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HP Printer The Almighty Buck Technology

HP Explains Why Printer Ink Is So Expensive 651

Posted by kdawson
from the megabucks-per-picoliter dept.
CWmike writes "'There's a perception that [printer] ink is one of the most expensive substances in the world,' says Thom Brown, marketing manager at HP. Well, yeah. One might get that feeling walking out of a store having spent $35 for a single ink cartridge that appears to contain fewer fluid ounces of product than a Heinz ketchup packet. Brown was ready to explain. He presented a series of PowerPoint slides aptly titled 'Why is printer ink so expensive?' I was ready for answers. The key point in a nutshell: Ink technology is expensive, and you pay for reliability and image quality. 'These liquids are completely different from a technology standpoint,' Brown says, adding that users concerned about cost per page can buy 'XL' ink cartridges from HP that last two to three times longer. (Competitors do the same.) The message: You get value for the money. No getting around it though — ink is still expensive, particularly if you have to use that inkjet printer for black-and-white text pages."
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HP Explains Why Printer Ink Is So Expensive

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  • Confusing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:43PM (#32331122)

    If people are paying for the precision and technology behind the ink printing itself, that still doesn't explain why it's so expensive. How can they afford to print the label on that ketchup packet for so cheaply? Printing and ink technology isn't exactly brand new, I guess I'm a little confused. If I pay $35 for an ink cartridge that is the size of a ketchup packet, it better be super concentrated precision ink that can stick to tin foil and will last for a gazillion print jobs. HP seems better at selling snake oil then they do printer ink.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:50PM (#32331644)
      HP is lying, I think.

      You can buy bottles of ink and fill the cartridges, and the ink works fine. They put chips in the cartridges to try to prevent refilling. If the ink were really expensive, they wouldn't need the chips.

      The HP "explanation" is powerful public relations. It says, "No sensible, honest person would work for HP. The management is dishonest."

      Why be abused?
      • by RenderSeven (938535) on Monday May 24, 2010 @11:38PM (#32331912)
        I got to spend some time with the HP engineers a bunch of years back when I was building printers. We used empty HP cartridges, filled them with our own ink formulations, and drove them with custom electronics. Yeah they 'work' just fine with just about any fluid imaginable (ink, food coloring, PCB etch resist, antifreeze, perfume) as long as you're flexible with your definition of 'work'. The 'ink' cant eat the cartridge body, clog the orifice plate, leave residue (cogation) on the heating elements, form crust on the plate or orifices, have sufficient surface tension to draw ink into the head when printing at 100% duty cycle, exactly the right surface tension and viscosity to form exactly one single droplet for every heating cycle (no satellites, now!), not dribble during shipping, have exactly the same properties when using (at least) four different dye formulations, not evaporate in the printer, form consistent droplet sizes and shapes that travel at exactly the same velocity, stick to paper without splattering, penetrate the paper coating without bleeding and not smudge after just seconds, have proper thermal mass to carry waste heat away from the head, and the list just goes on and on and on. HP was even doing things like tuning the heating profile to get cavitation in the ink reservoir at the just right frequency to act like a microscopic ultrasonic cleaner to blast impurities away from the heating elements. Maybe I impress easily but I was impressed.

        And thats just the ink. The R&D and engineering that goes into the cartridge and printer is unbelievable, and you get one of them for your $35 too, your own little piece of a few billion invested in R&D, tooling, and cartridge factory. It stinks to have to throw it away, but that's the model you bought into when you bought a cheap printer with disposable cartridges. There used to be lots of piezo-base (and other) printing technologies, but while the ink refills came in pints for cheap the printers were expensive, and no one bought them (not my printers, anyway).

        If your idea of accurate pricing is how much a refill maker charges to rip off HP's formulations, have HP effectively give away the cartridges, and have you do the labor filling them, then I guess you could say the ink is cheap. I hate spending money on those cartridges too (more so my large format Epson), and I refill them sometimes, but I dont begrudge HP their business model, especially since we are all the people that made it the dominant technology by buying into it.
        • by MrNaz (730548) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:07AM (#32332068) Homepage

          You're talking out of your ass.

          Once an ink formulation has been designed, it can easily be remade. Kind of like how pharmaceuticals can be remade, except developing ink doesn't take a fraction of the cost to R&D. The bulk of the R&D costs are in the printer itself, but there is far more money charging for consumables rather than the durables.

          As was pointed out, ink isn't new. Sure, printers are getting better and better, but I'd be the formulation of ink hasn't changed much since the first Bubblejet printers showed up on the market in the early 90s.

          HP is lying. The truth is ink is expensive because making it so makes them lots and lots of money for items which can be mass-produced on the cheap. Oh, and I don't buy your "ink cartridges are precision items" BS either. Some ink cartridges cost more than a low-end CPU. Try convincing me that something that is 99% moulded plastic with a few small parts is harder to fabricate than a part with several hundred million transistors, fabricated in a factory that is probably worth more than HP's market capitalization.

          Nah. I don't buy HP's BS. Or yours for that matter.

          • by tonywong (96839) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @02:28AM (#32332694) Homepage
            Perhaps you need a course in anger management.

            The model of ink jet printers and ink cartridges being like the razor and razor blade model has been established for decades now. The biggest issue with the pricing of the ink is in the advancement of the technology as well as the replacement cycles.

            Once you slow down the replacement cycle the R&D overhead with the new models will become less of an issue, and prices of cartridges will start to fall.

            However, no one ever said that you had to buy into the manufacturer's game. If you don't like HP's inkjet prices, then don't buy it. No one put a gun to your head, and if you didn't do your research to profile which printer cost you the least over time for your printing needs, the only person you have to blame is yourself.

            FWIW, the technology behind inkjet printers has advanced substantially over the years. Just because you may not appreciate it, others might and do.

            The resolution of inkjets has gotten markedly higher, the droplet size smaller, placement more precise, less clogging. Along with the switch to pigmented (versus dye) ink, the permanence has gone up radically (beyond silver halide) and the gamut even larger.

            A good indication of where the consumer inkjets are going is from the higher end photo printing market. A decent comparison of the latest inkjets can be found here:
            http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/printers/x300.shtml

            That comparison is of the 24" and 44" roll fed models from Canon, HP and Epson. Note the gamut increase from one generation and the competition's. If you don't think the formulation of the ink has changed to get the vibrance of a pigmented ink suspension versus a dye ink, you should really do some research before flaming a guy who had purported to spend some time with the HP engineers.

            Are inkjet cartridges premium priced? You betcha. Are HP inkjets carts out of line with the competition? I doubt it.

            Just remember the HP formulation may not be the same as another manufacturer's since they have different methods of laying down the ink. As well, HP has cheap user replaceable heads while some manufacturers like Epson, do not. The cost of the head is figured into the price, of course.

            As well, HP's profits are definitely anchored by the printing division, but if the numbers were so far out of line with the other printer manufacturers, they'd be doing something wrong. And if all printer manufacturers were so greedy as to be ripping everyone off, you'd have a huge amount of competitors flooding into the market to try to grab their share of the fat profits available. Chinese printers, anyone?

            The ugly truth of the matter is that the consumer end of the inkjet market sucks because anyone who prints a lot will get screwed. The corollary is that if you print a lot, don't buy a consumer ink jet. Or refill your own using the manufacturer's bulk sizes. For instance, the ink formulations for a B8850/B9180 are the same as the Z2100 series, which are 70mL carts. Buying one of those and refilling the tiny (15mL) B series works great.
            • While I was a senior manager at HP, I got a pretty good idea of the size of printer R&D. It wasn't so big that it cost 1/100 of what they make from ink. But I did get figures on HP margins, which were essentially whatever they could get, not really held to any multiple of internal costs.

              The printer market won't change as long as any company that makes printers has to license patents from the others. Eventually that day will end and you might get fair ink prices.

              • They're mad at Canon (Score:4, Informative)

                by Xenographic (557057) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @05:45AM (#32333540) Homepage Journal

                Incidentally, I notice that the article takes a jab at Canon, which is breaking their code and talking about the price of ink. I remember a very different story Slashdot ran a while back [slashdot.org] which shows just how absurd things are right now.

                If anyone here does a lot of printing, I'd say to look up continuous flow systems. People buy gallons of ink and feed them into the cartridge. Yeah, sometimes they have problems, but they get a new print cartridge when they *need* one, not when it's empty.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by ultranova (717540)

                But I did get figures on HP margins, which were essentially whatever they could get, not really held to any multiple of internal costs.

                And that's different from any business how?

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Hurricane78 (562437)

                It’s called the color laser printer. Much more reliable technology. Much cheaper per page. Looks better. And they are not much cheaper than a color ink printer. There is no reason for ink printers anymore. At all.
                The only reason they still are bought is because of stupid people being so cheap that it becomes more expensive again for them.

                Like those who rather buy $10 shirts again and again that fall apart after 3 uses, than 100$ ones that last for a decade.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by ArhcAngel (247594)

                  My $10 shirts last longer than your HP Inkjet printer. My HP LJ IV OTOH will most likely outlast cockroaches. Too bad hp spun off its braintrust [wikipedia.org] when they figured out they could make more money selling printer ink than test equipment.

                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by bluefoxlucid (723572)
                  You're nuts. I spend $25 on a peruvian cotton shirt that's using brushed fibers (brushing the cotton removes short fibers and causes weak fibers to break; what remains is long, durable cotton fibers). Two washes and $18 Wal-Mart shirts start fading and have wear (part of the fabric looks like you took a pumice stone to it). Two hundred washes and $25 stuff from Land's End or Polo remains in tact. Who needs a $100 shirt?
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by LordLimecat (1103839)

            Some ink cartridges cost more than a low-end CPU

            Actually, pretty much all branded ones do-- a Sempron 140 can be had for $33 (including shipping); pretty much any ink cartridge costs more than that, and a complete refill costs around $100.

          • by Zancarius (414244) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @03:33AM (#32332974) Homepage Journal

            You and the parent both have pretty good points (though I find RenderSeven's sharing of experience more interesting--regardless of what you feel about his opinion and experiences).

            I also agree that HP is sort of not telling the complete truth; on the other hand, I can explain the cost of ink cartridges in a way that their PR department wouldn't be too thrilled with: It's to recoup costs for developing the printers. Remember, it wasn't that many years ago when HP and Lexmark both started selling their low end inkjets at a loss, expecting that the cartridges would not just offset the costs but also bring in some additional profits. Presumably they were both in fierce competition for the low-end market. As the GP rightfully pointed out: No one wants to buy expensive printers with cartridges that are refillable (or cheaper). A sibling post in this part of the thread also reminds us that HP's business model isn't new. This is something that Gillette found out a long time ago. Really, it's just consumerism at its best. Consumers generally feel they're getting a fantastic deal if they only paid $75-$100 bucks for a printer with all sorts of nifty features. It doesn't matter if they wind up spending 2 or 3 times that amount in ink cartridges over the lifetime of the device, because--by golly--the printer was dirt cheap. Sad? Yeah, but it's true.

            Anyway, to the subject of my post: If you're printing out pages and pages of black and white reports with an inkjet, you're doing it wrong (color is justifiable). I have a cheapo HP laser printer that I got for around $100 back in 2005, and it got me through the rest of my excursion back to university. I must've cranked out somewhere between 1000-1500 pages of paper through that poor little thing, and oddly the toner cartridge still works fine even though I'm sure it was only rated for a maximum of 800 pages total. (Yeah, I'm running with the original that shipped with the printer.) 'Course, now that I've said that, it'll probably crap out--but it's performed leaps and bounds better than any crummy inkjet I've owned, including a much more expensive inkjet my father purchased back when I was in high school (which came with separate print heads).

            I hate printers, I really do, but I think I hate inkjets far more than any other design.

          • by kklein (900361) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @03:55AM (#32333082)

            Here's the conclusion I came to after believing the Slashdot line about printer ink: Yes, the manufacturer makes the best ink. The difference is astounding. It doesn't run; it doesn't clog. It's worth the money.

            And here's a little tidbit from a different source:

            I once interviewed with a company that made rubber. Yes, rubber. Any kind of rubber whatzit. I walked in thinking "what am I doing here?" and walked out thinking "rubber is fucking cool!" I didn't get the job, though.

            But I digress.

            One of this company's clients was HP. This company's materials scientists worked closely with HP on the R&D of the rubber bumpers and stoppers used in HP inkjet printers. They had to design a rubber that could be molded properly, etc., and not be corroded away by the ink. The guy interviewing me got quite excited when he was talking about this project. Evidently, all the parts--especially rubber--that will be in contact with the ink have to be developed alongside it because many inks ate through rubber, given enough use. So it was an added hurdle in the design process, and one the guy was very proud of getting over. And it was he who ended it with, "And that's why we don't refill our cartridges around here--we know that other stuff will slowly eat away the stoppers we designed."

            So if you want to believe that everything is a lie and everyone is out to get you, fine. But it's not true. There's no question the ink is marked way up to cover the loss on the printers. But that doesn't mean that all inks were created equal.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Chrisq (894406)

              I once interviewed with a company that made rubber. Yes, rubber. Any kind of rubber whatzit. I walked in thinking "what am I doing here?" and walked out thinking "rubber is fucking cool!" I didn't get the job, though.

              I think we can all think of applications here where we would not want the rubber to split. Most of us are less likely to go round the corner for a cheap "used and refurbished" one too.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by ultranova (717540)

              Here's the conclusion I came to after believing the Slashdot line about printer ink: Yes, the manufacturer makes the best ink. The difference is astounding. It doesn't run; it doesn't clog. It's worth the money.

              It clogs. It clogs constantly. I'll never again use an inkjet, not ever again.

              As for the money, your entire post reads like inept astroturfing, from "worth the money" to the scaremongering bit about rubber being corroded by ink.

      • by pclminion (145572) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @02:03AM (#32332618)

        I've worked pretty closely* with the HP group responsible for creating their ink jet printer drivers. I haven't noticed any lack of sensibility or honesty. A company is both more and less than the sum of its parts, if that makes any sense. We're all just working hard and trying to do our jobs. If you think that people are going to quit their jobs in an economy like this because of the price of ink, you really are out of touch with reality.

        I also know one of the guys who designed some of the first ink jet inks (he happens to be the father of one of my closer friends). After spending a few hours hearing about what goes into these inks, at least to the degree that he's allowed to talk about it, I'm not terribly surprised that the inks are extremely expensive. Could they be LESS expensive? Probably, but people are buying the ink. If the prices are so unrealistic, why don't they just switch to a different manufacturer? There are plenty of them. Brother, Canon, Epson, Xerox, the list goes on. Are all of these companies colluding to fix the price of ink? It would be the biggest story since Rambus.

        * I said worked with, not worked for. My position puts me in contact with most of the major home printer manufacturers from time to time.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Dr. Evil (3501)

          Inkjet technology is the only technology I can think of in the computer industry where it has gotten progressively more and more expensive. Sure the printers are cheap... but the price per page is absurd.

          When somebody asks my advice about a printer... I usually say "buy a laser" and unless you're shelling out big bucks for an office, don't even think about HP. Their ink is so expensive and short lived, that it's cheaper to go to Kinko's... and you get better quality.

      • by rhook (943951) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:28AM (#32333242)

        They are lying, they are trying to justify their lawsuits against third party ink vendors in an attempt to keep ink prices high.

        http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1649866/hp-names-dodgy-ink-vendor [theinquirer.net]

        http://news.cnet.com/Inkjet-refiller-lashes-out-at-HP-for-lawsuit/2100-1041_3-5647086.html [cnet.com]

        There is no need for these cartridges to cost so much, once HP has done the R&D the cartridge design and ink formula need not change when a new printer comes out, and for the most part I bet they don't. No ink is worth $8000 a gallon.

        http://hothardware.com/News/8000-Per-Gallon-Printer-Ink--Lawsuit/ [hothardware.com]

  • by tyrione (134248) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:43PM (#32331124) Homepage
    and even Color Laser Toner, twice on Sunday. This fad with inkjet is amazingly short-sided by people who would buy this junk and just print off their digital photos, instead of buying digital picture frames to load up their images to have around the house. Keep buying it as my Laser montone and color printers are dirt cheap today.
    • by NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:51PM (#32331214)

      I bought a color laser printer over two years ago, and haven't had to buy toner yet. I haven't been careful about what I printed...the printer volume page says it has printed 3463 pages, all the color toner cartriges indicate 100% full, and the black toner is 60% full.

      I'm never buying an inkjet again.

    • by antdude (79039)

      Do cheap, new (not used and refurbished) laser printers exist for consumers?

      • by Nimey (114278) on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:05PM (#32331318) Homepage Journal

        I've seen HP mono laser printers go for $150. Newegg's got a Brother mono laser for $70 + $2 shipping right now.

        • by hax0r_this (1073148) on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:22PM (#32331474)
          I own two brother laser printers (one at school one at home) and would recommend them to anyone looking for a cheap laser printer. The older, an HL 2070N has done a little over 10,000 pages in the 5 or so years since I got it. The newer one, an HL 2170W I've had for about a year and printed around 1600 pages on. They come with a toner cartridge good for around a thousand pages, after which I recommend buying the "high yield" ones which are around $40 and good for around 2600 pages. You'll also need a new drum unit ever 13,000 pages or so, but that hasn't happened yet.

          One thing to look out for though, neither of these models seems to have postscript support that I can tell. Brother does have Linux drivers, but I've had occasional issues with them (actually nothing in the last 6 months or so). The few times that I've tried them, the Windows and OSX drivers seemed ok.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I paid about $80 for a brand new Samsung ML-2510 monochrome laser printer. This printer can be found for even less if you get it on sale. I buy the (non-OEM) cartridges on Monoprice for about $20 apiece. One cartridge will last me FOREVER. At least 1000 pages I am sure. Oh, the cartridges are also easily refillable with a $6 bottle of standard copier toner. There is a removable plug on the cartridge that allows direct access to the toner chamber. It's not really worth my time, though, because the car

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by juventasone (517959)
        About $80 for monochrome lasers and $150 for color lasers. Some of the additional cost is mitigated immediately by the fact that the included "introductory" toner cartridges contain more pages than the included ink cartridges in a $50 inkjet.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ArcherB (796902)

        Do cheap, new (not used and refurbished) laser printers exist for consumers?

        Go to Okidata.com. There you will find a B4600 for $299.00. Sure, that's not the $90.00 you'll pay for an inkjet, but you would go through at least 10 inkjet refills by the time your first $30.00 toner cartridge runs out.

        You can find better deals online than what you can find by going to the company's website. I remember a Brother Laser printer with wireless networking for $100 about a year ago.

        I mention Oki because it's what I use. But HERE [google.com] is another Brother.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by soundguy (415780)
          Big fan of Oki. I paid $300 for a 3200n about 5-6 years ago. They use wax in the toner so prints are glossy. I use it to crank out full-color DVD wraps and they look like they came from a print shop. 5000-page cartridges are about $45.
    • by White Flame (1074973) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:59PM (#32331258)

      Digital picture frames still suck. You get a tiny, low-res screen for prices sometimes comparable to a 24" 1920x1200 monitor. Sure, the display electronics will add some cost, but come on.

      I always tell people to go to the store to get their digital pictures printed out. It's far cheaper than owning & maintaining your own printer, and typically higher quality. Commodity color lasers (of which I am a fan, too) really don't produce nice super-high-res color glossies.

    • by caseih (160668) on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:17PM (#32331432)

      Of course, apparently HP has a patent on a way of making toner abrasive so it wears out the drum faster, allowing them to sell more drums to customers. In fact most HP printers combine the toner with the drum, making their printers some of the more expensive ones to replace toner in.

      • by Falconhell (1289630) on Monday May 24, 2010 @11:21PM (#32331812) Journal

        Nearly all monocomponent toner is abrasive-it has to be, it has iron filings in it to allow it to be carried on a magnetic brush.

        Dual component machines use an iron filing based developer and seperate toner, but both methods are abrasive.

        AFAIK, there is no laser that does not use soem form of iron filing

        A tip, but the printer with the largest drum diameter you can, larger the drum, longer the life.

    • by Angst Badger (8636) on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:30PM (#32331526)

      This fad with inkjet is amazingly short-sided by people who would buy this junk and just print off their digital photos, instead of buying digital picture frames to load up their images to have around the house.

      I got my first inkjet printer around the time my daughter was born, seventeen years ago. Inkjet printers may be many things -- including sharp-edged tools to gouge the hell out of people's wallets -- but they are not a fad.

      Digital picture frames are not a replacement for printed photos. They're arguably tacky, especially on a wall with a power cable, they're small, they emit rather than reflect light which is often undesirable, and they have a smaller color gamut and much lower resolution than (good quality) prints, to say nothing of being overpriced themselves. When I just want to look at my pictures, I already have a monitor that's larger and higher quality than any digital frame. The biggest detraction is their power consumption. You can buy a lot of ink for what it costs to power a bunch of digital frames "around the house".

      All that said, yes, the ink is grossly overpriced. I expect this will change in time as patents slowly expire.

      And the expression is "short-sighted", not "short-sided". The implication is that people are, metaphorically, not looking very far ahead, not that they are somehow impaired by being tiny polygons.

  • No... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GWRedDragon (1340961) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:43PM (#32331126)
    They want you to think ink costs a lot to produce, but it's actually that they are selling the printer as a loss-leader with the idea that the cost will be made up for in ink sales.
    • Razor Blades (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:49PM (#32331196)

      It's just like Razors and Razor Blades. That's how Gillette and Schick make their money.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JustinKSU (517405)
        From: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Razor_blades [wikipedia.org]

        "In 1901, the American inventor King Camp Gillette, with the assistance of William Nickerson, invented a safety razor with disposable blades. Gillette realized that a profit could be made by selling an inexpensive razor with disposable blades. This has been called the Razor and blades business model, or a "loss leader", and has become a very common practice for a wide variety of products."
      • Re:Razor Blades (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Triv (181010) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @02:30AM (#32332704) Journal

        It's just like Razors and Razor Blades. That's how Gillette and Schick make their money.

        USED TO. Nowadays, Gillette sells you the handle for 10 bucks and sells you the blades for 3 dollars each. The "free handle" metaphor really hasn't worked since the 70's.

        (Incidentally - premium razor blades are one of THE biggest consumer ripoffs of all time. Every time you buy a Gillette Mach 3 cartridge, you're spending 3 dollars on 25 cents worth of materials that aren't really much better than a 30 cent disposable. The only thing cheap about cheap razors are the handles. The blades are as sharp as the expensive one at 1/10 the cost. Behold the power of marketing.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Darinbob (1142669)
      Which is probably why HP fights tooth and nail against any sort of ink-refiller system.

      Personally, I don't use a printer at home, there's no point. At work I rarely use one, not too much point there either.
      • Re:No... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by srmalloy (263556) on Monday May 24, 2010 @11:54PM (#32332012) Homepage

        To be fair to HP, some of their concern over image quality is founded in fact; the print heads for HP ink-jet printers are on the cartridge, and are replaced when the cartridge is, so HP doesn't put a lot of work into keeping the print head functioning past the expected usage to empty the cartridge. Also, the print head actually vaporizes the ink with heat to blow a dot of ink onto the paper, and the ink itself provides cooling for the print head elements; if you run a cartridge dry, lack of ink behind the print head could allow the print head element to burn out, degrading the printing.

        That said, the price that the manufacturers charge for ink is still outrageous. Yes, it may be technologically complex to formulate a printer ink. However, that's a one-time cost, and economies of scale mean that it's more cost-effective to produce a printer ink in railroad tank car quantities than it is to produce it in demijohn quantities, and it's perfectly possible to design a printhead to feed ink from large bottles outside the printer -- one of the 'continuous flow' systems, generally with 8 fluid ounces of ink in each ink tank mounted away from the print head, so that there is no need to keep the quantity of ink low to improve print head response.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Maestro4k (707634)

          That said, the price that the manufacturers charge for ink is still outrageous. Yes, it may be technologically complex to formulate a printer ink. However, that's a one-time cost, and economies of scale mean that it's more cost-effective to produce a printer ink in railroad tank car quantities than it is to produce it in demijohn quantities, and it's perfectly possible to design a printhead to feed ink from large bottles outside the printer -- one of the 'continuous flow' systems, generally with 8 fluid ounces of ink in each ink tank mounted away from the print head, so that there is no need to keep the quantity of ink low to improve print head response.

          I recently got one of those continuous ink systems for my inkjet, and it works like a charm. For less than it would have cost me to replace all four cartridges with generic ones, I now have an ungodly amount of ink available. And if I ever do manage to run out, I can just refill the reservoirs for less than the system cost me to start with. It works perfectly well for the printing I do, which includes almost no pictures. For pictures I just go get the digital prints turned into real photos, and they'll

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @01:14AM (#32332416)

      I worked on the paint and coatings field for 40 years as a Chemist and TD. Waterborne ink raw material cost rarely exceeds $25 per gallon. Even with hyperdisperants and basket mill grinding the cost to produce is about $30 per gallon. The packaging and chip add another buck. The PR from HP is pure BS.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:44PM (#32331128)

    You can charge anything you want. This might as well have been titled "DeBeers explains why diamonds are so expensive," or "Saudi Aramco explains why oil is so expensive."

  • Elves (Score:3, Funny)

    by NetServices (1479949) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:44PM (#32331130) Homepage
    The elves are expensive to train.
  • by CodePwned (1630439) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:45PM (#32331140)

    It's simple. They sell printers at a loss and ink at over 500 to 5000% it's value. That's why you see all those kiosks that will refill your ink. The problem is some of them don't use "quality" ink. You know a company is full of shit when they start to use microchips to prevent 3rd party ink cartridges. Be smart!! Buy a laser printer. Most of those are VASTLY more efficient. I've printed almost 2,000 pages off of my Samsung ML 2581ND laser printer and it's still going strong.

    Color prints work the same. If you invest in a good printer, the ink doesn't cost much. If you get a $20 printer expect to pay that $50-$70 difference in ink.

    • I bought a $300 printer. The ink is still $40 a set (HP 02)

    • by b4upoo (166390) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:50PM (#32331204)

      Walgreens Drug stores are doing refills for $9.95. I suspect that usually that works pretty well.

    • You know a company is full of shit when they start to use microchips to prevent 3rd party ink cartridges.

      I wonder if somebody out there is making a living selling little DIY electronic doodads that bypass that "feature."

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Sir_Dill (218371)
        Buy a CIS system.

        www.inkrepublic.com

        I bought one from them about 6 months ago for the price of two sets of cartridges for my epson.

        if I want archival pigment based inks, I buy 100ml bottles for about ten bucks each.

        the dye ink that I got with the kit does the job and comparing prints from epson carts using the same paper and image, there is no difference that I could see.

        The real reason is that they subsidize the cost of the printers through small, quickly used, expensive carts that have a finite lifes

    • by Eil (82413)

      Seconded. I bought an el-cheapo color laser printer on clearance a few years back for $200. The print quality is way better than any inkjet ever will be and I'm still on the original toner cartridges that came with it. The biggest downside is that it takes up a bit of space, has a rather long warmup cycle, and probably consumes a lot more electricity than an inkjet. But I'm sure that cost is more than offset by not having to buy $30-$50 in liquid gold every few months.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Plekto (1018050)

      That said, the cheapest ink is made by Canon. The ink is a whopping $4 a cartridge online, or about $6-7 if it requires a chip. That's still expensive, but it shows you how full of it HP is.

      That said, though, get a color laser printer. All of them now do Postscript as well, which is a god-send that is often overlooked. This alone makes it worth getting a laser printer. But now you can get color lasers for $250 or less. Note - the model to look for is the Samsung CLP315 - it's not very fast, but it ha

  • Because... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:45PM (#32331142)

    ...There is tender love and care in every drop!

  • Seems to me that cellphones - which sell at a loss while you pay for the service - are similar to ink printers.

    Makes business sense to me!
  • by AK Marc (707885)
    "It's expensive because people pay it."

    Until people go to cheaper per-page laser printers (with bad photo quality) and move away from inkjets, they'll get the most they can squeeze out of people. People pay for the ink, so they sell the ink for those profitable prices.
  • Nick van Rijn explained it this way in one of Poul Anderson's stories: "It's a seller's market, and all we can do is hope they don't use too big a reamer on us."
  • is it.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brian Boitano (514508) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:54PM (#32331222) Journal

    Is it because yachts are expensive?

    • HP doesn't own any yachts, but they do have a Fleet of lear jets.. I remember the last big layoff Carly did at HP, she also authorized a half dozen new jets. Those leases have got to be coming due.

  • No, it's just HP bei (Score:4, Informative)

    by Shadowhawk (30195) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:55PM (#32331232)

    Ink for my Canon Pixma is only $15 for the official ink. There are 6 different inks, but each lasts longer than my mother's HP cartridges and I print more than she does.

    On the other hand, HP's model is like the razor model: give away the printers cheap and charge an arm and a leg for the ink. Mind you, the printers are cheap pieces of excrement.

  • No real substance, much like HP's cartridges.

  • Acceptance (Score:3, Funny)

    by FrankSchwab (675585) on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:58PM (#32331244) Journal

    I sense a disturbing lack of acceptance of Mr. Brown's statements.

    Are you all so cynical?

  • Collusion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sethstorm (512897) * on Monday May 24, 2010 @09:58PM (#32331254) Homepage

    Brown says, adding that users concerned about cost per page can buy 'XL' ink cartridges from HP that last two to three times longer. (Competitors do the same).

    Collusion?

    The message: You get value for the money. No getting around it though: Ink is still expensive, particularly if you have to use that inkjet printer for black-and-white text pages."

    ...and no bullshit can explain it, even if your competitors do it.

  • Market competition is ideally supposed to lead to innovation, resulting in customers getting radically more for less over time. Despite the number of players in the printer market, both current and previous, this does not hold true for inkjet printing. You could literally have self-cleaning devices that take gallon jugs of ink at dirt cheap prices if that were a priority, but making an objectively better product is not the goal.

    The goal is making a product that will get the easiest money available on the

  • You know, all that has happened is that they have responded to public demand for cheaper prices. Years ago ink was affordable. Then it became $40 to print 100 pages of color and people revolted. Many bought laser printers for black and white. it was a bigger investment but after a year on the same cartridge it ended up being the same. If they needed color they would have an inkjet, but would use it sparingly. Of course they soon realized that the ink would dry after a few months.

    So what could be done

  • Kodak Printer (Score:5, Informative)

    by rAiNsT0rm (877553) on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:00PM (#32331278) Homepage

    I hate to admit it, but I love my original Kodak 5100 mfp. The ink is cheap and lasts a long time, the actual cost per page is one of the lowest of all inkjets, and it has lasted longer and worked better than any other inkjet I have owned or used.

  • I bought a Phaser (Score:4, Informative)

    by kimvette (919543) on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:22PM (#32331472) Homepage Journal

    I bought a Xerox Phaser a few years ago when I got fed up with ink cartridges (and my old 4p crapped out) but just a couple of weeks ago I bought a couple of photosmart printers. Why? Laser printers can't print on CDs and DVDs. If I do a lot of printing on the inkjet, I'll install a continuous ink system [google.com].

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:33PM (#32331550) Homepage

    And that's the retail price. [atlanticinkjet.com]

  • by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:34PM (#32331562)

    It seems to me that more than half of the people I meed have made a choice at some point in their lives.

    When faced with a difficult bit of knowledge such as, "I work for a company which rips people off," it feels bad. A certain type of person when so faced with this kind of truth will spin words cleverly so that the truth goes away and turns into a nice, calming fiction. It's easy to do this! Words are brilliantly mutable. One quickly learns that with a bit of skill in word-craft and a strong enough will to push through the desired version of the false picture of reality while squashing down all others, one can happily get through life without ever having to face any unpleasant truths. -Truths like being an narcissistic asshole.

    This is a choice many people make; that they will face adversity with fictions. It removes the need for real work and the pain of ever being wrong or ever having to improve the self in meaningful ways. Why should one? With lies and denial, one is already perfect!

    Whereas others, those who have chosen against this method of dealing with reality, are the ones who grow strong for real. It takes work and pain to face hard and unpleasant realities head-on. But when you do, you grow powerful. You reduce the amount of energy being bled away from you via unhealthy systems, you grow skills in actually working with reality; your mind grows sharp as you hone awareness and self-criticism. Little perks show up, like the realization that you no longer lose arguments because you're no longer trying to win; rather, you're trying to get to the bottom of things.

    This HP idiot is a puff of smoke. He can spin words but likely has no real strength; because in the course of sculpting his lies to himself and others, he's needed to limit his own awareness; (you can't get along with lies very well if you see all the facts, so your eyes need to be muted.) Strength after strength is cut away, so that there is no ability to react when truths come crashing in through the web of words. When the web fails, there is only paralysis. No ability to absorb and grow from the light of knowledge.

    Sometimes it takes a while for a liar to decay, and sometimes you'll meet a very strong one who is near the top of his/her strength curve, but the end result is inevitable. The decay spreads and eventually liars descend into mush while those who look reality dead-on and deal with it and fight to see ever more grow in strength and ability.

    That's just how it is.

    -FL

  • by droopus (33472) * on Monday May 24, 2010 @10:34PM (#32331564)

    Ok, yet another prison reference. During my time in the Feds over the past few years, I got to see a lot of tattoos, some of them very, very good. The technique [rankmytattoos.com] for making the gun is pretty simple, (use this [katerno.com] for the motor) but I was surprised to find that stolen inkjet cartridges were by far the preferred ink source. The going rate for a tat was $50 in stamps or commissary, but a new, unused inkjet cartridge went for another $75. Color? Double.

    And the artists insisted on printer ink. (I always wondered if it was sterile...) They must have a reason.

  • by Yosho (135835) on Monday May 24, 2010 @11:33PM (#32331882) Homepage

    Printer ink is made from unicorn blood [theoatmeal.com].

  • Want the proof? Take a look at ink and printer prices in various countries.

    They are not charging what the ink is worth, they are charging as much as people is willing to pay. Example:

    HP's C8721 cartridge retails in the US for u$s 21.99
    HP's C8721 cartridge retails in Argentina for u$s 20.55

    Mostly the same.

    Except that price of ~20 dollars in Argentina includes 21% VAT, import taxes (~20%), and ~3.5% other taxes. That's ~45%. But they manage to sell it at the same price they sell in the US, where taxes for this product are much lower. Explain that.

    Also, I buy my own Ink (I live in Argentina). A motherfucking LITER of Epson black Ink retails at $30. 1/2 a liter of HP black ink retails for $16.

    Now, explain how a few milliliters of ink can cost as much as a fucking 1L bottle full of it? If the bottle was priced like the ink in the cartridge, the bottle would cost somewhere near $10.000. 10k for a bottle of ink? No way!.

    Now, I know the ink on the bottles isn't the same a the ink on the cartridges, but it's close enough. A little difference in quality and a different dilution can't account for a 1000x price difference.

    So, now matter how you look at it, they are ripping us off, and setting the price of Ink to "as much as we can get away with". There is no correlation between production costs and retail price.

  • by jonwil (467024) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:44AM (#32332264)

    The lesson is that you DON'T buy HP printers.
    HP printer ink (and toner) is expensive because HP makes it expensive.
    There are plenty of printers from other companies (ink-jet and laser) that dont require spending big bucks on ink.

    Those who say "you can always get it refilled or use 3rd party cartridges", better answer is to buy a printer where the OEM cartridges are cheap enough that you dont NEED refills or 3rd party cartridges.

  • Hogwash. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by epp_b (944299) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @01:02AM (#32332348)
    Hogwash. All of it.

    There's no way it actually costs that much. Consider that an HP #15 black ink cartridge (a common cartridge for HP consumer inkjets) contains 25mL of actual ink and costs $35.99 US. That comes to $1,439.60 per litre or $6535.78 per gallon. Right, HP, we totally believe that ink costs this much.

    If you must buy an inkjet, be sure to check, beforehand, that there are realistically-priced replacements cartridges available from third-parties. I have an older Epson printer (model C62) for which I can buy replacement cartridges at about five bucks a pop. This actually makes inkjet printing a practical option. There is nothing wrong with the ink either; the results are perfect and glossy photo prints are great. I wouldn't expect them to last for years and years without fading, but if I want an archival print, I'll take it down the local print shop to have it professionally done anyways.

    HP, do you really expect me to believe that the remaining $30 is for R&D and manufacturing costs?
    • Re:Hogwash. (Score:5, Funny)

      by SharpFang (651121) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @02:31AM (#32332712) Homepage Journal

      Look. The ink is totally particle-free. No stray unfiltered contaminations bigger than 0.000001mm
      The quality is assured through a 25,000,000 chineese employees, each monitoring a total 0.01 mm^3 of ink per hour under a microscope, and removing any contaminants with laser tweezers. That means only about 10 cartridges can be produced every hour, and despite minimizing the production costs, the price of the average 2,500,000 of chineese labour man-hours per cartridge really adds up! The resulting $35 price tag is really the bare minimum to prevent starvation of the employees.

  • refills (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @01:33AM (#32332490) Homepage

    Why then are the 3rd party refills so cheap? Considering that the cart is "disposable" it hardly matters if the 3rd party ink damages the disposable print head eventually, no does it?

    They wouldn't go through so much trouble and legal shenanigans with the chips on the carts if most people were actually that unhappy with the results from a cheap refill.

    I have no doubt they have some significant R&D invested, but the 3rd party suppliers do as well. Given the level of effort and legal contortions printer makers go through to try to prevent cart chip cloning, I have no doubt that they would sue all of the 3rd party ink suppliers if they merely ripped off the expensive R&D. So, apparently the other manufacturers were able to do their own, including extra effort to avoid stepping on an IP landmine and STILL sell the result for significantly less.

  • by Preston Pfarner (14687) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @02:21AM (#32332684)

    Did they explain why a multifunction device like the HP OfficeJet 4110 won't *scan* unless the printer portion has fresh ink?

    This is why I will never buy a multifunction printer/scanner again.

  • Printers are evil. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by elsJake (1129889) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @02:32AM (#32332714)
    Printers represent the most dreaded part of an IT guy's work day. HP being one of the top time wasters.
    I don't understand why but printers are the shittiest products you can find , every manufacturer insists on having their own way of dealing with drivers and hp being king at bloatware.
    Then there's the windows printing system that absolutely sucks balls.
    When it's not the drivers it some sort of failure in the paper loading mechanism or the optical paper detection sensor.
    There's no standardized way of remotely managing them , no way to tell if they're working properly or _WHY_ they fail to print when they do.
    All i want from these cretins is ONE reasonably priced , reliable printer that would work with bare-bone drivers , have a proper network printing system and management interface and not SUCK so much that i can't deal with actual problems.

    All in all this whole thing about R&D is just bullshit , if they'd spend less time building up so many new printer models that have no significant technical advantage , just that they look different and require new drivers the size of an operating system service pack they'd probably have enough cash to stop ripping us off on ink.
  • by Tarlus (1000874) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @04:01AM (#32333114)
    I figured it was all those poor squids they had to milk that made ink such a rare commodity.
  • by Whuffo (1043790) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @05:52AM (#32333572) Homepage Journal

    All this talk about technology and time invested is largely a smokescreen. Do you want to know what's in that ink cartridge? Some colored (or black) dye, a little alcohol and water and some glycol for body. Adjust the non-dye components for best results. Or buy ink refill kits; they're pretty close to the factory formulation and work perfectly well no matter what HP's marketing machine would like you to believe.

    How about that "more pages from HP ink" claim? That's like a oil company claiming you get more miles per gallon from their gasoline; in other words, bullshit.

    What they're really doing is playing the old "the razor is free but you have to buy our blades" game. Instead of charging you what the true retail value of their inkjet printer is, they give you a discount on the purchase price to bait the "it's on sale!" folks in - then they stick it to you on the ink and make up the difference and then some over the life of the printer. How long will your printer last? Until HP says it's dead - they'll discontinue the ink cartridges and that's it for your printer.

    And as long as they can keep the public (and the government) snowed about all of this they'll continue to rake it in. Have ink formulas improved over time? Yes, they have. 1 Billion a year worth? Nope, not even if you pad the budget with lots and lots of hookers and blow. It's just a simple dye formula, not rocket science. Their greed is amazing; they equip their ink cartridges with chips that do NOTHING to improve the operation of the ink cartridge - their sole function is to cause good cartridges to fail early ("to provide the best printing results") and prevent you from refilling their cartridges ("to provide the best printing results"). How about to "enhance HP's bottom line" instead?

    Once upon a time HP was a technology company that stood behind their products. Now they're a second-rate consumer electronics company that depends on the revenue from printer ink to balance its books. I mentioned the formula earlier in this message - price out the ingredients and see what it costs per gallon to make and you'll never look at printer ink the same way again. What a scam; they've snookered you folks into paying $35 for a plastic box containing less than a penny's worth of dye.

    You know what's really sad? The cartridge refill people are taking you to the cleaners on ink, too. Not nearly as bad as HP does but how do these people sleep at night?

  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @07:32AM (#32334040) Homepage

    It's the same reason why cell phone contracts are binding for two years, or why text messages are so expensive to transmit even though it is proven that they present absolutely no overhead to the provider.

    The recurring cost pays for the device (the phone or the printer) many times over.

    "Get a device worth $X FREE!*
    (*and pay us $X/10 over the next 24 months, adding up to $2.4X)"

    Free? Awesome deal!

  • by George_Ou (849225) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:02AM (#32334276)
    Kodak has been producing printers with very low margin on the consumables, but consumers are attracted to the artificially low printer prices from the other companies. So while HP is full of it when they claim that ink is fundamentally expensive, consumers share a lot of the blame when they overwhelmingly vote with their wallet to pay less up front and a lot more later. It's just like how consumers share a lot of the blame when they consistently choose glossy displays on notebooks which are absolute garbage when it comes to its usefulness.
  • by scharkalvin (72228) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @08:47AM (#32334636) Homepage

    HP's ink carts contain not just the ink, but the nozzels as well. In fact, HP printers do not have print heads, because the ink carts ARE the print heads. Every time you change the ink cart you change the print head. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good because you don't have to worry about clogged ink heads, you get a new clean head every time you run out of ink. It's bad because it's more expensive to do it this way. Epson ink carts ONLY contain ink. The print head is in the printer. That sucking sound you hear everytime you turn the printer on is the sound of the printer cleaning the heads, and they waste some ink doing it. However, I still think HP overcharges for ink.

  • by Sandbags (964742) on Tuesday May 25, 2010 @12:26PM (#32337528) Journal

    A good color later printer can be found for between $300 and $500, often with multiple trays, network cards, and multi-thousand page life cycles. They're a bit bulky, and probably should be on their own small table not your desk, but they're MUCH better, and cheaper, than inkjet for everyday jobs, and you don't need to print photos at home...

    Print in draft mode when you can, omit images and backgrounds printing websites when you can, and a good color laser system can go 7K-10K pages on a set of cartidges, which can be found online for $30-50 a piece.

    They print great, are easy and cheap to have repaired, are quick, and last a decade or so.

    For photos, between Snapfish, .Mac, and a few other similar services, you can have ridiculous quality dye-sub photos printed as opposed to ink for under $0.10 per image. Uploading them also means printing fewer on your own to give to family (upload and album, let them print what they want on their dime). When in a pinch, a walgreens or CVS is never far away and you can print images there from a memory card for less than you can print them at home (and often in better quality too).

    We used to run through about 300 images a year, maybe more. now i don't even have an ink jet printer in the house. I get 40 or 50 good prints done per year, 5-8 at a time, from Snapfish, usually for free for re-opening an account as i use it so infrequently. We do calendars, Christmas cards, invitations, and other large prints through .Mac cheap and the quality is impressive.

    Everything else gets printed on the laser, with the printer defaulted to black/greyscale only unless I need color for some reason. With my wife as a teacher, we run about 4K pages a year. I buy a $50 XL black cartridge about once every 18 months. I used to spend $50 on ink every 2-3 months easy, mostly just black. It was nearly 2 years before the starter color cartridges ran out, and with 5X the capacity in the replacements, the ink will likely outlast the printer at my pace, though with a big laser, and 150,000 page lifecycle, i might have a still-working printer without available cartridges first...

    Screw injet, you don;t need it anymore. Times changed, getting professional prints doesn't cost $0.50 each anymore, it is NO LONGER CHEAPER AT HOME.

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