Is It Worth It? The Six Big Risks of ‘Compatible’ Inks and Consumables

  • By Domino Printing Sciences
  • November 16, 2022
  • Digital Printing
  • General
  • Beverage
  • Food
  • Industrial
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When faced with increasing production costs, manufacturers may be tempted to save money by buying low-cost, unbranded, or white-label printer inks and consumables marketed as ‘compatible’ by third-party ink providers. Still, there are very good reasons why this should be avoided.

Are compatible inks as good as originals? On the surface, these so-called ‘compatible’ products may look like genuine article but dig a little deeper, and the difference can become only too apparent. Compatible inks may initially perform as expected, but the impacts over time can seriously damage production performance, code quality, worker and consumer safety, and ultimately brand perception.

In the following blog, Jill Woods, Domino Group Product Compliance Manager, answers six big questions surrounding the use of unapproved third-party inks, their effect on businesses, consumers, and society, and outlines why manufacturers should use only genuine inks and consumables in their printers. 

Compatible inks graphic

1. Can using ‘compatible’ inks affect print quality?

A compatible ink may look identical to genuine ink to the naked eye, but such formulations may be made from entirely different ingredients that do not perform the same way and may cause issues with print quality on manufacturing lines.

When it comes to coding and marking products and packaging, print quality and legibility are of the utmost importance. Missing, incomplete, damaged, or unreadable product codes can cause products to be rejected further down the supply chain, leading to punitive fines and loss of custom and costing manufacturers massive amounts in rework and wasted stock.

Domino conducts pre- and post-manufacturing testing of all approved formulations to ensure maximum performance. In addition, all Domino inks are tested within printers before they are approved for sale and use.

We also offer strategic sample testing, using state-of-the-art analytical equipment to ensure the correct performance of the ink under the required conditions. Our substrate testing teams match solutions to substrates to ensure maximum contrast, legibility, and adhesion so you can be sure of clean, clear, and hardwearing codes.

Low-cost printer inks from unapproved third-party ink providers do not carry the same assurances – the formulations may not perform as expected within the printer or may struggle to adhere to the substrate, leading to poor-quality prints or codes that can be easily smudged or removed.

2. Can using ‘compatible’ inks damage your printer?

Untested, low-cost inks are likely to be lower quality than inks supplied directly from Domino. These low-quality, cheap inks can cause damage to the inner workings of printers and invalidate the product warranty.

Different printer types require different ink formulations and using incorrect inks can cause unnecessary wear and damage to components, including pumps, pipes, and tubes, or cause ink build-up and debris on print heads and nozzles. The resulting wear and damage can affect print quality and cause printers to break down, potentially stopping production until repairs can be made.

The cost incurred in fixing a printer fault without a warranty could be substantially more than the savings from using low-cost inks. Similarly, the loss of production while waiting for the fix, and the product scrap for poorly printed products, again make this a false economy.

At Domino, we develop our inks to work seamlessly within their respective printers for maximum reliability and uptime. This is why our printers and consumables are equipped with RFID technology to match inks with their specific solution, so there is no risk of putting the wrong ink into a printer manufactured for a particular application.

Compatible inks graphic 3

3. Do ‘compatible’ inks pose a risk to consumers?

The most frightening aspect of using unapproved third-party inks is that they could risk harm to consumers with whom you are looking to build long-term loyalty.

Strict regulations are in place to govern requirements for inks used on food and beverage products, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. When operating within these industries, manufacturers must be sure that any inks are safe for their intended use – this means assurance that formulations will not migrate through packaging or threaten consumer health if they come into direct contact with products.

Non-certified inks from third-party ink providers may include unsafe or untested substances, making them entirely unsuitable for use in these industries – and putting consumers at risk of serious harm or worse. In addition, manufacturers are legally responsible for any ink used in their production processes, so working with proven and reputable ink suppliers is imperative. Regulatory breaches can leave brands facing hefty fines and criminal convictions.

As the first coding and marking provider actively involved in the European Printing Ink Association (EuPIA), Domino prides itself on helping manufacturers to meet their obligations relating to materials that come into contact with food and pharmaceutical products. All Domino’s food packaging inks are created in line with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and in accordance with ISO9000 and ISO22000 standards and European Regulation (EC) No.1935/2004 and No. 2023/2006.

If you have your own due diligence and risk assessments to validate the safety of inks for intended use, Domino can provide support with statements of composition or specific migration tests. We know the importance of safety and invest appropriately. Inks from third-party sellers may come at a reduced cost, but they also lack assurance that the products have been tested and validated for compliance.

4. Do ‘compatible’ inks pose a risk to production line workers?

Printing inks may be composed of chemicals that require specific handling to ensure that they do not pose a risk to production workers.

Production workers come into close contact with inks and fluids when carrying out tasks, such as refilling ink supplies and basic printer maintenance. As such, it’s essential to ensure that they have all the information they need to handle inks correctly and safely.

Genuine inks from reputable ink suppliers will come with individual product safety data sheets that provide information on chemical composition and potential health hazards, protective measures, and safety precautions for handling, storing, and transporting inks.

Domino’s Global Product Compliance team works to produce safety data sheets for all our approved formulations, in line with current regulations, and for use in all countries in which our products are bought and sold. Our safety data sheets provide safety guidance and information to allow our customers to conduct appropriate risk assessments for safe handling.

Keeping costs down could cause third-party ink providers to take shortcuts, such as avoiding manufacturing compliance approvals, which adds risk to those handling the inks.

5. What is the social impact of ‘compatible’ inks?

Untested, third-party inks may be produced in dangerous conditions, or have illicit or unethical supply chains, undermining the health and well-being of individuals involved in developing, creating, and distributing products.

Domino’s genuine inks and consumables are developed, manufactured, and supplied to the same high standards as all Domino products. Corporate social responsibility is a business imperative at Domino, and as such, we strive to ensure that all our materials are ethically, sustainably, and responsibly sourced.

Domino has a bronze sustainability rating with EcoVadis’, the world’s largest provider of business sustainability ratings, measured against our commitment to sustainable procurement, labor and human rights, ethics, and the environment. In addition, as a member of Sedex, one of the world’s leading ethical trade membership organizations, Domino’s processes, and supply chains are subject to regular independent ethical audits

6. What is the environmental impact of ‘compatible’ inks?

Third-party ink providers may operate outside regulations, potentially using unsustainable or environmentally polluting materials, machinery, and processes in the production of cheap inks. Using untested, non-genuine inks can also create unnecessary waste through poor code quality, further compounding the impact on the environment.

Domino is committed to minimizing the environmental impact of our products and solutions, including in the production of our inks and consumables. We recognize that we have a responsibility to ensure that our products are consciously designed to minimize their environmental impact and regularly evaluate our processes to identify where we can make improvements that will help us reduce waste or improve efficiency.

In our ink development labs, our chemists utilize in-silico experimentation via predictive modeling and machine learning to identify target formulations for new inks before any chemical experimentation takes place. This helps to reduce the overall quantity of chemical waste created as part of the design process helping to reduce our environmental impact.

In addition, Domino is committed to helping our customers to achieve their sustainability goals by designing products and solutions that help to reduce waste related to poor code quality. The Cx350i, our latest-generation inkjet printer, was designed with these commitments in mind. The printer provides maximum code quality with minimal ink usage and has been designed to work exclusively with low-impact vegetable-oil-based printing inks.

Are compatible inks and consumables worth the risk?

Compatible inks and consumables might work out cheaper than original supplies in the first instance but are unlikely to award any cost savings in the long run. The risk to businesses from using untested, unregulated, largely unknown substances is much greater than poor quality coding.

Use only genuine Domino inks and consumables to protect your business, workers, consumers, and printers.

Genuine inks graphic

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