When faced with increasing production costs, print service providers (PSPs) may be tempted to save money by buying low-cost, unbranded, or white-label printer inks and consumables marketed as ‘compatible’ by third-party ink providers. However, there are compelling reasons to avoid doing so. ROTOCON highlights the imminent risks and benefits of using alternative versus OEM-approved inks and consumables.
Are alternative inks as good as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) inks? At first glance, these so-called “compatible” products may look like the genuine article, but dig a little deeper, and the difference becomes all too apparent.
Just like poor quality fuel affects the engine of your high-performance car, the use of alternative, low-cost, unbranded inks and consumables also impacts your high-performance print equipment. According to ROTOCON service manager William White, the print technology supplier has seen a spurt of cases where customers have been duped into believing that these alternative inks would perform identically to OEM ink, resulting in irreversible damage to expensive printing press equipment. ‘Customers think they can save a few bucks with these inks. But the impacts over time can seriously damage production performance, image quality and ultimately, brand perception.’
A case in point is SCREEN’s range of Truepress Jet L350 UV digital printing presses, distributed in South Africa by ROTOCON. William and his teams have had to conduct some expensive repairs to several SCREEN machines due to the use of alternative inks. He explains that SCREEN produce refined inks manufactured under stringent European standards. ‘SCREEN is committed to The European Printing Ink Association (EuPIA) exclusion policy for printing inks which is an important code protecting the health and safety of workers in the ink and printing industries, as well as the end user of printed materials,’ he comments.
Improved inks, improved production
Accordingly, with EuPIA’s recently updated suitability list of photoinitiators for food contact materials (which came into effect from April 2023), SCREEN has modified the formula of its current LV ink to be compliant. William explains that the new complaint LV02 ink as well as conforming to the new EuPIA guidelines has brought about additional features. ‘The new yellow ink has improved light fastness, meaning it lasts longer under harsh sunlight. It has improved SCREEN’s extended colour gamut with more vivid cyan ink, more improved white ink performance, and you also won’t experience any colour changes during print.’
With the conversion requirements for start-up LV02 ink, ROTOCON has embarked on a mission to reprofile all existing SCREEN machines to ensure that the press runs optimally and prints at the highest quality possible with the new inks. ‘Colour profiling will be conducted by a SCREEN-trained application engineer. The price for the new LV02 ink will remain the same as the LV01 ink.’ William says during the conversion the SCREEN machines will undergo a comprehensive service, too.
The following will be supplied to customers under SCREEN contract: Bottle flushing solution per colour for flushing the system of all LV01 inks; LV02 bottle ink per colour for start-up (white is excluded for all SAI machines; replacement dichroic insert for GEW UV cassette; barcode/QR code scanner for new LV02 ink codes; a software update; and LV02 ink mist reduction kit for all Mark I machines.
‘ROTOCON is committed to covering all the flights and accommodation of technicians who will conduct profile conversions at SCREEN contract holders,’ adds William.
Effects of low-cost unapproved inks
William says low-cost printer inks from unapproved thirdparty ink providers do not offer the same assurances. ‘The formulation may not perform as expected within the printer or may struggle to adhere to the substrate, leading to poor-quality prints or codes that can be easily smudged or removed.’
SCREEN inks are specially developed to flow correctly for optimal image quality and to dry/cure properly for use on a variety of substrates. ‘What we see with these alternative inks,’ remarks William, ‘is that the quality just isn’t there.’ Untested, low-cost inks are likely to be lower quality than inks directly supplied from SCREEN. These cheap, low-quality inks can cause damage to the internal components of printers and void the product warranty.
Different printer types require different ink formulations and using incorrect inks can cause unnecessary wear and damage to components, including pumps, pipes, and tubes, or cause ink build-up and debris on print heads and nozzles. ‘With alternative inks, you’re compelled to purge fluids more regularly, wasting more ink in the process,’ William explains.
The cost of repairing a printer fault without a warranty could be substantially higher than the savings achieved from using low-cost inks. Moreover, the loss of production time while waiting for repairs, and the scrap for poorly printed products make this a false economy.
The question remains: Is it worth the risk? While alternative inks and consumables may initially seem cheaper than original supplies, they are unlikely to result in any cost savings. ‘The risks to businesses, including your own, is much greater than poor quality printing. We recommend using approved SCREEN inks and consumables to protect your business, workers, consumers and printers.’
Only the best will do
ROTOCON carefully selects its partnerships with approved principals to ensure that only the finest products and services are offered, guaranteeing quality results for the customer’s final product. ‘I like to think of our business as a focussed print production service line with various product champions, including ROTOCON-approved consumables that are tested and proven for our range of machines,’ William states.
‘But everything goes hand in hand. If we sell a machine, we must ensure that we are capable of supplying ROTOCON-approved consumables in order to get the best performance from the machine.’ High-grade consumables are also part and parcel of ROTOCON’s after-sale services.
According to William, there are instances when a customer requests technical assistance with a machine, only to discover that the press is fitted with consumables from a different supplier, often one that’s not ROTOCON-approved, or manufactured to the same specs. ‘This interferes with what we want to achieve. It affects our promise of efficiency to the customer. Inferior consumables affect the overall performance of the machine, and this is not what ROTOCON stands for.’
He says a commitment to quality and innovative consumable products form the cornerstone of ROTOCON’s philosophy of consistently providing the best in customer service and support. ‘We want customers to get the very best from their machines.’