a necessity, the occasional misprint won’t be detrimental to output. Similarly, if a company is using its TIJ printers for simple applications that don’t require sharp codes or if it can easily perform reprints, cheap third-party TIJ cartridges are a viable cost-effective option.
However, when buying from a foreign online retailer, true product availability could be an issue. Between having to match the chip to the appropriate printer brand and the time between filling the cartridge and transit, this can lead to very long and unpredictable lead times.
Reputable third-party companies do exist, but finding them does require diligent research. If a company operates in a heavily regulated industry like food production or pharmaceutical manufacturing where sharp codes are a must, unreliable third-party companies must be avoided. When in doubt, OEM sources are better than taking a chance with an unvetted ink producer.
At C&M Digest, a large part of our coverage involves profiling the biggest names in the printing industry, including those involved in third-party ink production. By staying up-to-date with our regularly published material, you can discover the best, most affordable inks on the market and avoid potentially problematic products.
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