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Filling your own inkjet printer cartridges can slash inks costs by 60 to 85 percent, save oil that’s used to transport them, and cut down on the hundreds of millions of plastic empties that clog U.S. landfills each year. And no, Virginia, using refillables won’t actually void your printer’s warranty--despite what store clerks might tell you.
Ink2image’s Trio Bulk Ink System offers innovative replacement cartridges--along with premium Lyson inks--that fit 30 Epson desktop printers and several HP models. Each has a refillable tank that snaps into a sleeve, which is then inserted into the printer.
Whether it pays to switch depends on your average print output. Since Lyson inks have a shelf life of two years for dye and 18 months for pigment, you’d need to roll out 360 dye or 660 pigment 8x10 prints (or their equivalents) per year. If you print that much you’re in the money.
Using a Stylus Photo R280, we chose a $190 Trio system that included Lyson Fotonix XG archival dye inks color-matched to Epson’s Claria inkset.
The kit included six sleeves with ink-level-reporting chips, eighteen 13-millileter inserts (a trio for each color, so you don’t need to refill immediately when a cartridge needs replacing), and six 4-ounce (119ml) bottles of each color having the same ink volume as 102 standard 7-millileter R280 cartridges or 64 high-capacity 11-millileter ones--a savings of $915 and $770, respectively. Also included were six filling syringes and a pair of too-big latex gloves (tip: get some tight-fitting ones).
Since the supplied inks are compatible with Epson’s, you can use them together until your printer’s original cartridges run dry. Just remember to remove the air plugs on the Trios, or they won’t work. You’ll also need to run a cleaning cycle or two after the first fill-up to expunge trapped air, but it’s not necessary after subsequent refills.
Ink2image guarantees that tanks can be refilled at least 10 times before they wear out but says they’ve routinely doubled that number. Replacements cost $5. They claim they haven’t had any monitoring-chip failures yet, but if that happens, $10 buys a new sleeve. Single, archival 4-ounce ink bottles are $19; plain-vanilla costs $9.95. Extra fill and air plugs are also available.
Our test prints using Epson and Lyson inksets at various printer-driver settings showed the two to be virtually identical, with the Lyson output being slightly more color-accurate to our eye. The chips on the Trio sleeves that send ink-level data to the printer worked without a hitch. Paper profiles for those who use imaging programs to color-manage their output are in the works; in the meantime, we found Epson’s profiles worked just fine.Trio System refilled cartridges average less than $3.50 each--you can knock out an 8x10 print for mere pennies. And with fewer empty cartridges ending up in the dump, you've got yourself a double savings of green.