The Economics of a Continuous Ink System
By Daniel Roberts – Ink Cartridge Technologies Ltd
Apart from operational factors, the cost savings using a good quality continuous ink system (CIS) are very significant. This article shows that in a typical photo printing environment a user can save 82% of his ink costs and demonstrates how a user can recover the cost of buying and installing a CIS system in just 18 days.
It also looks into the argument of how quality may not compromised despite such a saving.
If you have an Epson printer there are three potential sources for your ink supplies
1. Epson original cartridges
2. Compatible cartridges
3. A continuous ink system
This paper examines the economics of each when engaged in photo printing
We have worked from a study of printing costs on the Epson R2880 (which we use in house) undertaken by By Rick LePage of Printerville and published on the web http://www.printerville.net/2008/09/14/epson-stylus-photo-r2880-review/
The study examined the usage and cost (in the USA) of ink used in printing an 8x10” images. The following are the results using, of coure Epson Original Cartridges
The above is based on cartridges costing $13.29 per 11ml cartridge
Comparison – Epson Original Cartridges
In the UK (Epson’s Store) www.epson.co.uk/store the price (Jan 2010) is £11.47 including VAT. Hence in the UK the exercise above would have cost £159.20 (or about $127) – or 80p ($1.28) per page.
So based on an average month production of say 500 sheets the cost would be £398 or $637. This is half the cost of the printer
Compatibles vary immensely in terms of quality and price – some cartridges would not be considered by a quality conscious photographer, especially for printers using pigment inks.
However the writer considers that some manufacturers such as Ninestar (G&G), Printrite and DCI (Jet Tec) have a long standing good reputation.
At the time of writing (January 2010) compatibles for the Epson R2880 were not generally available, but it can be safely assumed that these products will be on the market shortly at prices in line with those for other printer models. We have therefore selected Jet Tec – and may expect that cartridges will be available at about £4.99 inc VAT for this product.
So for our 200 page exercise the cost would be 13.5x£4.99= £67.36 – or a monthly cost of £168. – 34p ($0.57) per page
This compares with the Original monthly cost of £398 – a saving of £230 or 58%.
Continuous Ink System
Continuous ink systems (CIS) are a very cost effective way of delivering ink and are ideal when you have a heavy load of photographic printing. Instead of purchasing individual cartridges which typically contain only 11-15ml of ink you install a range of cartridges which are connected by tubes to ink containers usually mounted externally to the printer.
The ink containers are filled from ink bottles so replacement of cartridges is unnecessary.
In addition to saving – in this example – 82% in ink costs there are additional benefits:
Improved efficiency – there is no need to change cartridges
More environmentally friendly – there are no used cartridges to discard
No ink wastage – no residual ink in cartridges
We have undertaken our comparison against Fotospeed InkFlow Continuous Ink System (CIS), marketed by OPUSalbums.com
So to start with:
Fotospeed cost (from OPUSalbums.com) is £24.64 per 125ml or £0.20 per ml
The cost of the 200 page exercise is therefore £29.20 ($46.70) or 14.5p ($0.23) per page.
The monthly cost on this basis is £73 (or $117). This is a saving of £325 or 82%!
A Fotospeed InkFlow Quill system for the Epson 2880 costs £169.70 from OPUSalbums.com – and that includes about 50ml of useable ink per colour (i.e. 450ml of ink - £75.49 at our prices). So the net cost of the system alone is £169.70-£75.49 plus VAT = £110.69
On this basis the investment has a payback period of 0.34 months – or about 10 days!
Even if we allowed two hours @ £40 per hour for installation and profiling we end up with a cost of £190 and a payback period of 18 days.
This is to say nothing of the option of suing dye based inks (which some photographers prefer for photos which have a short ‘life’ since they produce a more vivid colour) .
There the price from OPUSalbums.com is £8.47 plus VAT (£9.95) for 100ml – or £0.0995 per ml – leading to a monthly cost of £35 a saving of 91% on the cost of ink from Epson. But this may be OK for pricing a job where longevity is not required. But it is not a like for like comparison.
Of course we must acknowledge that the system has to be installed. But once installed apart from occasionally (11 times a month on avarge) having to top up a reservoir – or 33 times a month having to unclip the cartridge and replace it – a two second operation – quicker than replacing a cartridge.
Can the Saving be so great and the Ink still be of Quality?
This question mill inevitably be asked by a judicious user. The fact is that
1. The price of print cartridges have little to do with the cost of manufacture. The business model is a ‘razor blade’ one and the price is geared to the market forces. Indeed on an Epson cartridge the cost to Epson of the ink alone is probably of the order of 3 cents or less – on a cartridge retailing for £11!
2. Much of the cost of a cartridge is in the delivery mechanism – indeed a cartridge is a very high precision device. Ink has to be supplied at exactly the right speed or characters will be misformed and dots misplaced. Then there is also the chip – a relatively costly item as it has certainly not been designed to be the cheapest way of providing identification and measurement data in the cheapest way. With cartridges – original and compatible these are disposable items; with the a CIS system they are provided just once. The ink is supplied in bottles – and bottles of a capacity of 11 cartridges. The cost of the supplies is therefore negligible compared with the cost of the ink.
3. Finally the fact that many professional photographers – whose livelihood depends on providing quality images use good quality CIS systems such as the Fotospeed InkFlow CIS system speaks for itself.
Based on some tests by Printerville, corroborated by our own experience we have computed the cost per page in ink for producing 10x8” photos. Costs are based on UK prices
The following are the results:
Epson Original (Epson UK shop) £0.80 $1.28
Compatible Cartridges (DCI-JetTec) £0.34 $0.57 52% saving
Continuous Ink Supply (Fotospeed) £0.145 $0.23 82% saving
A full analysis and a discussion on the quality aspects of these systems the is at www.opusalbums.com/cis-economics