January 10, 2006 > Ink!
A quick glance through any office supply store will reveal a significant display of ink cartridges and refills for a dizzying array of printers. Not only has the paperless revolution failed to remove handheld documents from the public domain, but the ease and versatility of printing has increased the demand for them - pictures, written documents, etc. Of course, as the ability to produce and reproduce printed information becomes available to all, printing products that in the past were solely within the domain of professional printers and specialists, now clamor for general consumer attention. As the market grows, the noise level increases and, inevitably, confusion reigns. What is the real cost of this revolution and its benefits to the consumer? As the ink flows and costs are counted, alternatives to high priced cartridges have surfaced; among them Carboodle Cartridge, and ink supplier headquartered in Santa Clara, Ca. with franchise operations mostly in California and notably in the Tri-City area.
Ever since someone got the bright idea to leave evidence of his or her thoughts through pictures or writing, the ability to leave a clear mark, easily distinguished from a background, has been a primary concern. The concepts of quality and durability have always been considered, since what good is it to leave your imprint for others if they are either unable to decipher the message or it vanishes before there is opportunity for them to see it? Discovery of ancient hieroglyphics and cave wall writings attest to ingenuity and permanence of even early examples of pigmented markers. Ink, a liquid substance to leave a mark is thought to have had its birth in China over 5,000 years ago from soot, lamp oil, animal skin gelatin and musk. According to an article written for the Christian Science Monitor, ink was in common use in China by 1200 B.C. while other civilizations were developing ink from berries, plants and minerals indigenous to their regions.
As ink and document portability became more prevalent, not only were writing skills of critical importance, but material to hold and carry the message was scrutinized as well. Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Hebrews used paper from papyrus plants and parchment made from animal skins dating back to 2000 BC. It has always been recognized that a colorant must be bound to "paper" and retained at least until its purpose is complete. Writing instruments also began to evolve from pointed sticks, bamboo and feather quills - objects that could hold a bit of ink - to fountain pens and ballpoint pens that can hold a significant reservoir of pigmented liquid.
As ease of reproduction became an issue, even Thomas Edison got involved, creating an "electric pen" stenciling machine. These soon became obsolete as the 20th Century ushered in typewriters and carbon paper that replaced stencils. But throughout, even with tremendous technological change, ink has retained its importance as a means of creating printed money, documents, packaging, signage, artwork among a myriad of other uses. As an example, even though this article is being created on a computer using electronic images, it will ultimately reside on paper stained with ink.
Today, as computers and companion printers are almost universally accessible, the ink market has become a huge economic force. Some computers are now packaged with a "free" printer. Why give this hardware to consumers at little or no cost? The real expense soon becomes apparent as the ink cartridge(s) runs dry and the need for a replacement sends consumers to the store for more. By then, the lure of well printed labels, letters, pictures, etc. has taken hold and the question arises of how to stop the flow of "red" ink in the checkbook while allowing printer ink to continue its work on our documents.
With each purchase of a printer, comes the assurance of the manufacturer that the ink supplied by that manufacturer is of superior quality and hints that use of alternatives may be harmful to the machine. Is this fact or fiction? How is a consumer to know? To add to the confusion, substitute ink stores have arisen claiming large savings while preserving parity with brand name ink. Why all the fuss? An article in PC World titled Cheap Ink Probed in September 2003 (about 2 years ago!) notes that "the world's ink jet printers will guzzle $21 billion worth of ink this year." The article says, "third party inks can save you money, and that some produce prints on a par with the output of printer vendor inks." But, they caution, while testing, some third party inks "produced poor quality prints and clogged up print-heads." According to manufacturers, another factor to consider is "fluidity," the ability of a printer to spray ink precisely and properly, making sure that ink, paper, cartridges and printheads work well together. If all of these factors are properly tuned, the yield of prints and their quality will be optimal.
A cartridge replacement specialty store that has surfaced in increasing numbers is Carboodle Cartridge. Ramen Drishnan, owner and operator of the franchise in Newark is proud of his stock and says that he is certain of the high quality cartridges and ink used by Carboodle. Initially, he explored another ink company that refilled cartridges on location but concluded that quality control and time required presented significant obstacles to customer satisfaction. Drishnan says that Carboodle had tried that approach but decided to consolidate its refill operations at a single location where quality could be strictly controlled and cartridges rigorously examined. "I really like that concept," he says. A tour of the "factory" where toner and ink cartridges were being prepared for sale convinced him that he could have confidence in Carboodle products.
As he entered the business of selling ink, Drishnan learned the value of his services - savings of up to 50% - and how to solve customer needs. He says that use of ink is always "the customer's choice." If there is a preference for a name brand or Carboodle does not supply a particular refill, this full service store will supply whatever is necessary to keep customers satisfied. Drishnan even offers his business clients the option of delivery service. With an inventory of approximately 700 cartridges, Drisnan says he usually has what customers want, but if a product is not carried at the store, he can fill the order through a large network of suppliers within one day. In addition to personal service and the ability to deal directly with a supplier, Drisnan notes that purchase errors are quickly rectified at no cost and if used cartridges are returned, customers receive a credit toward the purchase of a replacement - recycling can be profitable!
Braving reams of information from ink sellers and testing laboratories, it appears that the decision of which ink will fulfill a particular need relates to the age-old question of what the printing is supposed to do and how long it is designed to last. Materials have changed, but the implements remain essentially the same: ink, a writing instrument and the material that will receive and hold the image. Epson's Guide to Superior Print Quality, available at the Epson website, notes, "When it comes to ink, there is no "one-size-fits all" solution. Different printing applications require different types of ink to produce the best print quality." The combination of ink type - dye based or pigment based - and paper is critical to optimizing the finished product.
Buying ink through the internet, without brand name assurance, can yield a variety of results and ink supplied may even vary from purchase to purchase. Printer warranties are a murky issue when substituting ink brands although manufacturers state that damage caused by other vendor's ink is not covered. Litigation in the area indicates that if damage does not result directly from use of a substitute cartridge, the warranty is still valid. The PC World article concludes, "If top quality and print longevity aren't of paramount importance, you can save money using no-name ink - but you may have to spend a lot of time cleaning clogged printheads." However, for those who require top quality and durability, the article concludes, "you're better off playing it safe by gritting your teeth and shelling out for brand-name inks." The bottom line appears to be that, as with most products, substitutions can create substantial savings, but buyers should know who they are buying from and have confidence in the vendor and its representatives.
For those who would like to know more about the subject of ink quality and use in modern printers, some sites to visit on the internet include: www.csmonitor.com; www.pcworld.com; www.epson.com; www.wilhelm-research.com.
Ramen Krishnan - Carboodle Cartridge, 39267 Cedar Blvd., Newark (510) 818-0535 - is eager to discuss ink requirements and how Carboodle products may help you stem the flow of red ink when buying ink and toner replacements for your home or office.