What are the different types of inkjet printer inks available?
Aqueous inks as the name might suggest are water based inks of which there are two main different types- Dye based and Pigment based.
Dye inks can be thought of as a sugar solution dissolved in water. The biggest advantage of dye-based inks is their vibrancy in colour; however they are prone to UV fading and if a drop of water hits the paper, the ink will re-dissolve (water soluble). They are fantastic at producing fine line drawings, with crystal clear and dense fine lines.
Pigment inks are more like flour suspended in a liquid. The molecules in a pigment ink are much larger than that of a dye ink and as such, are more robust against moisture and UV fade. This means it retains its colour vibrancy for longer and has greater colour stability, with an archival life of up to 200 years quoted on some paper types under ideal conditions. Pigment inks are able to more precisely reproduce colour, shades and graduations.
Solvent and Eco-Solvent
Solvent inks are a type of ink made to work in inkjet printers but are not made with a water base, but with an oil based carrier instead. There are three parts to solvent ink- the carrier fluid, pigment and resin. The oil base in the ink keeps the components that make up the ink in liquid form, and once applied to the media, this oil base dissolves. The resin helps the pigment to adhere to the surface in which it has been printed on.
Eco-solvent inks are so called because they do not produce the same amount of harmful volatile compounds (VOCs) as Solvent. The idea that eco-solvent is a more environmentally conscious choice is misguided however, because neither the material used in making it or the process used to create it are environmentally any better. Solvent inks can print on a wide range of coated and uncoated media. They are great when used for outdoor sign applications as the ink is waterproof, scratch resistant and long lasting.
Latex inks are water-based inks with the print output being odourless. Because of this they are suited to a range of indoor applications that solvent inks are not suited for. They are instantly dry, require no degassing (unlike solvent ink) and can be finished and mounted straight from the printer.
Latex inks do require exposure to high temperatures during the print process to cure the inks but what you are left with is very durable, water resistant, UV resistant and scratch resistant. Latex inks are capable of printing on a huge variety of different medias for both indoor and outdoor usage. Life expectancy for an unlaminated outdoor print on a Latex printer is quoted at 3 years by HP with prints being durable enough to be wiped down, even when using cleaning products.
You cannot swap between different ink types in a Large Format Printer, instead you would ‘buy into’ a particular system and be locked into that system for the life of the printer.