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How To Use Computer Ink Cartridges

Sep 16, 2008
You might think that computer ink is a simple thing. It comes self-contained in a cartridge, you don't need to handle it or get messy unless you are trying to do your own refills. You buy it at your local store, or online. Pretty simple? Yes, and no.

Most people go to the store, buy the refill cartridge in a box, take it home, remove the little adhesive strip, insert the cartridge into the printer, and get to work. But what do you do with the old cartridge? Do you just throw it in the trash or should you think about whether it contains hazardous substances that need special recycling?

Computer ink comes in several varieties, and the user should know a little more about it. First of all, consider the ink composition itself. Most inks are either water or oil based. The inks may contain metals, dyes, pigments or other ingredients. Edible ink is used for cake and cupcake decorating. Colors are reproduced up to photo quality on any edible media. Edible inks are FDA approved.

Most home or office desktop inkjets use water-based ink. To learn what is in your ink, go to the company website. Here you will find a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) that details everything in the ink. If you have never looked at an MSDS, go to the website of Canon, Epson, or HP and check it out, it is quite interesting. Some include composition, toxicity, and even first aid procedures. If you get ink in your eye, that is a problem! If your particular ink contains hazardous substances, it needs to be properly disposed of at a hazardous waste center.

If you refill a cartridge, be careful of spillage. Use the right type of ink or it may negatively affect the output or even damage your printer. Cartridges with the print head built in should only be refilled two or three times before that print head will deteriorate and could cause damage. Some cartridges are sent in for remanufacture. Be sure the refill and ink both match your original specs for your printer. Quality control may be an issue.

Computer ink can be dye, pigment, or solvent based. Pigmented inks cost more and last longer, resist fading, but do not give the best color. Dye inks give better color, but fade and have shorter longevity. Most professional format printers use either solvent, UV-curable, or dye sublimation inks. These are for printing on uncoated vinyl, for items that need sun protection, or printing on fabrics. Because home printers use water based inks, even a tiny drop of water or using a water-based highlighter can cause blurring.

Cartridge ink may be contained in either an ink bag or ink storage area. Ink is very expensive, especially the reds. Refills could leak, may have lesser quality, contain less ink, and can contain lower quality ink so prints do not last as long. Some cartridges have microchip sensors to indicate ink levels, and they may malfunction.
About the Author
Martin helps people learn about computer ink, printers and other office tools. You can read more of his work like How To Use Computer Ink Safely by
visiting the Computer Ink website.
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