LAS VEGAS -- Looking to capitalize on consumers' frustration over high ink jet cartridge prices, Inke has created a low-cost cartridge refill system. Company executives are demonstrating the device, which eliminates the mess associated with most refill kits, at the Consumer Electronics Show here.
The Inke HS-45 device is designed to refill three different black cartridges that work specifically with Hewlett-Packard ink jet printers: the HP45, HP40, and HP15. HP sells its cartridges for $30 each. Inke plans to sell the HS-45 plus three replacement ink tanks for $70; additional refills will cost $10 each.
Executives at the Singapore-based company are still in talks with U.S. distributors. But Inke representatives say they hope the product will be available at retail outlets by early in the second quarter of 2004.
Keeping It Clean
Refill kits for ink jet cartridges aren't new, says Tan Kong Cheok, executive vice president of operations at Inke. However, traditional manual refill methods force users to puncture a hole in their original printer cartridge so they can refill it. And no matter how carefully you follow the instructions, you're often left with a big mess. Consumers also complain about the cost of replacement cartridges.
The HS-45 is a one-touch refill system that doesn't poke holes in your existing cartridge, Cheok says. As soon as your printer software tells you you're running low on ink you remove the cartridge (if you wait too long, or let the cartridge run completely dry, you can end up with damaging ink clots). You place the cartridge in the HS-45 along with a refill tank, close the lid, and hit a button.
Using pressurized air, the device then forces the refill ink from the tank into the cartridge through the print head. Each cartridge holds about 42 milliliters of ink, and the replacement tanks hold about 40 milliliters, but the device won't overfill a cartridge, he says.
The process takes about two minutes, and once it is completed you have a full, perfectly pressurized cartridge, he says. A well-maintained cartridge can work fine through up to 20 refills, but Inke recommends replacing them after six refills to guarantee good print quality.
More Ink Jets to Come
Prints using the refilled cartridge are as crisp as if you were using a brand new cartridge, Cheok says. He says the prints' fade resistance is on par with those printed using other ink cartridges from third-party vendors.
Inke opted to start with a black ink refill for three popular HP cartridges, but it won't stop there. Over the next year, the company plans to expand its product line to include black and color refills for additional HP printer cartridges, as well as those from companies such as Lexmark, Canon, and Epson.
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