This Week in Imaging: Is This Inkjet Printers’ Achilles’ Heel?
Last week, Consumer Reports updated an article that it published in 2013, again claiming that “…much of that precious ink (used by inkjet printers) never makes it onto the printed page. Instead, it’s used for cleaning print heads and other maintenance chores, typically when the printer is starting up after sitting idle for awhile.”
It’s true that inkjet printers use a certain amount of ink for print-head cleaning and maintenance after being idle for some time and then being started up. To determine the amount of ink that never makes it to print pages – but is instead used for maintenance – Consumer Reports’ researchers established a test protocol that consisted of printing 30 pages, two or three at a time, “at varying intervals over the course of four weeks and, between sessions, they shut off the printer.”
After performing this test protocol, they found that, with intermittent use, many models delivered half or less of their ink to print pages, and a few managed no more than 20 to 30 percent. As you might suspect, the more consumer-focused printers delivered the least ink, while business-oriented inkjets delivered the most.
Wirth Consulting’s testing has also shown that shutting down an inkjet printer and then powering it up at a later time caused the printer to use considerably more ink than if it was left in Sleep mode. This is because upon power-up, inkjet printers make several passes over a “diaper” in order to remove dried-up ink from the print head, thus ensuring that the print quality of the first print is up to par.
Is this an Achilles’ Heel for business inkjets used in offices? We don’t think so. First, in an office, most employees wouldn’t be powering off the device – instead, most inkjets’ automatically default into energy-reducing Sleep or Power-Save modes, so there’s no need to turn them off. Second, with shared office use, users won’t likely be printing so few pages so intermittently, requiring use of ink for maintenance. Third, many business inkjets are now available under MPS cost-per-page plans that the customer knows about upfront. Moreover, cost per page has been dramatically reduced for inkjets; indeed, inkjet cost-per-page can be as little as one-third that of toner-based in-class competitors. And finally, for consumers, cost-per-page plans, such as HP’s Instant Ink, are now also available, so that, for instance, users can print up to 300 pages per month for $9.99, regardless of how much ink is used for maintenance.
Last, it’s also worth noting that toner-based laser printers and copiers also generate excess wasted toner, as the imaging drum is scraped clean of excess toner by a wiper blade after each and every print – that’s why they’re equipped with waste-toner receptacles that must be periodically emptied. According to The Guardian, about 13 percent of toner in every toner cartridge is wasted (by the way, this Guardian article reports how that waste toner is being used to pave roads in Australia).
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