If you’ve never gone through the process of switching printing ink from one vendor to another, there’s more to consider than just selecting and purchasing a new ink product.
For companies using large, high-volume printers, the decision to switch may not be easy to do. We’re breaking down the most important tips you should follow and answering common questions about switching to a new digital ink supplier in order to make the process as easy and hassle-free as possible.
But First … Why Switch?
There are two big reasons why print shops decide to switch inks: price and performance.
For print shops still using digital ink sold by their printer’s manufacturer, the choice to switch ink providers can often come down to costs. Printer-manufactured ink (or OEM ink) is generally the most expensive on the market, and digital print shops — particularly ones using spendy solvent, latex, and UV inks, can save 30-40 percent on their ink costs without sacrificing quality.
A second reason for switching has to do with performance. If you sell products that need to be washable, chemical-resistant, or hold up to heavy, regular use, your ink needs to do the same. Some inks simply perform better in certain applications or on certain types of materials. If the ink you are currently using isn’t up to the task, it’s time to consider a switch.
The Digital Ink Change-Over Process
Each printer is a little different, but at a very high level, here’s what happens:
- First, the existing ink is drained from the printer.
- To ensure there aren’t any compatibility issues between the old and new ink, the entire system is flushed.
- The printer is filled with new ink.
- The printer is calibrated to the new ink. Large printers have temperature and vacuum settings that need to be tweaked for each ink.
- New custom color profiles are set up and fine-tuned so colors print accurately on different substrates.
Impacts to Your Printer’s Manufacturer Warranty
One of the biggest concerns our customers have is how changing their digital ink vendor might affect the warranty, support, and service of their printer.
One way printer manufacturers motivate customers to buy their ink products is through the terms of their warranty. Using an ink not provided by the manufacturer can void warranties on the parts of the printer that the ink touches.
It’s always important to review your warranty and consider how you’ll address future printer issuers, should they come up. However, for many high-volume print shops, a voided warranty should not be a big factor in their ink purchasing decision. Because printer manufacturers’ inks are generally very expensive, the cost savings alone from switching inks easily covers any printer issues that arise.
Scheduling and Planning for Printer Downtimes
Customers sometimes assume the ink-change process will take a couple hours, but depending on the complexity of the printer, it can take several days. During that time, the printer won’t be available to you, so you’ll need to plan your project schedule accordingly.
Sometimes, you may have little control over timing. If your current ink isn’t performing well — such as not holding up well to wash or wear — you may be left with no choice but to pause operations until you switch ink products.
But if you have the option, it’s best to plan ink changes when you can afford to have some downtime. For instance, if the bulk of your business is Christmas decor, you wouldn’t want to plan an ink change during the height of the holiday season.
Details Your New Ink Vendor Needs for a Smooth Install
For the ink change-over process to go as smoothly as possible, a quality ink vendor will want to know as much as they can about your print schedule and workflow. Before coming on-site, technicians carefully plan the tools they’ll need for your specific printer, backup parts, and how they’ll work around your team’s shifts to minimize disruptions.
Each ink vendor will have their own process for collecting the necessary information, but it may include:
- The exact make and model of your printer.
- Print tests or samples of products using the existing ink.
- Videos or pictures of different printer parts.
- Maintenance schedules, describing what parts of the printer have been serviced and when.
- Employee scheduling, like when different shifts start and end each day.
- What kinds of projects you typically handle, including the range of substrates you print on.
A little upfront effort can help you avoid potential complications or confusion during the ink change-over process and get your printers up and running again quickly.
Color Profiling and Color Matching
One of the most critical steps in the ink change-over process is setting up color profiles. If you’re a print shop that prints on a variety of different substrates, you may need to set up color profiles for each of those substrates so a specific color reads true no matter what it gets printed on.
If you’re a larger print shop with multiple printers, you may have a color person on staff who can do this. Generally, however, you should expect your ink supplier to provide color matching during the ink-conversion process. Be sure to check with your new vendor about how many color profiles are included in the initial setup. If you need dozens of color profiles set up, that is likely to come at additional cost.
Ongoing Support and Service
When you’re shopping around for a new ink product, be mindful of the ongoing support the new vendor provides — especially if changing inks will void your manufacturer warranty. If it’s not already included, you can usually negotiate different support options into the ink purchase, including things like annual site visits and phone support.
At Marabu, we pride ourselves on not only developing superior ink products, but also providing a team of printing experts who work closely with our customers. We provide the support you need for success with our products, and any printer switching to our inks can Contact us so we can walk them through a successful transition. If you’re looking for better performing inks that’ll cost you less, learn more about our digital ink products.