When manufacturers encounter rising production costs, they might be tempted to cut expenses by purchasing low-cost, unbranded, or white-label printer inks and consumables that are labeled as ‘compatible’ by third-party ink providers. However, there are compelling reasons why this should be avoided.

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Are compatible inks as good as originals? At first glance, these so-called ‘compatible’ products may appear to be indistinguishable from the authentic items. However, upon closer examination, the disparities become evident. While compatible inks might initially meet expectations, their long-term impacts can significantly harm production performance, code quality, worker and consumer safety, and ultimately, brand reputation.

In the upcoming blog, Jill Woods, Group Product Compliance Manager at Domino, addresses six important questions regarding the use of unapproved third-party inks, their repercussions for businesses, consumers, and society, and explains why manufacturers should exclusively use genuine inks and consumables in their printers.

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

A compatible ink might appear visually identical to a genuine ink, but it could be composed of entirely different ingredients that don’t function in the same way, potentially causing print quality issues on manufacturing lines.

In the realm of coding and marking products and packaging, the quality and legibility of prints are paramount. Missing, incomplete, damaged, or illegible product codes can result in product rejections further along the supply chain, resulting in significant fines, loss of customers, and substantial expenses for manufacturers in terms of rework and wasted stock.

Domino conducts comprehensive pre- and post-manufacturing testing of all approved ink formulations to ensure optimal performance. Additionally, all Domino inks are tested within printers before they are authorized for sale and use.

We also provide strategic sample testing using cutting-edge analytical equipment to guarantee the ink’s correct performance under the required conditions. Our substrate testing teams match solutions to substrates to achieve maximum contrast, legibility, and adhesion, ensuring that you have clear, durable, and legible codes.

Low-cost printer inks from unapproved third-party providers do not offer the same level of assurance. These formulations may not function 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 erased.

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

Untested, low-cost inks are likely to be of lower quality compared to inks supplied directly from Domino. These low-quality, inexpensive inks can potentially harm the inner components of printers and void the product warranty.

Different printer types require distinct ink formulations, and using incorrect inks can result in unnecessary wear and damage to various components, including pumps, pipes, and tubes, or lead to the accumulation of ink build-up and debris on print heads and nozzles. This wear and damage can adversely affect print quality and cause printers to malfunction, potentially halting production until repairs are made.

The cost of repairing a printer issue without warranty coverage could far exceed any savings obtained from using low-cost inks. Furthermore, the production downtime while awaiting repairs and the scrap of poorly printed products make this a misguided cost-saving approach.

At Domino, we meticulously develop our inks to operate seamlessly within their respective printers, ensuring maximum reliability and uptime. This is why our printers and consumables are equipped with RFID technology to match inks with their specific solutions, eliminating the risk of using the wrong ink in a printer designed for a particular application.

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

One of the most concerning aspects of using unapproved third-party inks is the potential risk they pose to consumers, with whom you aim to establish long-term loyalty.

Strict regulations exist to govern the requirements for inks used in food and beverage products, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. Manufacturers operating in these industries must ensure that any inks they use are safe for their intended purpose. This involves guaranteeing that the ink formulations will not migrate through packaging or pose a threat to consumer health if they come into direct contact with the products.

Non-certified inks from third-party providers may contain unsafe or untested substances, rendering them entirely unsuitable for use in these industries. This, in turn, puts consumers at risk of serious harm or worse. Manufacturers are also legally responsible for the inks used in their production processes, making it imperative to collaborate with proven and reputable ink suppliers. Regulatory violations can result in substantial fines and criminal convictions for brands.

As the first coding and marking provider actively engaged with the European Printing Ink Association (EuPIA), Domino takes pride in assisting manufacturers in fulfilling their obligations regarding materials that come into contact with food and pharmaceutical products. All of Domino’s food packaging inks are manufactured in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and in compliance with ISO9000 and ISO22000 standards, as well as European Regulations (EC) No.1935/2004 and No. 2023/2006.

If you require your own due diligence and risk assessments to validate the safety of inks for their intended use, Domino can provide support through statements of composition or specific migration tests. We understand the paramount importance of safety and allocate resources accordingly. Inks from third-party sellers may offer cost savings, but they lack the assurance that the products have been rigorously tested and validated for compliance.

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

Printing inks may consist of chemicals that necessitate specific handling procedures to prevent risks to production workers.

Production employees often come into direct contact with inks and fluids when performing tasks like replenishing ink supplies and basic printer maintenance. It is crucial to ensure that they are equipped with all the essential information to handle inks correctly and safely.

Genuine inks from reputable ink suppliers typically include individual product safety data sheets that provide details regarding the chemical composition, potential health hazards, protective measures, and safety precautions for the proper handling, storage, and transportation of the inks.

Domino’s Global Product Compliance team is dedicated to creating safety data sheets for all our approved ink formulations in compliance with current regulations. These sheets are designed for use in all countries where our products are purchased and sold. Our safety data sheets offer safety guidance and information, enabling our customers to conduct the necessary risk assessments for safe ink handling.

In a bid to reduce costs, third-party ink providers may resort to shortcuts, such as bypassing manufacturing compliance approvals, which can introduce risks for those handling the inks.

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

Unapproved third-party inks that remain untested may be manufactured under hazardous conditions or have illegal or unethical supply chains, jeopardizing the health and well-being of individuals involved in their development, production, and distribution.

Domino’s genuine inks and consumables are developed, manufactured, and supplied to the same rigorous standards as all Domino products. Corporate social responsibility is a fundamental commitment at Domino, and the company endeavors to ensure that all materials are ethically, sustainably, and responsibly sourced.

Domino has received a bronze sustainability rating from EcoVadis, the world’s largest provider of business sustainability ratings. This rating is based on Domino’s dedication to sustainable procurement, labor and human rights, ethical practices, and environmental responsibility. Additionally, as a member of Sedex, one of the world’s leading ethical trade membership organizations, Domino’s processes and supply chains are regularly subjected to independent ethical audits.

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

Third-party ink providers may operate outside regulatory frameworks, potentially employing unsustainable or environmentally harmful materials, machinery, and processes in the production of inexpensive inks. The use of untested, non-genuine inks can also result in needless waste due to poor code quality, exacerbating the environmental impact.

Domino is firmly committed to minimizing the environmental footprint of its products and solutions, including the production of inks and consumables. The company acknowledges its responsibility to ensure that its products are consciously designed to reduce their environmental impact and regularly assesses its processes to pinpoint areas for improvement that can help reduce waste and enhance efficiency.

In Domino’s ink development laboratories, chemists employ in-silico experimentation through predictive modeling and machine learning to identify target formulations for new inks before any chemical experiments are conducted. This approach helps reduce the overall volume of chemical waste generated in the design process, contributing to a reduced environmental impact.

Furthermore, Domino is dedicated to assisting customers in achieving their sustainability objectives by designing products and solutions that mitigate waste resulting from poor code quality. The Cx350i, Domino’s latest-generation inkjet printer, was developed with these commitments in mind. The printer delivers maximum code quality with minimal ink consumption and is specifically designed to operate with low-impact vegetable-oil-based printing inks.

Is it worth the risk?

While compatible inks and consumables may initially appear more cost-effective than original supplies, they are unlikely to yield any long-term cost savings. The risks to businesses associated with the use of untested, unregulated, and largely unknown substances far outweigh the potential drawbacks of poor-quality coding.

To safeguard your business, employees, consumers, and printers, it is imperative to use only genuine inks and consumables.

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