What are the pros and cons of an inkjet printer? A complete comparative evaluation.

In this eighth and final installment of our groundbreaking instructional series, Business-to-Business Buying Basics 101, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of using an inkjet printer in an office environment. We sincerely hope that you’ve enjoyed the series so far, and we promise you that our next instructional series will be just as good.

The basics

As customer advocate Matt Lane said in a previous, classic article, an inkjet printer is “a printer that uses ink instead of toner to produce an image on a document.” 

Different strokes for different folks

Not all inkjet printers are the same. Let’s start with the classic desktop inkjet printer that you’ve definitely seen in a home or commercial office. It usually looks something like this. It has dutifully printed many a school essay, homework assignment and even an album full of family vacation photos.

That brings us to photo inkjet printers, which tend to be a bit more expensive because of their printing quality. Professional photographers use these printers for precisely that reason.

Then there are ink tank printers, which – true to their name – truly are a tank of a printer. Some ink tank ink bottles print as many as 7,500 pages for only around $15. The initial price for an ink tank is, however, rather expensive.

Don’t underestimate inkjets

According to InfoTrends, “48 percent [of IT decision-makers] currently utilize business inkjet printers in their workgroup and departmental environments today, with the majority being companies with 250-400 employees.”

Inkjet printers perform specific applications well, Lane explained. Inkjets are also an affordable choice for an organization with a low printing volume. 

Other advantages

First, inkjets are cheap to initially buy. Other advantages, Lane said, include:

  • versatility of application and use for different media types;
  • inkjets’ small size and low weight; and
  • adaptability to low volumes of printing.

Disadvantages

Inkjet printers do have their fair share of disadvantages.

A primary disadvantage is ink’s short shelf life. It usually expires one-and-a-half to two years after it’s bought. Also, these printers’ reliance on ink can lead to ink smearing and smudging. Finally, inkjet printers are generally less durable than their bigger, more rigidly-designed laserjet counterparts.

Inkjets aren’t for everyone

Lane warned that for some organizations, inkjets simply aren’t worth it, despite a low initial price.

“If the output quality of the inkjet that they’re using is not sufficient for what they need it for, or for the image and representation that they’d like with their brand, then they should consider a different printer,” he said.

Lane also cautioned against using an unreliable inkjet that’s not designed for high volumes of printing.

What to do if an inkjet’s for you?

All that being said, if an inkjet’s advantages for your business outweigh its disadvantages, then you’re in luck. You can pick up an inkjet at a local retailer, buy one online or for a specialty inkjet printer, check out an authorized dealer.

Sustainability

With the rising awareness of the environmental sustainability of processes in the office and elsewhere in society, you might be tempted to think that printing and paper-based processes aren’t quite sustainable. Think again.

Toshiba, for example, has a program called Close the Loop, in which you can recycle toner bottles, laser toner cartridges, drum units, toner bags and more. As a result, no waste ends up in landfills. Toshiba’s program even goes so far as to make eLumber out of entirely recycled

Plastics. Not only does it reduce the landfills that take about 450 years to decay, but eLumber also saves trees. Toshiba uses eLumber, not trees, for outdoor furniture, fences and landscaping. It is insect-proof, waterproof and UV retardant. 

Sustainable ink

Like other sustainability initiatives before it, sustainable ink faces the challenge of convincing the mainstream and other later adopters that it is just as efficient and useful as its predecessor. Whether justified or not, an early-stage sustainability initiative is met with skepticism before it can prove its efficacy to the mainstream.

Enter sustainable ink. There’s a sustainable water-based flexo ink, which – according to an article from BCM Inks – “consists of pigments that contain no heavy metals. This means…[it] has low or no volatile organic compounds.” Well that’s good, right?

Sustainable inkjet printing

Believe it or not, inkjet printing has become more sustainable in other areas too.

Xerox inkjets, for example, sometimes use half the amount of power that similar printers use. When they’re being built, they require fewer materials, using a third of the floor space that similar printers use.

Some printers can now use up to 50% less ink than similar printers for printing on plain paper. While offset printing uses air-polluting chemicals like isopropyl alcohol and different solvents, digital printing uses far fewer chemicals, leading to fewer emissions.

Let’s get dig-i-tal, dig-i-tal

Digital inkjet printing is now, tomorrow (and possibly) forever. 

As you’d expect, digital printing uses less paper than traditional flexographic printing, reducing paper waste by 10%. Digital printers could even use recycled paper to further reduce waste. 

Digital printing also allows proofs (for labels, for instance) to be sent and received electronically. While press proofs of the past required more than a few materials to be made, with today’s technology, custom labels and designs can easily be viewed in programs like Adobe Acrobat. Overall, a digital printing press is much less wasteful than its traditional flexographic counterpart. Digital inkjet printing is keeping up with the increasing demand for more personalized, creative consumer goods, such as custom-printed Timberland or Converse shoes.

Hot off the presses

As you can see, inkjet printing is actually a sensible, sustainable choice for a variety of business needs, including for some creative needs. Inkjet printing is hot, and while it may not be the best fit for your business, it sure was designed for both some general and specialty printing needs. Inkjet printers are mobile, versatile, powerful devices that can help your organization with reasonable volumes of printing and many creative applications. The next time your organization considers leasing its trusty laserjet, multi-function copier, why not give an inkjet a look? You’re gonna like the way it prints. I guarantee it.    

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