Why buying original HP ink cartridges is like making a Margarita

Why buying original HP ink cartridges is like making a Margarita

When someone owns an inkjet printer you often hear the question: “Why do you buy new ink cartridges that cost so much when you can refill ink for cheap?” The answer is in the way you make Margarita. At least that is how Thomas Brown, chief Inkologist at HP explains the difference between buying original verses buying generic or refill kits. Ignoring the made up term, Thom’s job is to continuously test HP cartridges verses their competitors which initially sounds like a dead boring job, however once Thom begins to explain you realise it is anything but. “There is no secret ingredients to making ink – everything can be reverse-engineered. The secret to making a good Margarita and a good ink cartridge is all in knowing how to mix what and how much”

Why buying original HP ink cartridges is like making a MargaritaWhy buying original HP ink cartridges is like making a Margarita

So why should we buy original ink cartridges and not others ?

Its all in the head

When it comes to ink printing, all the technology lies in the printer head. This is what makes the difference between an accurate sharp coloured print verses a washed out image. On  a typical HP photo print, there are 35 million drops of ink that come shooting out of 42 000 nozzles, 36 000 times per second and at speed of  50 kilometers per hour, hence the term ink JET. Each drop and has to land in a precise spot on the page and then not move. The tiny ink drop has to travel between the printer head and the tiny gap where the paper is fed through. When looking at each ink drop on the microcosmic level, that tiny distance is the equivalent of dropping a grape from a 30 story building having to hit a precise spot on an A4 paper on the ground. And you have to do that 36 000 times per second.

The technology to make that happen is what you are essentially paying for when you buy an original HP cartridge verses a generic one.

Printer Head

Lets talk about Ink Baby

Inside the cartridge is the secret sauce – the ink. Most of us don’t give that a second thought as after all inks are like paint and all are virtually the same.  Turns out not so.

HP has labs of scientists who break down ink to its molecular level to ensure that that the ink-drop leaves the nozzle at the right speed, stretching out as it does this and breaks off at the right point to hit the paper (like cheese stretches and breaks when you pull a piece of pizza). To get this right means that just enough ink hits the page and just enough ink bounces back up to the nozzle which lubricates it ready for the next command to fire another drop.

This is what it looks like on a microscopic level. The top is the ink nozzle, the black gooey stuff is the ink and the bottom is the paper:

HP ink drop

Refill ink that is injected into the cartridge does not have the same molecular make up as the HP ones. This means that the point where the ink drop stretches and breaks of to hit the paper is different. Therefore too much ink hits the paper resulting in wastage and smudges and not enough bounces back to the nozzle so it dries up and breaks.

Generic ink drop

Not all Blacks & Yellows are the same

There are different shades of the same colour. Some light, others are dark but still classified as “Yellow”. Even if colours are the exact same shade such as “Black”, they have different viscosity (thickness).  The printer head does not distinguish between these non-original shades and continues to fire the drops as with an original coloured ink, however the colour mixes are no longer the same which results in the images not being clear anymore.

The dish on the left shows original HP ink and how the Black colour doesn’t mix with the other compared to the right where the Black colour does mixes:

Kojo mixing

HP vs Generic

Its all about the money money money

The primary reason people buy generic ink cartridges or refill kits is to save the money on the original cartridges. However, once understanding the tech and ink-ology that goes into the print head you realise that the average home user will print 55 pages per month so your ink actually does a lot of sitting around waiting for you to print.  So much like bottled water which changes in taste if left in the bottle for a year, Inferior inks will change their composition over time and actually degrade the lifespan of the printer and the amount of prints you get out of the machine is far less than original ink. So in effect you tend to change refilled and generic cartridges more often than you would the original.

So in Summary

Just like every other technology, ink printing technology has evolved over time. Initially ink came out of the printer still wet, was slow and when water came in contact with the page it caused the ink on the page to run and smudge. This is no longer the case. HP has special polymer in their ink that bind the ink drops to the page so that no matter how many times you highlight the words or even spill water on the page it still retains it original look.

The only choice one needs to make is either to spend less on the initial printer but then spend more on the cartridges as those have the printer heads attached to the cartridges. Alternatively spend more on the initial printer but then spend less on the cartridges as the printer head stays inside the printer.

Now that we know more about what goes into the ink , as Lilly Tweeted in reply my Tweet as to why use original verses generic: “Somewhere in my head that makes sense”

Make sense now

Indeed it does.


Liron Segev - TheTechieGuy

Liron Segev is an award-winning blogger, YouTube strategist and Podcast. He helps brands tell their stories in an engaging and real way that regular consumers can relate to. He also drinks too much coffee!

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