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Don't risk it with expired inks

Pigment can fall out of solution causing colour variations

Are you contemplating getting a few more print jobs out of those expired ink cartridges? Think again, you could be doing more damage to your printer than you realize, says David Evans, QLD Sales & Support, GJS.

Creating ink is a complex, highly technical and scientific process. There are several different ink technologies available including water based, solvent (mainly known as Eco Solvent), latex, UV and dye sublimation. All use a multitude of ingredients, some of which include resin, binders, driers, surfactants, optical brighteners, adhesion promoters, pigments, dyes, defoaming agents, thixotropy promoters, anti-skimming agents, biocides, perfumes and deodorants.

That’s a lot of different chemicals! Not all go into each type of ink, but the majority are generally used over the range of different inks produced. Ink manufacturing companies spend millions of dollars on R&D and manufacturing equipment to be able to make inks. It’s a very scientific and precise procedure.

The process and equipment that is used to combine these ingredients is as important as the ingredients themselves. Remember, ink needs to pass through a range of filter systems and the minute channels of the printhead before it hits the substrate. To do this, it needs to be mixed thoroughly so that each part of the formula can do its part in the process.

Once mixed, ink is transported all over the world in planes, boats, trains or trucks until it is stored by different distributors in different locations and in different conditions. When it is purchased it is transported again before it finally finds its home in a printer. It is a testament to chemical engineering that inks can survive this process at all!

A date with expiry

The expiry date put on cartridges by ink manufacturers tells you the date the inks will work fully as it is intended, and that all the ingredients will flow correctly through the printer tubes, filters and printheads and that the ink will do the job it is designed to do once it hits the substrate.

Using ink that is past its expiry date can cause countless issues with your printer. Some of these issues may not be evident immediately, but damage to your printer can occur that may impact its performance in the future.

Quite simply, as soon as ink starts to fall out of solution, it cannot do everything it was designed to do.

For example, it could be that an ingredient added to help the ink flow through the printhead has separated from the main body of ink, this will cause particles to start building inside the print head, and once the buildup is great enough it will cause the printhead to fail – which is generally an expensive part of the printer to replace.

Alternatively, it could be that some of the pigment has fallen out of solution causing colour variations (as shown in the above image). There is a multitude of problems that can be caused by expired inks. It's also crucial to remember that in the majority of instances, the use of expired inks in your printer will also void your manufacturer’s warranty.

You’ve spent a lot of money on your printer and its job is to make you money. Your job is to keep it in perfect working order. Think about it this way, you wouldn’t put expired or out of date food into your body, so don’t risk it by placing expired ink into your printer.

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