Alternative inks for inkjet printers have been available for many years and the trend of using these inks, especially in wide-format printers, is growing. Spurred on by the poor economy, printers have been looking for ways to cut costs. Alternative inks are one just way.
There has always been the question of whether these alternative inks really work or not; the answer is that sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. “It all comes down to the experience that the chemists have in developing inkjet inks, their testing methods, the quality of the components used to make the inks, the quality of their filtration system and their final quality control methods,” said Michael Andreottola, president, American Ink Jet Corporation, Billerica, MA. Andreottola said that in the past few years, he has seen “a remarkable increase in the acceptance of alternative inks.”
Through the years, the main third-party ink companies went through the learning experience of what the customer needed from third-party inks, according to Pedro J. Martinez, CEO, Afford Inks, Madrid, Spain, which was basically to match OEM inks. “While some excellent inks were produced, they were not successful because the printer needed to change the way he did its job (like using different icc profiles),” said Martinez. “Now, however, matches are closer to OEM inks and customers are happier to work with alternative inks.”
Nitin Goswamy, president, A.T Inks, Charlotte, NC, said they have definitely seen that more and more customers are beginning to accept non-OEM inks for their printing purposes. The primary driver may have been the poor economy, which forced printers to look at every avenue for cost savings, but Goswamy said that once printers did their research, they saw that there are some very good alternatives out there—which they may have preferred anyway and not just for the cost alone. “The key here is that all alternative inks are not the same,” stressed Goswamy. “Those companies who have worked with the right supplier, and have used good alternative inks, have accepted them and therefore the market for our inks is growing.”
There are two main reasons for the increased acceptance of alternative ink, according to Steve Igoe, sales manager, Bordeaux Inc., Santa Clara, CA. “First, our inks have been shown to be equal or better than OEM ink,” he said. “Second, there has been an increase in demand fueled by end users need to save money during a tough economy.”
Nazdar is another supplier who has seen a huge spike in its alternative-to-OEM inks in the past 18 months. The jump in demand can be explained in the need for end users to find more economical supplies and the wholesale change in attitude toward alternative inks. “End users are becoming more comfortable using high-quality, domestically manufactured alternative inks due to overall reliability and compatibility,” reported Chuck Payne, Channel Development Manager – Digital, Nazdar, Shawnee, KS.
So, we have established that the main advantage of alternative inks is cost savings. That, however, is just the tip of the iceberg when you talk to alternative ink makers, who claim they also offer a better color gamut, better service, shorter drying times and improved adhesion.
“We produce inks with a large color gamut that are especially appealing to customers,” reported Karla Witte, vice president, product development for INX Digital International, Sacramento, CA. “And, when you combine very fast drying times and improved adhesion on the hardest substrates, that’s why alternative inks are getting more attention in the marketplace.”
Martinez said that alternative inks can offer a better mechanical or chemical property when compared to original inks, such as scratch resistance and alcohol resistance. “There are also niche markets that are mostly covered by alternative ink manufacturers, such as leather decoration and special developments for industrial applications,” he said.