Consumption Rate of Continuous Inkjet Ink and TIJ Cartridges: FAQ

For decades, inkjet printing has been one of the go-to technologies for industrial product coding. Both continuous inkjet (CIJ) and thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers can be found in facilities across the manufacturing and packaging spectrum, including:

Between these fields and others, operations all have unique coding demands and environmental issues. For example, ice cream packaging plants are frigidly cold facilities that package products in semi-porous packagings, such as paperboard cartons and cups. Wire and cable extrusion facilities, on the other hand, are hot environments where operators mark voluminous amounts of metal and plastic every day.

To meet the demands of different fields and operations, coding and marking companies like InkJet, Inc. carry diverse printing solutions and ink options. Each printer/ink combination comes with unique capabilities and cost factors, ranging from upfront equipment price to maintenance needs and other ongoing expenses. 

Below, we look at one cost variable in particular: the consumption rate of continuous inkjet ink and thermal inkjet ink cartridges. By the end of our FAQ breakdown, you will understand:

  • The full significance of ink consumption rates
  • Which factors influence consumption rates
  • How to improve ink efficiency

What Should I Know About the Consumption Rate of Continuous Inkjet Ink and Thermal Inkjet Ink Cartridges?

Let’s start with the basics—how to read and understand the consumption rates of continuous inkjet ink and thermal inkjet ink cartridges.

Although CIJ and TIJ printers are both forms of inkjet technology, they are very different machines. Continuous inkjet printers are much larger and faster than thermal inkjet printers, which are smaller and slower by comparison. CIJ printers are designed for 24-hour printing on high-volume production lines, while TIJ printers are compact machines that excel at making high-quality prints. 

In addition to their different sizes and application specialties, CIJ and TIJ printers have unique operating principles as well:

  • Continuous inkjet printers pressurize ink with pumps and valves. A large ink cartridge and a large makeup cartridge mix in a single reservoir. A pump pressurizes the ink/makeup mixture so that it feeds toward the printhead. There, part of the pressurized ink stream is expelled toward the material to create a code while the rest of the stream is redirected back to the reservoir for future use. The continual circulation of ink enables CIJ printers to operate for up to 24 hours a day without interruption.
  • Thermal inkjet printers pressurize ink with heating elements. Electronic resistors increase the ink temperature until vaporization causes a bubble to form. The bubble forces ink out of the heating chamber, through the nozzle, and toward the substrate to create a code. After the bubble collapses, the resulting vacuum effect pulls more ink into the heating chamber, repeating the process.

Given these distinct processes, CIJ and TIJ cartridges are sized very differently and express consumption rates in distinct ways:

  • The standard CIJ cartridge size is 750ml, and the consumption rate is expressed as “ml/hour.” The standard TIJ cartridge size is around 32-42 ml, and the consumption rate is expressed as “prints per cartridge.”

Ink consumption rates matter for two main reasons:

  1. The more efficient your consumption rate is, the less ink and makeup you use per application. This leads to lower overall fluid costs.
  2. A low consumption rate means less frequent cartridge changes. While CIJ cartridge changes won’t often cause downtime (enough ink and makeup remain in the reservoir to continue operation), TIJ cartridges will stop operation unless you are using an advanced multi-printhead model like the Anser X1.

What Factors Affect Consumption Rate?

Printer models and cartridges will specify their consumption rates. For example, a CIJ eco-model will generally have a consumption rate of 4-5 ml/hr, while a standard CIJ will have a slightly higher consumption rate because it doesn’t have optimized parts. Similarly, an alcohol-based ink cartridge will have a lower consumption rate than a MEK-based ink due to different evaporation rates. 

Any printer and ink combination carries a baseline consumption rate. This baseline rate describes how much ink is consumed under ideal conditions, meaning:

  • The facility’s temperature is within a comfortable temperature range (under 80°F).
  • The print applications do not require an excessive amount of ink.

Facility temperature matters because of evaporation. When temperatures rise above 80°F, the fluid within a printer will evaporate at a faster rate. With CIJ printers, xcessive temperatures create more evaporation of makeup, leading to more makeup being added to the system for the printer to regulate the viscosity of the ink.. TIJ printers do not have separate makeup and ink cartridges, so higher temperatures will shorten the cartridge shelf life (because the ink breaks down, and nothing can be added to keep it the right formula).

In addition to temperature, application qualities such as print height and DPI settings will affect the consumption rate. The larger and darker a code is, the more ink it takes to create the code. If you use a larger nozzle CIJ, you will naturally use more ink per code.

How Can I Reduce the Ink Consumption Rate of My Continuous Inkjet and Thermal Inkjet Printers?

For CIJ users, the easiest way to lower your consumption rate is to closely follow your printer’s operating and cleaning instructions. Proper startups, shutdowns, idle mode usage, and regular cleanings will help your printer efficiently process ink and prevent ink buildup. 

k consumption rates by installing specialty parts into their machines. Relevant components include:

  • Peltier condenser: A Peltier condenser works as a second chamber in the printer’s core that collects the fluid that would have evaporated out of the reservoir. 
  • Restrictor: Restrictors shrink makeup tube size to restrict flow and thereby reduce consumption rates.
  • Pulsating printhead: Standard CIJ printheads use continuous streams of ink when coding. Pulsating printheads stratify ink drops to reduce the amount of ink used in an application. The smaller amount of ink that reaches the nozzle gutter, the lower your consumption rate will be in theory.

If you have a TIJ printer, you can positively influence ink consumption by:

  1. Altering your application properties: Lowering the print height and DPI settings of your codes will naturally enhance your printer’s ink consumption rate. Changing text fonts can also lower ink usage as well.
  2. Using a slow-drying ink: Inks with fast drying times evaporate more quickly than slow-drying inks. If your applications do not require quick drying times, a slow-drying formula can improve your ink consumption.

Looking for a More Efficient Coding and Marking Solution? Contact InkJet, Inc. Today

Ink consumption rate can significantly contribute to your printer’s overall cost of ownership, as high consumption rates directly lead to increased fluid costs. Over time, these fluid expenses can end up costing you a significant amount of money. If your inkjet printer is having consumption issues consistently, it might be time to invest in a new system. 

At InkJet, Inc., we carry several CIJ and TIJ printer models to meet the needs of different operations. Along with our hardware offerings, we maintain a robust ink portfolio that contains a variety of water-based, solvent-based, and pigmented inks and specialty formulas. Contact us today to discuss which options will best suit your coding/marking applications.

For more information about the consumption rates of continuous inkjet ink and thermal inkjet ink cartridges, contact InkJet, Inc. online or call 1(800) 280-3245.