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What are Continuous Inking Systems?

By R. Kayne
Updated May 16, 2024
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Continuous inking systems (CIS) are aftermarket kits for inkjet printers that feed ink to a special permanent cartridge via tubes connected to external bottles or reservoirs. The cartridge never runs dry or needs to be replaced. Instead ink can simply be added to the bottles as they run low.

The plastic bottles that are part of continuous inking systems sit alongside the printer. There may be four or six (and sometimes 8) bottles depending on the printer model. Each one is filled with the proper color ink. A tube runs from the bottle cap to the ink cartridge inside the printer. The tubes are bound together into a "ribbon" cable. Kits also include a syringe for initial setup to clear the tubes of air and draw the ink.

Continuous inking systems save the user substantial money in replacement cartridges, which on top of cost, are discarded while still holding ink. Bottled ink is not only more economical but all ink is eventually used.

Another advantage of continuous inking systems is that the cartridge is always full, delivering even color every time that remains consistent regardless of the size of the print run. Large runs of photographs or other jobs can be spooled without worry of running out of ink. The external bottles are clear, making it a snap to refill any colors that may be running low, while bottles hold significantly more pigment than cartridges, minimizing maintenance. One company states that the bottles of ink last the equivalent of about 39 cartridge changes, while another states the savings would be equal to paying about 53 cents (USD) per cartridge.

Some Epson printers use ink cartridges with an attached microchip that keeps a record of the ink level used. When the cartridge is depleted to a certain level the microchip will not allow the cartridge to be used again, even if it is refilled. Continuous inking system kits made for these printers have their own write-protected microchip attached to the cartridge. This chip tells the printer the cartridge is always 100% full, negating the need to change it. Cartridges included in continuous inking systems are specially made for longevity.

Reservoir bottles should not sit higher than the printer or gravity could cause ink to flood the cartridge, causing improper printing. Installing a continuous inking system is very easy and takes only 5 — 20 minutes depending on the type of kit and the printer. Instructions are included. No permanent changes are made to the printer, which can be converted back easily to use standard cartridges. Some continuous inking systems can only be used with certain types of ink, while others can accept several types from OEM to specialty inks.

Continuous inking systems can be found online by using any search engine. Shop around to make sure you have the best system for your needs, and that it is compatible with your specific printer model. Then enjoy the savings and the ease of a continuous inking system and print to your heart's content!

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