Cheaper printer ink

Printer inks are a rip-off. Period. There is no way is ink $3,500 per gallon. (Assuming the ink cartridges are 12 cc each at $13 a cartridge. That’s 92 cents per cc, a gallon is 3,785 cc = $3,482/gallon.) Now, we don’t buy ink by the gallon, but almost $80 to replace all the ink in my printer seems too steep. Read on to find out how you can refill your ink for less than $15 per full cartridge set.

For my Epson R300, a full set of ink is $80 at Office Max. That’s 6 colors: CMYK, plus light cyan and magenta (it’s a photo printer.) Refilled ink cartridges (Staples brand, etc.) are a bad idea. I’ve seen some prints, if you can call them that, from an HP with refilled Staples ink. The resulting photos were indecipherable. I decided to refill my own cartridges instead of buying more cartridges for $80. I looked around and came upon the website Inksupply.com. Their R300 kit comes with everything you need to refill your cartridges. It comes with 6 clear cartridges, 6 bottles of ink, 6 syringes, 6 blunt needles, 6 purge adapters, a chip resetter, and a pair of gloves. The kit was $104 plus shipping.

Plus a few more cartridges I have already installed.

Plus a few more cartridges I have already installed.

The bottles of ink are 2 oz each, and each cartridge fills up with about 12 cc of ink. That works out to 5 refills each, which makes each full replacement almost $60 cheaper at $20.80. Once you have the kit, all you need to buy is more ink bottles, which are a lot cheaper. $8 per 4 oz bottle, which turns out to be 80 cents per fill. That works out to $4.80 for a full set of refilled cartridges. That’s a huge difference from the $80 you would be spending.

The kit comes with everything you need to start filling. There are clear plastic cartridges with filling holes and rubber stoppers, syringes and blunt needles to fill the cartridges with, rubber gloves (because ink stains), and the ink itself. There’s also a chip resetter and purge adapters.

The all powerful chip resetter.

The all powerful chip resetter.

The resetter is really what makes the system work. The way Epson cartridges (and I assume all other cartridges) work, are the little circuit boards on the back. On them is a chip that identifies the cartridge color, date of manufacture, but most importantly, the amount of remaining ink. The chip is completely self-contained. There is no linkage between it and the inside of the cartridge, unlike your gas tank which has a float inside it. The chips estimate the amount of ink each page you print uses. Once the chip tells the printer that you are out of ink, you must replace the cartridge. The chip resetter that comes with the kit resets this level back to full. By doing this to a regular cartridge, I was able to discover that there is about a full page worth of ink left. Not a page as in a page of printed text. A full page of cyan. One big cyan ink soaked piece of paper. That’s a lot of ink. With the refill system, you avoid both the problem of not using you ink, and also having to run out to get a new cartridge. All you need to do is remove the cartridge, inspect it (since they are clear) and fill it up to the top. Reset the chip and you’re good to go.

The refilling process itself is easy. Simply find the right cartridge (as the chips are color sensitive), open the filling hole, and inject the ink with your syringe.

Inject the ink like so

Inject the ink like so

The purge adapters are used to suck the air bubbles out of the bottom outlet hole so you don’t get gaps in your print.

Purge

Then you plug up the fill hole, unplug the vent hole, reset the ship, and install the cartridge. I printed a full 8.5 x 11″ borderless print with refilled C, LC, M, and LM cartridges and it came out looking amazing. No different than the official Epson inks, except it made me fell better by knowing I printed it for pennies, and I don’t need to waste ink and plastic anymore.

The replacement ink cartridges sit lower than the stock Epson ones, but it doesn’t affect anything. They snap in just as securely as the regular ones.

IMG_0019

I also cut off the color stickers from the Epson cartridges and stuck them onto the replacement cartridges and the syringes.

Just because it looks nicer

Just because it looks nicer

If you plan on printing enough to make it a pain to buy $80 ink, and if you have the 5 minutes to refill your cartridges, this system works great. For higher volume printer usage, I would look into CIS systems. Because I’m not printing photos all the time I didn’t go for a CIS system. The ink would probably dry up before I used even half of it. This seems to be the best tradeoff between price, and shelf life. I highly recommend it.

About Edward Carlson

Film and television Director of Photography working in Los Angeles, CA.
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