Inkjet Refilling: Economics of the Empire

A year ago I bought an Epson R380 printer along with a $10 piece-of-crap digital camera for 90 bucks, then got a $75 rebate. I figure the printer cost 15 bucks and the camera was free.

Continuous inking system for Epson R380 printer

I also bought a $55 continuous flow ink system from a place that no longer sells them. Turns out that Epson won a patent lawsuit that forced most of those vendors out of the reinking business and made the remaining systems staggeringly expensive.

Well, maybe not.

I print a bunch of text (I hate reading long documents on the screen), plenty of schematics & diagrams, low-quality pictures (webbish junk), relatively few photo-quality pictures, and the Annual Christmas Letter. The printer spends an inordinate amount of time blowing its nose and clearing its throat at the start of each session, so I suspect most of the ink goes directly into the diaper inside the printer.

Genuine Epson 78-series cartridges contain 11 ml of ink and cost $20: $1.80 / ml or, in US terms, $2k per quart. In the last year, I’ve used about 200 ml of black and 110 ml of each of the five colors: $360 + 5 * $200 = $1360, if I were stupid enough to pay full price for 68 cartridges.

That makes the $150-ish I actually paid for seven 8-ounce (250 ml) bottles of ink a downright bargain: $0.09 / ml.

No, the color isn’t the same as the Epson inks and I’m certain it won’t last as long on the page, but that’s not what I’m using this printer for. When I need long-lasting, high-quality prints, I send ’em to an online service… which right now is running a sale on 4×6″ prints at $0.09 each. What’s not to like?

When I hear printer companies boast about how ecological their printers are, I say bad things. If they wanted to be green, they’d make it trivially easy to connect bulk-ink tanks to their printers.

I’ll put up with a few colorful spots on my fingers and the occasional sploosh on the table to save that much coin o’ the realm…