Why is digital ink more expensive than its analogue equivalent? As digital develops, prices will fall
What do you think?
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By Laurel Brunner
13 February 2012
A restless mind never sleeps: Benny Landa is set to wow the industry once again
The ink that is used in a digital press is a fundamentally different beast from that used on conventional engines. It doesn't come in a bucket for a start, and its chemistry is far more complex. And like anything it is subject to the laws of supply and demand, which can be brutal, particularly for goods used by specialists such as sign and display producers.
There is also the need for manufacturers and developers of specialised products to get a return on their considerable investments into developing the technology. This adds to the cost, but should generally fall over time.
The thing about ink-jet inks is that they have to behave themselves in an ink-jet print-head and the associated delivery system. And different head technologies require inks with different characteristics and behaviours so the science behind it is complicated. All of this adds to the cost.
So saying ink prices are still a competitive tool for engine manufacturers, particularly in the sign and display market which is growing in so many directions. How long ink-jet ink prices will remain higher than their analogue equivalents depends on the growth rate for digital printing and how quickly digital pages replace offset pages. To some extent it also depends on innovations in ink and engines. Benny Landa, original founder of HP Indigo, has been working on miniaturising nano-pigments for use in digital ink-jet heads. At 200 to 300 nanometres (from 0.1 to 0.0001th of normal ink-jet droplets) they don't clog jets. They also respond to light more effectively, which has interesting implications for quality and coverage. It might also help to reduce costs, assuming it puts pressure on Landa's competitors. These new inks are also supposed to last longer, and Landa Labs reckon they would be suitable for all manner of signage applications including traffic signs. "I want to take nano-pigment printing into the printing mainstream," Landa has commented.
Eventually innovations such as this will help to tip the cost balance in favour of digital ink-jet inks. But in the meantime the cost is unavoidably higher than the cost of conventional inks.
Comments in chronological order (Total 1 comments)
16 March 2012 4:57PM
I think as with any new technology the research money along with all the patent and other initial expenses to develop this new inks has to be added to recover the amounts along with some profits then it's usually manufactured under license until these amounts and some profits are taken care of, sometimes it can be upto 500 thousand units or more after which other more competitive manufacturers are allowed to make it - then the price becomes a bit cheaper.
Problem is by that time, a newer model of the machine is made with some changes to the inks and the whole merry go round begins again, the older one becomes obsolete or by then have been used so much that repairs become uneconomical and so we have to go for newer machines with the newly developed inks and so ..... it really is a merry go round for us in the digital print industry.