Printers & Ink Business Model

In the last 10 years, the prices of inkjet and laser printers have gone down almost as fast as desktop computers (the only exception to this would be the Dot Matrix Printers). Yet, the inks and cartridges themselves didn’t move down as low as we want them to be — somewhere in the vicinity of cheap and affordable.

Thus, we have thriving industry of buying used-up ink printer cartridges and booming franchises of ink refilling stations.

It’s already obvious, printer manufacturers are banking more on ink sales rather than printer sales. If an average lifetime of a printer is 3 years, it could have used up at least 12 ink replacements (every 3 months) with a total sales that could cost 10 times that of the printer itself. With that number, it makes sense to sell printers cheap (and possibly, even at a loss) then get the ROI thru expensive consummables.

The strategy worked, but it also paved the way for other enterprising people to supply a growing demand for un-branded ink refills. What’s the going rate now — Php150 for a Php600 original cartridge. That’s at least 4 times cheaper. No wonder printer manufacturers are worried or their margins and calling these refills destructive to your precious printers.

Still, looking at it an economic perspective, even if these refills can damage your printer the total re-acquisition cost would still be cheaper. Let’s look at the numbers:

All Original Specs
Printer Cost: Php2,500
Original Ink Refills: Php600
Average Lifespan: 3 years
Ink Replacement Freq.: 3 months

Total cost: Php2,500 + (3year/3months)(Php600) = Php7,200

Unbranded Ink Refills
Printer Cost: Php2,500
Unbranded Ink Refills: Php150
Average Lifespan: 1.5 years
Ink Replacement Freq.: 3 months

Total cost: Php2,500 * (2 printers for 3 years) + (3year/3months)(Php150) = Php6,800

With the sample computation above, we have two sets — the first uses only 1 printer for 3 years because it uses original inks while the second used up 2 printers for the same amount of time due to unbranded ink refills. I suppose the figures are even better for others.

8 Comments on this Post

  1. How can ink damage the printer? The only difference I saw from the original ink cartridges is that the blank inks are err.. blacker.

    But who cares?! As long as the text is readable, most people won’t mind or notice. Because I use cheapo paper, the grade A ink’s full potential won’t be used anyway.

    Reply
  2. I only use original inks when printing graphics heavy stuff. For documents, unbranded inks will do.

    Reply
  3. Just like mobile phones, printers too have become ‘disposable’ goods. Again just like SIM cards, it’s often times cheaper just to get a new one instead of having the printer fixed when it gets broken.

    Reply
  4. what about for laser printers?

    @ JP Loh
    unbranded inks damage printers because they don’t go the same Quality assurance tests as opposed to the branded ones. they are more susceptible to leakage, and for some reason, they get used up faster?

    I personally use an epson which i installed CIS to..after a few months, the quality of the print out was significantly affected. puro lines na lahat ng pnprint ko,even just plain text… pero mura e, so bahala na hahahaha you get what you pay for.

    if you want quality, branded pdin tlga… if you’re after economy, go for refills. if you’re after both? gotta go for branded… with refills, sobrang no quality e..

    Reply
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