Posts Tagged 'inkjet cartridges'

What’s in this stuff: Ink Chemical Composition?

Ink cartridges contain some of the most expensive liquid on the planet, but what is ink actually made of?

Impact

The ink itself, after being sold in cartridges at brand name retail prices, can reach upwards of $3 per milliliter which is around $235 per cup or $11,350 per gallon. No doubt, that is expensive any way you look at it and some even compare modern printer ink prices to fine caviars and gold. A lot of printer inks now cost even more to replace then the printer originally cost, begging the consumer to ask, why not just purchase a new printer instead of replacing the ink?

To answer the latter question, printer manufacturers do not advertise the amount of printouts that are possible with the cartridges found inside the box when buying a new printer. This is because they are starter ink cartridges and are intended for consumers to get an idea of what the printer output is like or capable of and not necessarily how much ink will be in a replacement cartridge.  Thus, replacement ink cartridges will always yield more printouts then the included cartridges when purchasing a new printer.

The Mixture

Most ink compositions are a fairly basic mixture of fine pigment particles dispersed in a solvent which is generally a liquid or aqueous solution, although the solvent can be organic. Some formulations will also have colorants when the pigmented materials do not apply to the desired color. And with advanced formulas of inks such as the ChromaLife 100+, DURAbrite, UltraChrome, and other specially named inks, further ingredients are added to improve the overall chemical composition.

The additional ingredients found in these specialty cartridges have a specific purpose from reducing foaming action to controlling surface properties. The addition of pH modifiers will help to control the acidity levels of the mixture so the composition does not corrode the metal printheads inside the machine. Humectants can be added to keep the mixture from prematurely dying a substrate or surface while surfactants act as wetting agents, helping to control surface properties. Defoaming or antifoaming agents can also be added to regulate foam formation, as foam creates air pockets and uneven ink flow. Thickeners or rheology modifiers can also be added to provide needed viscosity to the jetted out liquid ink. Perhaps the most common addition to ink compositions is the polymeric resins or polymers which give pigments or colorants a glass-like coating that protects, reflects light, and keeps particles from binding or clumping together. And to prevent fungal and bacterial growth that can spoil chemical ink compositions, biocides are also added.

Metal Colorants

Black ink cartridges still use carbon to achieve the black tonal output as past attempts at substituting carbon for other metals failed due to toxicity or financial reasons. Most white ink formulations have titanium dioxide, being rutile or anatase crystals in tetragonal form. Both anatase and rutile are just different forms of titanium dioxide known for their rich color and luster. Moreover, specific metallic pigments such as copper-zinc alloy powder and aluminum powder have been used in novelty gold and silver inks which are very rare. Some other miscellaneous inorganic pigmented metals have also been used in various photographic inks to provide luminescent and pearlescent effects.

Colorants

Cyan ink cartridges get their bright blue hue from Direct Blue 199 dye which is made of copper phthalocyanine and sulfur. This substance is a direct dye, being able to directly contact and bond to fibrous substrates like paper and cloth without needing a binding confounder or fixative.

The Magenta vibrancy comes from Reactive Red dye 23 which is a dark red powder that has a high pH level and high lightfastness (resistance to fading in light). Many formulations containing Reactive Red Dye 23, will need both a pH modifiers and a confounder to help hold the mixture to a substrate before the dye reacts and adheres to cellulose like material.

The Yellow coloration comes from Acid Yellow dye 23, which is also known by chefs and food fanatics because it’s a common coloring agent used in foods. And although Acidic Yellow Dye 23 is found in foods, this dye has been known to trigger allergic reactions such as asthma attacks, hives, and contact dermatitis so do not try to ingest this yellow ink as it may be hazardous unlike its more natural cousin, yellow food coloring.

Miscellaneous Materials

Cyclahexanone is an organic solvent or colorless oil that helps ink adhere to polymers, making this chemical ideal for outdoor use and application on smooth surfaces. Cyclahexanone is also a precursor to creating nylon when oxidized with nitric acid. This substance is also commonly found with reactive dyes as it will hold the pigments in place until they naturally react to cellulose like material.

Ethoxylated acetylenic diols is the most common surfactant that is responsible for the viscosity or reduction of surface tension in most ink formulations. This substance is a low foaming wetting agent that also improves freeze-thaw stability of acrylic systems.  Ethoxylated acetylenic diols is also an excellent, oil in water, emulsifier.

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, more commonly known to be abbreviated as EDTA, is a colorless water-soluble solid used to dissolve limescale and keep the printheads clean and bacteria free. EDTA acts by creating covalent bonds on the printheads, effectively trapping contaminents from ruining or clogging printheads.

Furthermore, Ethylene glycol is also used frequently in ink cartridges to slow evaporation and to help prevent print nozzles from clogging.

Further Reasons for Expenses

Hp claims the reason for the lavish prices is due to the technology put into creating a cartridge that can deliver superior results. Not only does each cartridge contain multiple chemicals, each one is carefully measured out and thoroughly tested to ensure the output results can be replicated naturally. This means, you’re not really paying for the liquid so much as the labor put into designing, creating, and testing the cartridge. Some manufacturers also add other elements to cartridges such as smart chips and piezo crystals which also increase the retail price.

Photo Ink vs. Regular Ink

There are several types of inks and ink formulations when it comes to printing, but they all have the same general purpose; to deliver an image onto a piece of media passing through the printer. However, some ink cartridges will deliver superior results when printing text and others will yield better results when producing images and photographs. The differing results are caused by the variation of elements found in the ink mixtures. An ink cartridge contains a basic mixture of water, glycol (a carrying liquid), and dyes or pigments and are intended to be jetted or sprayed onto paper or media, eventually creating an image.

Differences

The main difference between photo inkjets and regular inkjets is the ability of photo ink formulations to provide lighter tones of each color, commonly being cyan, magenta, and black. A regular cartridge will dispense wider set ink droplets to give image colors a lighter look. However, this makes lighter colored printouts look grainy and even multi-colored when inspected closely. This is because regular ink mixtures can only dispatch color so lightly, being intended for brighter execution to give printouts more vibrancy.

Photograph inks, on the other hand, will produce much lighter tones, perfect for shading and coloring elements such as faces and skin tones that have light colors. Since these mixtures produce lighter color, the ink is not as widely dispersed and results in smoother printouts that can capture high levels of detail. Many photograph ink compositions also avoid pigmented colorants since they do not sit as well on coated media such as photo glossy paper.  Ink formulations vary greatly depending on the machine being used, the frequency of ink being ejected, and depending on the type of printing the machine is intended for.

Ink Types

There are three basic ink compositions, that mostly all inks can be categorized into including Dye-Based Inks, Pigment-Based Inks, and Hybrid Inks. Dye-Based inks are composed of colorants dissolved in a liquid, such as water or glycol and have the most vivid and rich finishing results. Dye-Based inks also have a wide color gamut, providing colors unreachable by other mixtures and are compatible with a wide range of photograph papers. Unfortunately these ink mixtures do not last long and fade easily with light and become runny when moisture is added. In general, a dye-based ink formulation printout will last between 5 and 25 years depending on the surrounding environment.

Pigment-Based inks on the other hand, contain insoluble powder pigments that are suspended in the ink composition and do not dissolve into the solution like dye-based inks. These pigments are coated in a resin-like mixture making them much more stable and giving them resistances to fading or light. A pigment-based printout can last anywhere from 75 years to 150 years depending on how and where the printout was stored and displayed.  However, pigment-based inks do not soak into media as readily and have a tougher time adhering to coated paper.

Hybrid inks are a mixture of dye-based inks and pigment-based inks, and are sometimes referred to as pigmented inks. Combining the longevity of pigment-based inks with vibrancy of dye-based inks, Hybrid inks can be used for a number of applications and often offer superior printing results. Hybrid inks are known as pigmented inks since they use dye-based colorants and pigmented particles together, modifying the benefits and weaknesses of each type. Pigmented inks will have a wider color gamut than pigment-based inks but will not last as long. Pigmented inks (or Hybrid inks) can last up to 75 years when kept in an archival environment, such as being behind glass in a picture frame.

Similarities

Most inkjet printers and ink cartridges also contain conductive elements to help shepherd or guide the ink to the page, usually reducing the size of the droplet in the process, for higher resolution printouts with sharper definition. Both photo and regular ink cartridges can be found with these assisting elements. The most common element that helps to shape and delivery ink is the Piezoelectric crystals. When a small electrical current passes through a Piezo crystal, the element will rapidly change shape forcing the ink out of the printer nozzles. The reaction shapes and can reduce the ink droplet size while forcing the mixture out of the cartridge and onto the paper.

Ink cartridges have differing elements depending on the type of printout being created, which will enhance a project and the overall quality when using the right selection of inks. For example, when printing text documents, a matte black ink cartridge formulation such as the Epson T054820, will yield the best results since the ink has a softer look, making the text easier to read for long periods of time. Using a photo black ink cartridge on text document printing will result in overly shiny characters or grayish texts that do not read as well. 

Ink or Toner?

Ink and toner share many similar aspects, both being able to administer color and black pigment onto media forming specified characters and integrated images that make up a printout. Each is comprised of three main elements, a vehicle, a pigment, and a holding cell. Both laser printers and inkjet printers also come in a variety types from All-In-One devices, being able to print, scan, copy, and fax, to monochrome machines that were designed to handle black and white or grayscale only printouts. These machines can be used for the same purposes, having the ability to complete nearly any type of printout, although toner and ink have distinct advantages and disadvantages depending on the type of printing you are performing. To help better understand which type of printer will be more beneficial, we have to first understand to main properties of ink and toner.

Printing ink is a liquid or paste based solution used to create shapes and patterns onto the substrate. The liquid solution is housed in a reservoir within the cartridge until being forced to the release chamber(s). Once inside the release chambers an impulse will trigger a reactive element embedded to the chamber to forcibly jet out or drop the pigment through a nozzle and out onto the media. The reaction will also force new droplets into the chamber for rapid reproduction.

Toner is a type of concentrated pigment or dye-based powder used in laser printers to complete the electrophotographic process. The powder is stored within the cartridge compartment known as the hopper. The powder in the hopper is a carbon-based polymer that will attract and repel from particular static electrical charges which is the key to applying the powder to the substrate. A transfer roller will pick up the oppositely charged toner particles from the hopper and roll the particles against an imaging drum unit that has an even greater opposite electrical charge. The laser printer will create a light impression on the drum successfully creating a magnetic impression for the toner to attract to. Once the toner is placed onto the media, a pair of fusing rollers will actually melt the powder into the page to create the desired images.

There are three main properties to consider when choosing whether to print with toner or ink, including how they dry, the structural design, and the optical output. With a laser toner printer, the fusing rollers will burn the toner that has been layered on the substrate to adhere the particles to the page. Inkjets will apply an ink solution that rapidly dries being exposed to the room temperature air. The speed at which the ink will dry varies, depending on the added drying or thermal agent inside the ink mixture.

The cartridges are also made in completely different sizes and shapes, with toners generally being much bigger in size due to the amount of components (or pieces) needed to apply the pigmented polymers. And having an entire roller covered in particles that spans the size of the accepted media and a drum unit that holds an image, allows the laser toner to swiftly reproduce that same image, which is ideal for printing out multiple copies of one page. Inkjet printers will slowly render and apply ink as the cartridges pass over the media to help capture fine details, making them better for single page printing.

Toners are made and formed with very specific particle solutions and processes that pertain to the particular printer model. For example, some toner particles can be shaped by a vortex procedure giving each grain a rounded shape, whereas the more typical chemically created particles contain jagged edges and can damage rollers that are made to transport rounded particles. Therefore, most toner cartridges will only work with a specific printer or series of printers. The inkjet cartridges, on the other hand, are often interchangeable with several printer series and even manufacturers. When the ink formulations are changed, the viscosity is usually balanced between inkjets allowing almost any printer to apply the contained ink as long as the cartridges have the same size and shape.

In general Inkjets will be able to produce higher quality images and photographs, whereas the toner particles are able to create higher quality text documents. The laser toners will also be able to produce more printouts due to the sheer amount of pigment able to be held by the toner cartridges as opposed to the ink cartridges. Ink cartridges are typically more expensive when comparing the cost to print per page although they can provide a wider color gamut to work with and added definition. So depending on what types of printing you are performing more of, will determine the type of printer and cartridges that will be more beneficial. For the photograph enthusiast, inkjets are recommended for added detail. To create multiple copies of a single page or text documents, a laser toner printer and toner cartridges will be better for your overall printing needs.

The Leading Online Source of Printer Ink Cartridges

Welcome to Inkgrabber.com, the printing industry’s leading online supplier of printer ink cartridges. Inkgrabber.com is your one-stop shop for all varieties of printer ink cartridges, copier toner and fax cartridges from every single available manufacturer in the printing industry. Corporate, Scholastic or personal, Inkgrabber.com has offered professional service since 2003, saving thousands of dollars for our customers on a wide array of printer ink cartridges and toner products. Through superior product, price and customer service, Inkgrabber.com will satisfy all of your needs in printer ink.

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