Cartridge prices have been steadily falling pretty much since the inception of digital printing. This trend sped up even more with the introduction on non-branded generic cartridges and cartridge refill kits.
However, this is really just the natural cycle of any consumer product. And as much as the prices of cartridges and ink have gone down, it can still be prohibitively expensive for the average home user to do a large scale printing task. Like printing a textbook or user-manual, for instance.
Epson offers Much More Prints for Much Less
Enter the Epson Printer series, five new printer models that are equipped with its brand new EcoTank technology. That “eco” for economic, not ecological. And for good reason, as apparently these new models’ ink will not only last a reported two years or 11, 000 pages, but also refilling it will be as simple as upending a small plastic bottle (or rather 3 plastic bottles). As you may know, the cartridge and printing head make up the lion’s share of the cost to the manufacturer, and by extension, the cost to you.
The concept of the printer cartridge will be replaced with 3 tanks, which can refilled manually, and the print head will be permanent. The ink bottles: black, yellow, magenta and cyan, will run you an odd R170 each, so about R 680 to replace the whole system. Obviously you know you can get cartridge refill and even new ones for less these days, but at 11 000 prints, that’s only 6 cents a page.
The quality of each prints and accuracy of these claims are the biggest concerns with this technology. Perhaps after refilling 3 times, the print head starts to malfunction or the quality gradually decrease the longer you use it. Initial reviews are quite positive, but it remains to be seen how much this will truly shake up the cartridge-printer model we all know.
Ink Refill Kits Are Not New to the Industry
The printer industry has always worked on the model of making a financial loss on the hardware (printer) and making up for it with the consumables (ink). And it’s also not new to facing competition for this market from generic brands and other cartridge refill solutions. However, often the generic brand, while substantially cheaper, can be known to offer less prints and at a reduced quality.
But this is one the few times we’ve seen the industry be proactive about such an obvious trend. This could be linked to the growing popularity of technology such as smartphones and tablets, which are affecting people’s need for hardcopy prints, to begin with.
Whether other printer brands will decide to follow in Epson’s footsteps, remains to be seen. The move could put an end to the decades long war we’ve all had with printer cartridges. Or it could just be too little, too late.