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Standards for "Average Ink Cost" Calculations?

2951 Views 6 Replies 4 Participants Last post by  Justin Walker
I've seen a lot of discussion about ink prices in the last few days, and it reminded me of the "conversations" I used to have with folks on various forums all the time, regarding the importance of fully understanding your ink costs when doing DTG printing. There are various sources of information regarding ink cost, including most RIP software (which usually include some mechanism for calculating ink cost on a "per image" basis) and even some manufacturers who track (or "log") their users' actual ink usage through a similar mechanism within the software.

Of course, tracking the cost "per print" is simple - the area where many people seem to disagree is what constitutes an "average" print? Since every unique market will have different interests, fashion and design sense, etc, it is difficult to say exactly what an "average" print would be for most people - some people seem to print a lot of smaller images in their particular market, whereas other shops feel as though prints that fill the entire platen area are typically the norm.

For my own purposes, I have always considered an average print to be a 12" x 12" print with medium to heavy coverage; for many shops, this represents a fair amount of the overall business. Therefore, when I am trying to determine how much I am going to spend on most of the average images I print, I typically default to the overall average across this image size. In our shop, we price our printing based on a standard print size (which includes anything larger than a left chest print, but no greater than 144 square inches); I want to ensure that we are profitable on any "standard size" print that comes through the door. Since we price "small" prints differently (usually smaller than 16 square inches), we subsequently monitor the "average" cost of these prints separately. Additionally, we charge more for images that exceed our standard print size, so it is also important to perform a separate evaluation for "over sized" prints.

We print a lot of work for companies who want to take full advantage of the outstanding full color printing capabilities that we offer, and if you have seen our Facebook page or many of the pics I have posted here on the forum over the past year or so, you will see that an "average" print for us will usually use a decent amount of ink - when you give your customers the ability to print big, inevitably they will want to take advantage of that, and it is critical to understand how much it can cost to print the full size. My advice if you are evaluating a potential machine purchase or just want to have a better understanding of your ink costs is to take a number of your own "control sample" images and have them printed to the level of quality you find acceptable; use a few images with different amounts of coverage and print sizes, and try get get a feel for how little, or how much ink you can potentially use to achieve the results you are looking for.

Trying to pin down an "average ink cost" is a vague pursuit, with countless variables to consider - work from a micro level and evaluate the ink cost for specific images that you provide, and make sure you match that up with the expected output quality (it is easy to manipulate RIP or software settings to make the ink costs look higher or lower, and it could have a profound impact on print quality).
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Sounds like Miles per Gallon in car industry.
Justin, you always come up with good points, :)
Best way to find out is weight before use and after use. After job done. And compare with RIP said.
Before weight - after weight / shirts printed = real used.
1 liter weight, I am not sure. White is little heavier than CYMK. So we going to make a average weight will make sense.
Here again oz seller will give us confusion. Not just charge more to Dtg users. Because they sell 32oz as like 1 liter while we are not buying From mfg by oz. :( difference is 1liter = 33.8140229oz, almost 4oz are robbed)
Compare Real used vs RIP said.
I never done this with knowing it will be dead accurate.:rolleyes:
It will be interesting all different RIP users test this way and post here.
Let's find out who's RIP is most accurate. Years ago when AA made our RIP we put info in software as 1000cc(1liter) $300 (Rule of thumb can be 1g= ur purchase price/1000)it is much cheaper than before. We Never re-info to RIP. we should, lol.
It will be very interest thing.
Beers! Cheers are on me always.
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JW sighting! You must be busy these days. I owe you a cheesesteak steak but not by much, possibly half a cheesesteak.

This is a question we get often, which is a very difficult question to answer accurately. I believe it is important for individuals that are looking to get into the DTG industry to understand why there is such a variable.

When calculating the ink cost a few factors must be looked at. The size of the print, the coverage of the print and the colors in the print. The first and second factors are fairly obvious (larger size more coverage means more ink usage). However the third factor is something that is often overlooked.

When printing, the RIP software will decide which inks it will use and how much it will use to create a specific color. For example on a print with no underbase lighter colors such as sky blue and pink will generally use much less ink. However the opposite is true for any print using white ink, the lighter the color the more white underbase is needed. This is only true if there is gradations in the white underbase.

All things taken into account, try to understand what the unit is doing. Pay close attention to the prints, ask to see different types of prints. Compare the ink costs between the different prints. Ultimately understanding the equipment will give you the best idea of what to expect in terms of ink cost. A general average is something that may or may not work for you.

Weighing the shirt such as Peter described will let you know if the ink cost is accurate. This will only work with a shirt that is just printed and prior to pressing. Maybe users of each piece of equipment could chime in on this. The instrument used to measure would probably have to be very accurate, such as the scales used to weigh paper. To get the right information you would need the following:
-Cost & Quantity of ink
-Usage shown in Rip
-Price shown in Rip
-Weight of garment right before printing
-Weight of garment right after printing

This is probably necessary because from experience some RIP software do not give exact results.
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Weighing the shirt such as Peter described will let you know if the ink cost is accurate. This will only work with a shirt that is just printed and prior to pressing.
Not that Peter needs to be defended or anything:D, but I believe he was telling you in his Philly accent that you weigh the carts/bags/bottles not the shirt. Doing it this way, you also get the maintenance and cost of the little spit that happens. Ink is slightly heavier than water. 1CC = 1 gram, so weighing of one shirt is hard to be accurate, but 10 with same image and compare to RIP numbers, better idea.
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Weighing the cartridge indeed will give the price of ink used during the spit as well. This will still require weight the shirt and weighing the cartridge. This will give you a very accurate representation of how much ink is actually being used.

Now if we could only capture the over spray that mists off into the air and weigh it i think we will have accounted for every bit of wastage.
Good Monday TSF!
At least John and I both are talking about WEIGHT which is only way accurate. It proves we are good team! :)
Justin is right on RIP is not 100% accurate. It can be depends on mfg's reputation.
Beers! Cheers are on me always!
JW sighting! You must be busy these days. I owe you a cheesesteak steak but not by much, possibly half a cheesesteak.
... "Busy" does not begin to describe how things are going on my end..... :D You know I am swamped when I barely have a free moment to get on the forums any more - I try to read and follow up from my phone, but realistically there just aren't enough hours in the day to accomplish all the things we are doing over here in SoCal, let alone find time to hang out on the forums as much as I used to.

I will take half a cheesesteak any day of the week!!!! I will have to arrange a visit to come out and collect my winnings. haha
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