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Solid Ink - Everything You Need to Know

Solid ink, also known as hot melt ink, is a unique type of printing ink. It is characterized by its waxy, resin-based polymer composition, which is solid at room temperature. This ink requires melting before use, distinguishing it from conventional liquid inks. Solid ink technology is often employed in graphics and large-format printing, where its vivid color reproduction and cost-effectiveness are highly valued.

Historical Development of Solid Ink

Early Beginnings and Patents
The journey of solid ink began in 1962 at Teletype Corporation, under Project 176. The first iteration of solid ink was introduced in the Teletype Inktronic Terminal in 1966, utilizing wax. This invention was patented in 1972. Another significant patent, US3596285, issued in 1971, was for a liquid metal recorder, a precursor to modern 3D printing technologies.

Innovation and Expansion
In 1982, Robert Howard envisioned a compact color printer, leading to the establishment of Howtek, Inc. The Pixelmaster, a Howtek product, utilized hot melt thermoplastic ink for printing. Howtek’s technology enabled printing in a plethora of colors and was instrumental in the development of solid ink printers capable of detailed, colorful outputs.

Industry Influence and 3D Printing
Notably, many Howtek alumni contributed significantly to the 3D printing industry, employing solid ink technologies in their endeavors. Solid ink found applications in single and multi-nozzle inkjets, essential for 3D printing.

Introduction of Solid Ink Printers
The SI-480, a monochrome inkjet printer by Dataproducts Corporation, debuted in 1988. Subsequently, color solid ink printers like the Tektronix PhaserJet PXi and Dataproducts' Jolt were introduced, significantly advancing the technology.

Evolution and Xerox's Acquisition
The 1990s saw the launch of advanced solid ink printers, including the Tektronix Phaser series. Xerox acquired Tektronix's Color Printing and Imaging Division in 2000, integrating solid ink technology into their product line.

Solid Ink Design and Function

Composition and Mechanism
Solid ink printers utilize various forms of solid ink such as sticks, crayons, or granules. The ink, upon melting, is used to print on diverse media types. This technology began with Continuous Inkjet (CIJ) using wax and later evolved to Drop-On-Demand (DOD) systems using piezoelectric devices.

Advantages of Solid Ink Technology

Print Quality and Versatility
Solid ink printers are known for their precise and vibrant print outputs. They can print on multiple media types and are less affected by media changes compared to color laser printers. Solid ink is also eco-friendly, generating less waste compared to traditional ink or toner cartridges.

Operational Benefits
These printers are advantageous for intermittent use, as the solidified ink within the printer doesn’t dry out. Solid ink is also non-toxic and safe to handle.

Disadvantages and Considerations

Maintenance and Operational Challenges
Solid ink printers may face issues like printhead clogging and require warm-up time for the first print. The need to maintain the ink at melting point consumes energy, and power loss can necessitate purging cycles, leading to ink waste.

Physical Limitations and Compatibility
Transporting these printers requires caution due to the molten ink. Additionally, ink blocks are not universally compatible across different models. Lamination can be challenging due to the ink’s melting properties.

Wondering where you can buy solid ink?  Here are our recommendations:

Here's a list of specific businesses and their potential pros and cons for purchasing solid ink:

1. Amazon
- Pros:

  •  Wide selection from various brands and sellers.
  •  Competitive pricing with potential for discounts.
  • User reviews to gauge product quality and seller reliability.

- Cons:

  • Risk of counterfeit products.
  • Quality can vary between sellers.

2. Staples
- Pros:

  • Physical stores for immediate purchase and online options.
  •  Offers both genuine and compatible solid ink options.
  • Easy returns and customer service access.

- Cons:

  • Prices may be higher compared to online-exclusive deals.
  • Limited selection for certain printer models.


3. Office Depot/OfficeMax
- Pros:

  • Wide range of office supplies including genuine solid ink cartridges.
  • In-store and online shopping options.
  • Frequent sales and loyalty programs.

- Cons:

  • May have a limited variety of third-party or compatible ink options.
  • Physical store locations might have limited stock.


4. Best Buy
- Pros:

  • Offers a selection of printer supplies, including solid ink, in-store and online.
  • Provides expert advice and assistance.
  • Price matching with other retailers.

- Cons:

  • Solid ink selection may be limited compared to specialized suppliers.
  • Focus is more on electronics than specific printer supplies.


5. eBay
- Pros:

  • Broad marketplace with potential for finding rare or discontinued solid ink products.
  • Possible to find lower prices and bulk deals.
  • Seller feedback system to help gauge reliability.

- Cons:

  • Higher risk of counterfeit or misrepresented items.
  • Buyer diligence required to assess seller reputation and product quality.

Tips for Shopping:
- Check Compatibility: Ensure the solid ink is compatible with your printer model.
- Read Reviews: Look at both product and seller reviews to make informed decisions.
- Compare Prices: Shop around to find the best deal while considering shipping costs and return policies.

Remember, it's essential to verify the compatibility of the solid ink with your specific printer model and consider purchasing from reputable sources to avoid potential issues with product quality or counterfeit items.

About William Elward

Founder of Castle Ink, William Elward has 20 years experience in the printer industry. He's been featured on CNN Money, Yahoo, PC World, Computer World, and other top publications and frequently blogs about printers and ink cartridges. He's an expert at diagnosing printer issues and has published guides to fixing common printer issues across the internet. A graduate of Bryant University and Columbia's Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program, he's held various leadership positions at The College Board, Bankrate, Zocdoc, and Everyday Health. Follow him on Twitter at William Elward's Twitter Profile


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