How in the world can you tell which of hundreds of ink companies to trust?
At trade shows and sign expos around the world you see dozens of booths that offer after-market ink. But when I visit printshops, they often tell me horror stories of third-party ink that clogged their heads. The ironic fact is that most of this clogging ink is from one or two really large international brands ! But obviously some of the clogging is caused by low-bid cheap ink from elsewhere.In one case the end-user returned to original Mimaki inks (this was eight years ago we learned about this); in the other case (2010), the owner decided to move from the original Toyo inks from Japan and he opted for AT Inks from India. The point is that even big name brands, even Fortune 500 ink companies, also occasionally have a bad batch.
The most recent example is another Japanese mild-solvent ink company that had a bad batch of magenta ink about five years ago. I have heard of the problems this one batch caused to ColorPainter printshops in almost every continent I have visited. These are the reasons that FLAAR began a long-term search for reliable after-market ink companies.
So FLAAR has been working to establish which ink companies are reliable, and which ink is good. We do this by doing a lot more research than just looking at the ink: we visit the ink factory, in-person. Then FLAAR makes the effort to visit end-users who utilize the ink so we can determine how this ink works out in the real world.SSo the next time you go to a sign expo or trade show, you can visit the booth of Sam-Ink and realize that FLAAR has inspected their facilities (three times during the last five years) and checked their inks in Hewlett-Packard Designjet 5000 and 5500 printers and HP Designjet 8000s, 9000s, and 10000s versions of Seiko ColorPainter 64s printers.
Compare prices. Is this a good way to insure a good ink?
There is plenty of cheap ink available for HP 5000 and HP 5500 printers. But you never know where it really comes from or what is really inside the ink.
Reality with any and all ink, including original OEM ink
If you interview a hundred printshops, you will find someone, somewhere, who has had clogged nozzles with every brand. But often this is the poor cleaning procedures of the printer operator. Other times it is dust and grit from a flatbed cutter that is causing the heads to clog. So it is not always the ink that is entirely at fault.
FLAAR evaluation process of an ink company and its inks
I explain this best in the full-color PDF that we are preparing now, but in essence we visit and inspect the company, we learn who their contacts in the industry are (you can tell a lot about a company by who does business with them). And most importantly, FLAAR interviews end-users. So we inspect the company (the people who own and operate the company, management and chemists), the manufacturing facility, and end-users.
Second step in ink evaluation is to visit end-users (print shops)
While at Sign Istanbul in late 2010 the distributor of Sam*Ink (Inka Teknik.com (DIC Group)) very kindly arranged a visit to a print shop that had more than a dozen HP Designjet 5500 printers. They were each using aftermarket ink cartridges from Sam*Ink.
Sam Ink for water-based inks in thermal inkjet printheads
During 2001-2006 the largest evaluator of HP Designjet printers in the world was the FLAAR Reports. We evaluated virtually every HP Designjet printer model in those years. We had dozens of printers in our test facilities at two universities. During this period we did not have time to evaluate after-market third-party inks: we were too busy evaluating the original inks (which produced beautiful results for interior signage, giclee, and fine art photography).
But these projects are long over and now since actually several years we realize that evaluating after-market third-party ink is a valued service to the over one million people that read our web site network. And since tens of thousands of people bought HP Designjet printers as a result of FLAAR reviews in those early years, it is appropriate that we follow-up and provide additional services to evaluate after-market water-based inks for them.
Sam*Ink is a company I noticed for many years because of their conspicuous yellow logo color. There are so many ink companies that there is not time to visit with every one at a large trade show, but probably at Dubai or elsewhere, I visited with the owner, whose name is obviously Sam (English is the official language of Singapore).
The full FLAAR Reports are now being issued: one on water-based inks (HP Designjet 5000, 5500, Z6100 and CAD-GIS printers HP 1050 and HP 4500; a separate report on mild-solvent inks for the HP Designjet 8000s, 9000s, and 10000s.
You can opt for bulk-ink system, or you can opt for remanufactured HP cartridges.
During mid-February 2014 we visited two more print shops
Most recently updated Feb. 18, 2014, after visiting two print shops in Singapore who are still using Sam-Ink.
Updated December 7, 2010, after visiting a printing company in Istanbul which was successfully using Sam-Ink in more than a dozen HP Designjet 5500 printers.
First posted May 17, 2010.
Illustrated list of FLAAR Reports
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