You Know What Makes Me Mad? Ink Cartridges.

Posted by on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 in Uncategorized

At MakerBot, we are on a mission to make manufacturing things yourself inexpensive, easy, and fun. We hold the MakerBot Operators of the world in the highest regard. We’ve been engineering our tails off to bring you the best personal 3D printer and we rejected the proprietary cartridge model for printing materials which other companies use, because we encourage sharing and iteration. And those are both best done when material is inexpensive. You can be generous and give things away and the cost of failure is low. We believe the low cost of failure will drive people to iterate their designs, bask in the glow of innovation, and invent the future.

I hate the ink cartridge business model where the machine is ultra cheap and the ink cartridge is absurdly expensive. Have you ever bought an inkjet printer inexpensively and then run out of ink at a critical moment? Then you have to go out and spend a lot of money on a whole new cartridge. It often is cheaper and more convenient to buy a new printer than it is to buy a replacement cartridge. On top of that, I’ve had an inkjet say it’s out of ink when there’s visibly still ink in the cartridge. This is done by chipping the cartridges to monitor use, so you can never use all the material. That makes me so mad. It’s wrong.

This is such an old, accepted model of doing business, we don’t even think about it anymore. Razor blades, ink cartridges, photo printers, Swiffers, and mobile phones & service contracts. That’s the old world. That’s a wasteful world. That’s a world in which consumers are treated like hostages. That’s not the future I want to live in. The way we’re doing things at MakerBot is common sense. It shouldn’t be a revolutionary business model, but these days, it is.

Tagged with 22 comments

22 Comments so far

  • Chris Gammell
    May 9, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    The difficult part is that consumers are used to the loss leaders that are made possible by the high profits of the “razor blade model”. Once you convince people of the value of the upfront investment (no small task), things can truly begin to change.

  • Prescott Perez-Fox
    May 9, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    This article was posted on Reddit earlier. A picture is worth 1000 words … or in this case, an ink cartridge.

  • merkley???
    May 9, 2012 at 11:54 pm

    A billion amens Bre Pettis.

  • Dread Knight
    May 10, 2012 at 12:42 am

    You have a point about inkjet printers! :O

    Great blog post btw! (first time on the website, just found out about makerbot)

  • Billy Zelsnack
    May 10, 2012 at 1:12 am

    I love the inkjet business model. When I run out of ink I just buy a new printer for $30 and take my old printer apart to salvage the motors, gears, and encoder for other projects. Talk about a win! 🙂

  • Thatcher
    May 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Isn’t ABS filament pretty expensive? 50 dollars for one spool? I wish you could order it in dollars instead of pounds or feet. I’d love 20 feet of a bunch of different colors instead of spending $350 for the whole rainbow.

  • Noe Ruiz
    May 10, 2012 at 9:40 am

    Awesome post Bre, we definitely agree! Don’t buy a printer that doesn’t let you refill the cartridge 😉

  • Tim Owens
    May 10, 2012 at 9:50 am

    That was my first thought when I saw “The Cube” I know it’s an odd balance between wanting 3D Printing to go mainstream by making it extremely user-friendly and removing barriers, but when you hand me closed up cartridges of filament and everything is “pop it in and go, replace through our store using our proprietary fittings and canisters” it feels really foreign to the whole Maker movement.

  • erikjdurwoodii
    May 10, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Back in the day, It made sense when HP cartridges cost what they did, as the cartridges themselves also came with the print-heads. The most vital part of the printer. That is akin to every spool of plastic coming with a new extruder. Many lower-end HP models and embedded print engines still have integrated print-heads and that gives me just a little bit of complacency with the cost of the cartridges. Lexmark too. (blech)

    HOWEVER…Canon, EPSON and many new models of HP printers earn my disdain for having ink cartridges that are just as expensive as their be-nozzled brethren (and often even more-so) for what is essentially a ventilated box of liquid with a tattle chip on it. The arcane colored elixir isn’t worth very much much and I know it. EPSON for example claims $1.40 per milliliter (extrapolated from total cartridge cost) for each of their fancy “UltraChrome K3” inks where a bottle of compatible ink that has been peer-reviewed to mechanically and optically perform just as well sells for around $0.21 per/ml (in a bottle). Assuming a proportionally even value for the ink’s vessel (I don’t have data for that), that’s over six times the cost!

    What’s more, it is a common practice now for the pro-end ink-jets to have non consumer-replaceable print-heads so unless you have it professionally serviced by the company, the heads will clog a couple of years in to service and you will HAVE to buy a new printer or risk costly repairs.

    And don’t get me started with “waste ink-pads” and proprietary hydrophilic paper coatings…

    …sorry. Graphic Designer rant…

  • Fredini
    May 10, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    The thing that really burns me is the on board chips on the cartridges. Once the chip says the cartridge is empty, there’s no printing, even though shaking it, you can hear that its still got loads of ink in it.

    I tried switching to refillable cartridges, but the black prints watery purple and its a mess. I’ve now completely quit printing at home and just use my office’s printers.

  • John Ecker
    May 10, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    It’s funny that Bre posted this considering that Makerbot has the most expensive plastic in the business when you factor in shipping.

  • Prober
    May 10, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    Don’t get mad @ cartridges, get even.

    Did a project long …long ago to reduce ink jet costs for the boss. The short story is that the Best Printer/Ink combo is Epson.

    What you do is buy the Epson printer dirt cheap. Shop around for whats called “refillable cartridges”. They have a reset chip built in for each model, so buy the right one.

    Next buy Epson Brand only ink (its the best, won’t clog). The difference is you buy the ink in Bulk, and refill the cart.

    It works, we havn’t purchased new cart in years.

  • Doug
    May 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm

    This has got to be a reaction to the new MOJO printer from stratasys. It costs 10k but the abs spool costs $400 for 3lb of filament with a special “print head” on each spool.

  • Duann
    May 14, 2012 at 3:28 pm


  • nycdesigner
    May 22, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    At the little Earth Day shindig at Grand Central Terminal a few weeks ago, the guy at the Cube booth admitted they will be putting chips on their spools to avoid users refilling them.

  • Daniel McNerney
    February 21, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    It’s called the Gillett school of marketing after the inventor of the safety razor. He was being interview for a newspaper and was asked how he could afford to sell those beautiful art deco safety razor the company was famous for just one dollar apiece. His answer: Sir I am not in the razor handle market I sell razor blades.

  • ink cartridges
    March 1, 2013 at 4:44 pm

    Title of your post is what many of people use to say when it comes to Ink Cartridges and trust me using recycled ink cartridges is the only way out of this madness.

  • Richard Cote
    May 19, 2013 at 7:31 am

    Choking a new industry with arbitrary additional costs…check.

    Guaranteeing obsolescence with unique cartridge types for particular models…check.

    Treating customers like chumps…check.

    Gee, that didn’t take very long, did it? Let’s hope that folks won’t fall for it this time. With any luck, the maker-mentality of those leading the charge with 3D printing can nip this in the bud.

  • Marc Liron
    July 26, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Well now we have the World’s first 3D printed ink cartridges… and they were created with a MakerBot Replicator 2

    Marc Liron
    Former Microsoft MVP

  • Denis
    September 19, 2013 at 8:11 am

    I know exactly what you mean because I fell for the same trap by buying cheap printer only to find out how expensive the ink cartridges actually were. I bought a more expensive printer and now I’m paying much much less for my cartridges. I also get compatibles from which save me even more.

  • John Edwoods
    November 19, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Hi I went on to a website called and brought some compatible ink from them for my HP and the print was exactly the same as the original cartridge I got from HP but at 1/3 of the price. I will never buy the branded stuff again that’s how these company’s make there money

  • Sam Butterworth
    February 4, 2015 at 8:20 am

    I agree that branded cartridges can be really expensive but I don’t think going none-branded has to be the answer. If you look around there at sites with branded cartridges at much lower prices than high street shops/their websites.

    For eg I have a Brother DCP printer and found the genuine articles on this site – fair bit cheaper than in the shops.


Leave your comment


xhtml: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


What can we help you with today?
I want to chat with Sales.
I have a question about an existing order.
I have a technical question about my device.
Existing Orders
For faster service, enter your order number
(found in your confirmation e-mail)