Printer ink costs a lot of money. But have you ever taken the time to figure out why?
I was recently in attendance at Hewlett-Packard’s “Science of Printing” event recently on behalf of Small Business Trends. There, I learned a bit about why printer ink costs are so high and why it’s priced the way it is. Below are seven reasons printer ink is such an investment.
It Takes Time to Develop
They might be small, but ink cartridges definitely aren’t simple. Printing companies dedicate a lot of time and effort into figuring out the most effective way to get their ink onto your paper. That research and development costs money and some of that cost is reflected in the cost of cartridges.
It Takes Money to Develop
Ink cartridges include a lot more than just some ink and dye. They also include specialized solvents, water, and other solutions. All of these ingredients serve a purpose, from actually helping the ink adhere to the paper to preventing page curl. They also aren’t cheap.
Wired explains  in some detail each of the common ingredients in an inkjet cartridge and how they play a part in everyday printing.
It’s Specially Designed for Each Printer
There’s not a one-size-fits all ink solution. Companies develop cartridges designed to work with each different device. So that’s even more time, research and money that needs to go into each product. Companies release new printers constantly, so they also have to constantly develop new ink solutions.
Name Brands Focus on Quality
Though there are off brands and refills available, the more expensive cartridges that are specially designed for each model are priced as such for a reason. They are optimized to work with a particular printer. This means that the print heads are tuned to release an exact amount of ink and other substances, both during printing and maintenance cycles. Even a slight differentiation can harm your device or impact the quality of your prints, says  HP Supplies Technology Specialist Thom Brown.
Budget Refills Can Harm Your Printer
The budget brands and cheap refills aren’t designed with a specific printer in mind. So if you use ink that is intended for a daily-use printer on one that is rarely used, it could release too much ink during down time and cause damage. According to Brown , this can lead to a lot of hidden costs including wasted pages, reprints, and replacing faulty cartridges. (HP’s Thom Brown discusses ink affordability in the video above.)
You Use More Ink Than You Think You Do
Printers don’t only use ink when printing documents. In a white paper on Ink Usage in Inject Printers, HP explains  that cartridges actually release small amounts of ink during down time for servicing purposes. This can push out air bubbles or dried ink that builds up in cartridges if they sit idle for too long.
So if it seems like you don’t get a lot of mileage out of each cartridge, know that some of it is used to keep your printer working properly.
You Might Not be Getting the Best Value
If it seems like you really don’t get a lot of use out of each cartridge, you could just be using the wrong type of device. If you’re a small business that prints documents daily, you need a printer designed for heavy use. If you only print the occasional photo, you need a model designed for that purpose.
HP, for example, has an Officejet line that’s designed specifically for small businesses. These models are designed for heavy use because their maintenance cycles don’t require much down time between jobs, according to Brown .
Both printers and their cartridges are designed for specific types of use. Choosing one that doesn’t meet your needs will not only lead to you buying more ink than necessary, but it will also likely mean your printer won’t last as long as it should.
Printer Ink  Photo via Shutterstock