Printing quality in recent inkjet printers has improved dramatically as to become, in many cases, practically comparable with most laser printers one. As a result, experts are now considering if they are at last ready to challenge the laser market  . But, as color laser printing is still considered unaffordable for the small business, our analysis will focus only on black printing, the one which actually makes sense nowadays.

Inkjet and laser printers were originally conceived to serve different markets: while the inkjets basically came to replace dot matrix printers in the consumer-oriented market, laser printers came specifically for the business segment, where also dot matrix printers where widely (and, in some cases, are still) used.

The two market segments, business and consumer, have obviously different requirements. While business customers are familiar with big initial investments on fixtures to be recovered in the long run, the consumers prefer cheaper products for tasks that in most cases are not meant to pay the investment. Laser and inkjet printers basically reflect these simple requirements: the inkjets have a quite low initial cost, which is their market price, and still high printing costs that limit their use to small volume printing, while laser printers have a higher price but, definitely, a lower printing cost.

To make things even worse, manufacturers on the home segment use to implement aggressive customer strategies where inkjet printers often are sold discounted or underpriced and profits, basically, come from the inkjet cartridges supply, actually their real business. Inkjet cartridges are expensive and short lasting even because, to prevent refilling, manufacturers use to embed an “intelligent” microchip in the cartridge that makes the printer stop from printing when it claims the cartridge have become empty. It has been demonstrated that this may cause up to a 30% ink waste.

The recent development of a reconditioned and non-original inkjet cartridges market makes possible for the most common inkjet printers dramatically reduce their printing cost, though the printing quality, using these kind of cartridges, may definitely worsen. As a result, a high-segment inkjet printer may now become, in some cases, a valid alternative to a low-segment laser.

Meanwhile, also a re-manufactured toner market for laser printers has appeared, further reducing their already low printing cost.

Anyway, opting for an inkjet printer rather then for a laser one, for the business customer, from a pure economical point of view, depends on the side of the break-even point printing volume is situated, in a graph where both laser and inkjet printer cost per printing volume are plotted. In other words, inkjet printers are not about to globally replace laser ones, being the choice something that has always to be valued carefully in order to match specific needs.

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