Discussion Hum, I think I just demolished the argument for Ecotank-type printers

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
15,548
5,747
136
Admittedly my argument is based on one big 'IF', but here goes.

In my experience, inkjet printer manufacturers make their money from printer ink. It's freakishly expensive, and can cost at least a good portion of the cost of a new printer to replace the cartridges with the highest capacity (best value) genuine cartridges that printer can handle. However, historically inkjet printers are cheap. The proposition has generally been one of "the more you pay for the printer, the less you pay for cartridges", provided of course you pay attention to the economy of the printer when you're buying it (because there are some exceptions to the rule that I think are designed to milk customers who aren't paying attention). For the people who don't pay attention, in the worst case scenario they could spend say £30 on a super-cheap printer and pay say 8p per page when buying the really low capacity cartridges for that printer. The next class of printer up tends to be 4p per page, then 2p, then less than a penny per page. For each class of printer one can expect the price to go up significantly because the printer manufacturers want their money from you one way or the other: Buy a cheap-and-nasty printer and pay through the nose for ink, or buy an expensive printer with more economical cartridges (yet not cheap by any stretch of the imagination).

Then along came the Ecotank-type printers. Instead of replacing cartridges one refills tanks with bottles of ink. One Epson bottle claims to provide 6500 printed pages worth of ink and costing 0.1p per page (so at least 5 times better value for money than the non-Ecotank printers I typically look at). However, the printers cost a lot more than their non-Ecotank counterparts. The problem with such a proposition is that for it to provide good value to the user, the printer has to last enough time/pages printed as well as avoid the usual pitfalls of inkjet printer usage being a) use decent ink and b) use the printer at least once a month.

Interestingly, even though Ecotank-type printers start at least twice the price of a non-Ecotank printer (more than quadruple if you compare to the lowest-end inkjet), they aren't providing feature parity, so even though a <£100 printer has say duplex printing, don't expect a ~£200 Ecotank to have the same features.

So, we have a much more expensive Ecotank-type printer which is light on features. Where's the extra money going? Not the ink that comes with it, because as we know the ink is actually cheap. One might believe (and here is the big 'IF' I mentioned), that the extra money goes into building a better class of printer that is more likely to last the long term in order for the user to get the extra value out of that ink. However, anyone who has spent time comparing the specs of inkjet printers to lasers will know that the latter's specs will almost invariably include a monthly duty cycle for the printer. A figure designed to tell you how much of a hammering that printer will take because typical office usage is often measured in reams of paper per month (e.g. 30,000 pages). However, the specs of inkjet printers rarely mention this figure and if they do will mention much lower figures and possibly conflicting figures (e.g. "up to 2000 per month, 200 is recommended"). Inkjet printers are generally comparatively much cheaper and have much fewer serviceable parts inside. Basically, they're not built to last like a decent laser printer. In my experience, if you throw a ream of paper through an inkjet printer every month (despite its iffy specs suggesting this is fine), it'll die before two years are out, easy.

Another fact is that while inkjet printers that aren't low-end have maintenance boxes (a replaceable part containing a big wad of sponge-type material to soak up waste ink, quoted to handle 50,000 pages worth of printing), I've never sold a single one in the nearly twenty years I've been in business. I've not even experienced a scenario where I thought that getting one might be on the cards soon.

So, coming back to the bread and butter of the inkjet printer manufacturers, it used to be ink that maintained cashflow to the business. I submit that with Ecotank-type printers it is now the printer that is the main sale. If you're a company that makes printers and printer ink and you've decided to flip your business model on its head, does it suit your business model to make an absolute battleship of a printer, or just carry on making printers as cheaply as you ever did? There aren't any other major advantages of an Ecotank-type printer, just that it is cheaper to re-supply with ink. 12 month warranty is typical. Logically, if you made a more durable printer, you'd market it as such with a longer warranty and the implication that the increased cost is because it costs more to make a more durable printer.

As much as I like the idea of a better wearing printer with vastly cheaper ink, I suspect Ecotank-type printers are designed for fools chasing a dream. I'd love to be proven wrong. Perhaps the only remaining argument for them is an ecological one: Rather than throwing away low-capacity (ooh, 10ml! so generous) cartridges with lots of plastic and likely problematic recycling measures, a bottle system makes more sense.

Disclaimer: One caveat with regard to my personal experiences is that I've never paid more than £400 for an inkjet or a laser. I know they exist, but they lie outside the typical usage scenarios of the customers I'm likely to do business with.
 
  • Love
Reactions: igor_kavinski

Muadib

Lifer
May 30, 2000
17,416
634
126
Ok I'll bite. I had one of these, and it wouldn't print just after the warranty expired. I never got to see how much the ink was, because it came with about 2= years worth. I spent about 2 hours with Epson support before they agreed that it had a physical issue. The last person I spoke to said I would be better off getting a refurb instead of sending it to them to be repaired. I agreed with him once I learned I had to pay for the repair, and the shipping. I went another route though, and got a color laser printer from hp. I'm done with inkjets.
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
15,548
5,747
136
Ok I'll bite. I had one of these, and it wouldn't print just after the warranty expired. I never got to see how much the ink was, because it came with about 2= years worth. I spent about 2 hours with Epson support before they agreed that it had a physical issue. The last person I spoke to said I would be better off getting a refurb instead of sending it to them to be repaired. I agreed with him once I learned I had to pay for the repair, and the shipping. I went another route though, and got a color laser printer from hp. I'm done with inkjets.
I'm impressed that they actually suggested a repair option because in my experience inkjets don't get repaired, but by the sounds of things if the refurb is the better option then they still might not be repairing it per se so much as profiteering from finding a rookie error and correcting it.

I've suggested to a fair few customers who haven't managed to keep up with the 'print at least once a month' advice that they can just send me their print jobs and I'll print it for them, because printing costs can become a real liability financially.

PS - When you said, "I'll bite", I thought you were going to provide a counterpoint :)
 

Muadib

Lifer
May 30, 2000
17,416
634
126
I'm impressed that they actually suggested a repair option because in my experience inkjets don't get repaired, but by the sounds of things if the refurb is the better option then they still might not be repairing it per se so much as profiteering from finding a rookie error and correcting it.

I've suggested to a fair few customers who haven't managed to keep up with the 'print at least once a month' advice that they can just send me their print jobs and I'll print it for them, because printing costs can become a real liability financially.

PS - When you said, "I'll bite", I thought you were going to provide a counterpoint :)
Sorry, I don't really have a counterpoint, because my unit broke. The crazy thing is that it and my pc thought it did print. That's what made me nuts.
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
7,172
1,079
126
Even though rated at lower duty cycle, I could still see the argument from a productivity standpoint for a small(er) business, that if you just need a cheap printer that takes minimum cart replacements possible to keep chugging along till it dies, the extra cost of the printer is weighed against the loss from interruption in production rate when you have to stop and change carts multiple times as often... maybe can't leave spare carts lying around either or else the employees might steal them, so it's a trip to locked storage every time a cart runs out.

On the other hand, all the more reason to use a laser printer if it isn't a case of needing higher quality graphics.
 

mikeymikec

Lifer
May 19, 2011
15,548
5,747
136
@mindless1

Considering that an Epson EcoTank printer with feature parity with my WF-3520 is about quadruple the price, and given the gamble of whether it'll last long enough to provide the value of a reasonable inkjet, I think a business could afford to lose a few cartridges for the non-Ecotank.

Also, Brother's MFC-J4340DW claims to do about 6000 pages on the high capacity black and is half the price of the Ecotank. 0.5p per page rather than 0.1 for the Ecotank.
 

mindless1

Diamond Member
Aug 11, 2001
7,172
1,079
126
^ But if they steal the carts, then you think you have a supply sufficient to keep operations running but don't. Stopping operations for even an hour, could cost way more than the printer cost difference. I'm not suggesting this is the typical situation, but it is one possible situation.
 

jsalpha2

Senior member
Oct 19, 2001
268
8
81
Does the ink dry up? Can you easily remove and replace the print heads. Right now I have a big heavy (HP OfficeJet Pro 8720) that a business was getting rid of. Free plus a few dollars for 93% rubbing alcohol was a good price. (Off topic, Does anyone know where to get the long wooden Q-TIPS?)
 

ASK THE COMMUNITY