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The dark secret of the printer industry?

People with inkjet printers have all considered, if not tried, clone inks from third-party vendors. These are way cheaper, and often offer massive savings.

I will say – and printer companies do not like hearing this – that I have been playing with various brands of clone inks for 20 years and I've never experienced any of the problems that you commonly read about in forums, like clogged heads or ruined warranties. "Only use the brand name meant for the printer!"

Until recently, you could buy a new printer for the cost of replacement ink. It's obvious that the printers were the loss leaders for the ink business. In reality, these are not printer companies, these are ink companies.

Now, to prevent people from buying a new printer for the price of a refill kit, companies have replaced the full cartridge sets supplied with a new printer, opting for a sort of “starter kit” instead. In other words, these aren’t full, and the user needs to buy a second set of ink almost immediately.

Printer ink companies are also monopolising ink cartridges for as long as they can. This means there are all sorts of different sizes and shapes of the cartridges themselves. I challenge anyone with an inkjet printer to find their ink in a lengthy shop aisle, which is stuffed with hundreds of cartridges to choose from, each one compatible with a very narrow line of printers.

The vendors of clone ink have to put in production the exact same cartridge, often with an embedded chip that tells the printer who made the cartridge. With some Epson printers, when you load a foreign ink cartridge you get a message that asks if you’re sure you want to take this dreaded risk. You can click "yes" and the printer treats the cartridge like an Epson cartridge. This is commendable, but whether the company was forced to be this amenable, I do not know.

Dark secret

Once in a while, especially with the large pro models of printers, I have dropped in clone ink that was recognised as genuine Epson ink even though it didn't say Epson. How could it be Epson? Well, the little chip can be programmed to trick the printer, I suppose.

The question on my mind is whether it is possible that the major clone ink maker for Epson printers actually is Epson. This would, of course, have to remain a dark secret because who needs that aggravation?

Of course, the model for this sort of activity is rampant in many industries. You know when you’re shopping at the supermarket, and you pick up that cheap brand of Vodka, it’s quite possibly the same – or very similar – to a more expensive “name” brand bottle elsewhere on the shelf. You pay for the name.

Anyhow, back to the world of ink. Why wouldn't this exact same practice be going on? How many companies are actually capable of manufacturing fancy ink for inkjets, and why wouldn't they pull a similar stunt? Well, I think they do because it just makes sense.

No printer or ink company would want the public to know this, so here is another assertion: I am convinced that many of the rumours about head-clogging attributed to clone ink are planted in the forums to confuse people trying to do research on the Internet. You simply cannot find an honest forum.

And when you consider the fact that the big print shops buy special feeding mechanisms that feed huge bottles of bulk clone ink into their printers, you have to wonder how much accurate information we can even find about this. These "professionals" have zero problem using this stuff by the gallons.

I may just be a lucky guy, having never run into that head-clogging clone cartridge which ruined the printer forever, but for some reason, I don't think that's the case.

Still, I won't recommend that you take your brand new printer and start feeding it weird ink. But that old clunker you are going to throw away? Test out these inks on that unit. See what happens. Then, do your own research.