JUST like poor quality fuel affects the engine of your high-performance car, the use of alternative, low-cost, unbranded inks and consumables also impacts your high-performance print equipment. ROTOCON highlights the imminent risks and benefits of using alternative versus OEM-approved inks and consumables.
When faced with increasing production costs, print service providers (PSPs) 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. However, there are compelling reasons to avoid doing so.
Are alternative inks as good as the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) inks? At first glance, these so-called “compatible” products may look like the genuine article, but dig a little deeper, and the difference becomes all too apparent. According to ROTOCON sales director Pascal Aengenvoort, the print technology supplier has seen a spurt of cases where customers have been duped into believing that these alternative inks would perform identically to OEM ink, resulting in irreversible damage to expensive printing press equipment. ‘Customers think they can save a few bucks with these inks. But the impacts over time can seriously damage production performance, image quality and ultimately, brand perception.’
A case in point is SCREEN’s range of Truepress Jet L350 UV digital printing presses, distributed in South Africa by ROTOCON. Pascal and his teams have had to conduct some expensive repairs to a number of SCREEN machines due to the use of alternative inks. He explains that SCREEN produce refined inks manufactured under stringent European standards. ‘SCREEN inks have a droplet size of three picolitres, meaning there are no particles in the ink that could clog up or scratch your inkjet heads.’ To the naked eye, alternative inks may look identical to the genuine, but such formulations may consist of entirely different ingredients that do not perform the same way and may cause issues with print quality on manufacturing lines.
Pascal says low-cost printer inks from unapproved third-party ink providers do not offer the same assurances. ‘The formulation 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.’
SCREEN inks are specially developed to flow correctly for optimal image quality and to dry/cure properly for use on a variety of substrates. ‘What we see with these alternative inks,’ remarks Pascal, ‘is that the quality just isn’t there.’
Cost implications of ‘compatible’ inks
Untested, low-cost inks are likely to be lower quality than inks directly supplied from SCREEN. These cheap, low-quality inks can cause damage to the internal components of printers and void 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. ‘With alternative inks, you’re compelled to purge fluids more regularly, wasting more ink in the process,’ Pascal explains.
The cost of repairing a printer fault without a warranty could be substantially higher than the savings achieved from using low-cost inks. Moreover, the loss of production time while waiting for repairs, and the scrap for poorly printed products make this a false economy.
Strict regulations govern requirements for inks used on food and beverage products, pharmaceuticals, and medical devices. When operating within these industries, manufacturers must ensure that any inks used are safe for their intended purpose, meaning they must provide assurance that the formulations will not migrate through packaging or pose a threat to consumer health if they come into direct contact with products. Non-certified inks from third-party ink providers may contain unsafe or untested substances, rendering them entirely unsuitable for use in these industries – and putting consumers at risk of serious harm or worse.
Pascal explains that SCREEN has always been at the forefront of compliance and sustainability. The recent ban by the European Union (EU) on mineral-oil-based printing inks for food packaging has sparked renewed interest in finding safer alternatives. ‘SCREEN is currently phasing out the old ink, and over the next 12 months, we’ll see the introduction of an even greener, more environmentally-friendly ink,’ comments Pascal.
The question remains: Is it worth the risk? While alternative inks and consumables may initially seem cheaper than original supplies, they are unlikely to result in any cost savings. ‘The risks to businesses, including your own, is much greater than poor quality printing. We recommend using approved SCREEN inks and consumables to protect your business, workers, consumers and printers.’
Selecting the best
ROTOCON carefully selects its partnerships with approved principals to ensure that only the finest products and services are offered, guaranteeing quality results for the customer’s final product. ‘I like to think of our business as a focussed print production service line with various product champions, including ROTOCON-approved consumables that are tested and proven for our range of machines,’ comments ROTOCON director Patrick Aengenvoort.
‘But everything goes hand in hand,’ says Patrick. ‘If we sell a machine, we have to ensure that we are capable of supplying ROTOCON-approved consumables in order to get the best performance from the machine.’ High-grade consumables are also part and parcel of ROTOCON’s after-sale services.
According to Patrick, there are instances when a customer requests technical assistance with a machine, only to discover that the machine is fitted with consumables from a different supplier, often one that’s not ROTOCON-approved, or manufactured to the same specs. ‘This interferes with what we want to achieve. It affects our promise of efficiency to the customer. Inferior consumables affect the overall performance of the machine and this is not what ROTOCON stands for.’
Patrick says a commitment to quality and innovative consumable products form the cornerstone of ROTOCON’s philosophy of consistently providing the best in customer service and support. ‘We want customers to get the very best from their machines.’
The perfect cut
Over the years, ROTOCON’s sales have encompassed more than just printing presses and ancillaries. These have been supplemented by key partnerships with agencies for consumables. Two prime examples are WINK die-cutting systems and Cheshire Anilox Technology
In 2017, ROTOCON became the exclusive South African agent for Cheshire Anilox Technology, a UK-based manufacturer of high-performance laser-engraved ceramic Anilox rolls and sleeves that enhance the printing process. ‘With our current product mix for label and flexible packaging applications that include high-quality flexo and offset press solutions, as well as our experience with on-site installations and service, Cheshire Anilox technology is a valuable addition that we offer local printers,’ Patrick explains.
Recognising the industry shift from solid to flexible dies, ROTOCON established a long-standing partnership with the Germany company WINK Stanzwerkzeuge in 2013. WINK’s extensive product portfolio includes premium die-cutting systems like SuperCut flexible dies, SmartGap adjustable anvil cylinders, and ultra-precise magnetic and printing cylinders. As Patrick points out, die-cutting labels is a demanding process with several factors influencing the choice of tooling. ‘Besides producing some of the best quality die-cutting tools in the market, WINK also share our customer-focused philosophy – not only offering the best products, but the best service.’
In addition, ROTOCON produces its own solid rotary dies at its ECOFLEX plant in Johannesburg. ‘These rotary dies are capable of cutting labels beautifully, consisting of the technology required to help you print powerful labels.’ The positive feedback received confirms that these rotary dies achieve high tolerances and deliver quality cutting results. ‘This confirms that we can continue to meet customers’ expectations and ensure that the dies we send into the market reach the highest standards that the ROTOCON brand is well known for.’
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