Third Party Inks for Film and Direct to Garment


Someone quizzes me on this subject three or four times a week. So here’s the scoop on those third party inks for both your film output device and your digital direct-to-garment printer.


Most printer manufacturers and distributors offer their own OEM inks, with an implied “You must use our ink product only.” But, you do have the option – the fully legal option - to use another ink product in your printer.


Most of the garment decorating industry, both for film output and for digital garment printing, is tied to the Epson print engine. When it comes to inkjet-to-garment machines, inks on the market today are virtually interchangeable. There are also third party inks available for some of the machines in the marketplace using non-Epson print heads. As long as you buy from someone you trust and ask for a few references, you’re going to be fine.


For film output, pay attention to whether the inks are pigment based or dye based. Most original machines today come to you with pigment based inks in the box. Older machines like the Epson 3000 are dye based printers. Either will work to one degree or another, but you don’t want to mix dye based with pigment, and vice versa. The mixture turns into something like Jello… but not the happy kind. The third party inks you can buy for improved film output also come in either dye based or pigment based, so you have to pay attention. But don’t panic, just a matter of running a cleaning solution between inks when you switch out. When in doubt… flush it out.


Here’s the law in the U.S. For readers outside the U.S., you’ll need to do a little investigating. But just like in the States, I wouldn’t necessarily take for granted the guy or gal who sold me the machine will give me the straight story. In fact, he or she may not even really know the truth on this subject. Get a second or third opinion.


Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act allows that the manufacturer of a printer cannot void the warranty as a result of using a cartridge or refill kit from a third party vendor. The printer manufacturer is not required to make warranty repairs, however, to printers that have been specifically damaged because of the use of a product not manufactured, co-manufactured or authorized for use in their products. In other words, if the third party ink caused damage, the manufacturer is not responsible for that damage.


Keep in mind, most inkjet-to-garment machines have either no warranty on the print head or very limited warranties. If you’ve had the machine long enough to make a couple of bucks, the print head is likely out of warranty anyway.


The Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Laws say that it is illegal to void your warranty on equipment if you do not use O.E.M. ink or toner. The Supreme Court stated in IBM vs. the United States that IBM could not threaten customers with termination of their data processing equipment leases just because they did not use supplies manufactured by IBM. Such practices constitute a tying agreement, and have been found to be in violation of the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Law.


By the way, I'm not a lawyer, but I've been around this block a couple of times.


Terry Combs is a 30+ year veteran of the garment decorating industry, offering training and consulting through his website Terry is also editor of the management and production newsletter Screen Print Weekly.

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