I just checked my Z3100, and my Green ink cartridge expires on March 1, 2010. The Blue is Jan 14, 2010. The Gloss Enhancer is Jan. 19, 2010. Go figure. (Note: because I have an early unit, I have no idea what production line the inks came from)
author, "Mastering Digital Printing, Second Edition"
Thanks! Assuming that the normal shipping units have similar lifespans, it shouldn't be an issue. (I'm a bit worked up on this issue - I'm probably going to have to throw out about US$50 of ink for my HP multi-function that looks like it's past the expiration date (which is smudged) on the box. When the current cart dies, I'll try them, but I'm not optimistic. Thanks, HP) This is probably also good news for folks considering ordering twin-packs of ink (when they're shipping, that is...)
These 24"/44" printers are workhorses and not for hobbyists. The total ink costs can be considerable (though a lot less on Epson than the figures quoted above) but far less than you'll spend on quality paper. In terms of what you'd bill a print for, the ink cost is minor. Also, anyone worried about the life of open 130ml carts is looking at the WRONG printer. I don't know what it is on HP but it's six months on Epson.
In a lot of ways, I wish that the Z series actually was the wrong printer for us. We are looking for a machine that can produce color technical drawings (at least at US Arch D - 24"x36") reasonably quickly - but raw speed isn't that important. (I'm not going to spend the time collating and binding 8 sets of 35 sheets - we'll send those jobs to our 'blueprinting' service) At the same time, we need the machine to produce high quality presentation materials, including renderings - some photorealistic, some hand drawn, photos of completed projects, and ideally boards that can reasonably accurately represent the colors of materials such as brick and concrete, which are a bit unpleasant to carry around to meetings in any quantity. HP's "legacy" as a maker of technical plotters leads me to believe that these machines will hold up to cranking out hundreds of square feet of 'draft mode on bond' and then turn on a dime to do the high quality stuff.
From what I can see out there, none of the Epson printers could really handle the basic line drawing production that we need. (Plus, what I hear about Epson clogging is pretty unappealing) Canon seems to have 'graphics' plotters that don't do photos particularly well and photo printers that, like Epson, couldn't plot line drawings with any reasonable speed. (One Canon rep I spoke with was quite honest about this, to his credit.) At US$3,400 to $6,300, the Z units appear to be a great fit for our needs and at very competitive pricing versus the other two, given the built-in calibration, hard drive for big jobs, etc.
Now that I've done some research, I see that with the 44" units and the Z UV/water resistant pigment inks, we would also be able to bring thousands of dollars of work in-house, such as tyvek "grand opening" banners for our commercial projects and construction signs (not to mention bringing control in-house - I'm driven crazy every time I see a particular construction sign with a rendering I did of the building that's under construction, but the sign printer ran it way undersaturated!) Plus there's the potential of everything from printing wall murals as 'wallpaper' strips to doing full-scale templates for the fabrication of complicated building elements.
So yes, I'm almost certainly being paranoid about 130ml carts expiring, but if the cutoff was something like 6 months, I'd likely be in hot water with my boss if we had to order hundreds of dollars of new ink because several carts still containing some perfectly good ink had all expired simultaneously! I do realize that all this talk of using a highly precise, finely tuned photo printer to do this sort of stuff sounds insane to a bunch of photographers, but this is part of how HP is marketing these machines to graphics arts users and it's part of how I can justify buying any large format printer for the firm.
Perhaps this does raise a good question for some purely photo-printing users here - given that there are 11 individual inks, that's 1.4L(!) of ink. (From Michael's review, it looks like he's using something like 6-7mL per m2 on matte material. That's over 2,300 ft2 of printing to use a full round of ink, and of course, not everyone uses the colors evenly.) Even if the chip in the cart says it's good for 3-4 years, when should you throw out a cart that isn't quite empty? Six months? Longer?