Archive for the 'FAQ’s' Category

Are you paying too much to print?

Printer ink and toner has become a booming business over the last ten years and has continued to be a thriving industry despite the digital age of things. Companies, schools, households, sole proprietors, and other organizations that make up our workforce have always heavily relied on creating physical copies to be filed for easy perennial reference. From the initial documents that were filled out when you were hired to the last papers in your exit (retirement) package, and all the everyday record keeping that goes along with it in between, everyone of us uses a lot of printed paper; not only throughout our lifetime, but on a daily basis as well.  We even receive mail six days out of the week consisting of weekly ads and other monthly statements or subscriptions.  We are literally surrounded by printed media; just take a look around when you are inside of any human dwelling.  Chances are you’ll find several items that have been created with a printing machine.

Printed media has inevitably become part of our everyday lives and remains to be an established and common way to communicate. But how much does it cost us to print out a document or photograph? When page yields are displayed, the tests are generally with 5% ink or toner coverage which comes out to a fairly sparse amount of textual information on a page or an even smaller picture spanning slightly more than 4 inches by 4 inches in size.

At 5% ink / toner coverage most cartridges will be pretty affordable usually ranging from just under 1 cent per printout to upwards of 20 cents per printout depending on the printer model and the ink or toner cartridges being used. Additionally, using laser toner is often more cost efficient, especially when creating multiple copies of a single page because the same impression can be used multiple times helping to reuse any missed or extra toner on the drum or belt, kind of like a stamp.

Taking a look at some advertised costs of printing, a Canon PGI225bk black inkjet cartridge used in several Canon PIXMA printers at 5% ink coverage, will cost roughly 5 cents per printout with the OEM or Genuine cartridge. Our Remanufactured Canon PGI225bk black inkjet cartridge, used with the same printers will print the same document for about 2 cents per page. With an Epson Stylus Photo T009201 color inkjet cartridge, printing costs will average around 8.5 cents per printout at 5% ink coverage with a genuine cartridge. Similarly our Remanufactured Epson T009201 color inkjet cartridge will cost around 3 cents per printout, when printing the same image with the same printer. Moreover, the prominent Brother TN450 toner cartridges will cost around 2 cents per printout using genuine cartridges and around 1 cent per printed page with our Compatible Brother TN450 toner cartridges. But how often do we use such a scarce amount of ink or toner.

When printing text documents, most of the time we only use around 5 – 10 % ink coverage, leaving the black ink and toners appropriately marked for printing text documents. Although, printing documents with smaller font and full text pages is generally closer to 10% which would cut the page yield total in half and increase printing costs by double the amount. So the previously mentioned Canon Pixma PGI225BK ink cartridges which cost 5 cents per printout using genuine cartridges and 2 cents using Remanufactured cartridges would actually cost more closely to 10 cents per text document with Genuine cartridges and around 4 cents with Remanufactured cartridges. Moreover, these cartridges are advertised to produce or yield around 340 pages which would lower to somewhere closer to 170 pages. Printing an image or photograph, on the other hand, will generally need about 20 to 50 percent ink coverage which will greatly alter your page yield totals and in turn, will raise the average cost per printout.

PC Magazine released an article entitled The True Cost of Ink, which comes to the conclusion that we print with 35 to 50 percent coverage on an average 8 x 10 inch photograph printout, which is about 7.5 to 10 times greater than the tested average. The 35 to 50 percent coverage is also per cartridge since the CMY colors and black ink work in harmony to layer each color on substrates generating about 150 to 200 percent total ink coverage.

So if you’re printing photographs or detailed images, a better representation of the printing cost would be to multiply the advertised or retail cost per printout by 7.5 to 10. Therefore, the user printing 8 x 10 inch photographs that uses the Epson T009201 cartridges for their Stylus printer will spend around 85 cents per printout using the genuine cartridges and about 30 cents per printout using our Remanufactured cartridges. To print ten photographs, you are looking at an ink cost of $8.50 with OEM or genuine ink cartridges and around $3.00 with Remanufactured cartridges. Also note that paper and power costs have not been added to the cost per printout.

With the prevalence and popularity of printing, the brand name manufacturers have been able to set ridiculously high prices for their replacement cartridges. This is in part because the manufacturers try to monopolize the supplies compatible with each machine and in part because we have created a need to see and handle physical copies to confirm data. Over the past few years, we’ve had a push to make everything “green,” or digital but how many times does a company also send a physical copy or how many times have you printed an email confirmation you received. We like to have information at our fingertips but don’t always want to power up a phone or digital device to access the programs storing our needed information.

To determine if you are paying too much for ink, you must first determine the type of printing you most frequently contribute to. Are you printing photographs, text documents, graphical data, blue prints, or small images with text?  If you mostly print small images and small amounts of text, the advertised costs and page yields will be accurate. With blue prints and graphical data, you should increase the cost of printing by 2 to 5 times, circumstantially dividing the page yield by the same amount for a more accurate representation.  Printing photographs can be tricky, since the size and detail of the picture matter. Printing a full page borderless photograph will use up to 400% ink coverage, significantly more than the 5% being tested.

Also, brand name printer manufacturers work hard to ensure their products will only be usable in their machines and can require specific cartridges and papers to be used together for longer lasting results. Compatible and Remanufactured ink and toner cartridges are made to be used with these printers but can produce a different hue or shade of color. Using third party ink and toner will greatly reduce the cost of printing by an average of 50% or half, but they can also lower the tonal quality when printing out photos. The Compatible and Remanufactured ink and toner cartridges are ideal for text or business graphs, helping to save companies, offices, and other printing environments a lot of money.

Ink Sticks: The Evolution of Printing

No longer do workgroups, offices, and households have to deal with leaky cartridges or stains from printer ink. Over the last couple decades, Xerox has been forming a solid ink to be used in printers as a way of applying color to substrates. What they have developed are cartridge-free cubes of solid ink that can be handled just like a crayon. This means less waste, no need to recycle anything as nothing is left over, and no annoying smart chips that prevent users from printing. The ink is simply a solid cube of color that will melt inside the printer and adhere to media passing through the machine.

The ink sticks have similar properties to wax and are a formed from a non-toxic, resin-based polymer, similar to a crayon. This is a unique item that can be handled without fear of smudging on clothes or staining hands or furniture. This breakthrough in ink innovation and color application is also environmentally friendly having a wax-like base that is formed from all natural elements such as plants and food-grade processed vegetable oils.

A huge advantage of the solid ink sticks (also known as color ink stix) is that they do not have any moving, complicated components that the aqueous ink solutions need to be housed in. This eliminates third party manufacturers of cartridge components and keeps everything in house (or made and shipped from one location) for better quality control and care. This will also help to reduce the cost to manufacture the solid ink sticks for lower consumer pricing.

The solid ink sticks are also much easier to transport as their solution will not coagulate in one spot of the cartridge which can cause leaking and uneven ink distribution that lowers the quality and longevity of the applied ink. Moreover, the solid printer ink sticks demand up to 30% less energy to function, lowering the amount of energy needed to print and leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

The Story

In the late 80s and early 90s, scientists started working diligently to bring the next wave of printing advancements to the consumer in the form of an ink replacement that leaves no waste when consumed and will not stain surfaces it comes into contact with. The idea was formed by looking at the design of a stapler, as the staples do not have a need to be housed in a cartridge and are directly loaded into the device with no waste left over after consumption. The replacement staple properties were precisely what they were looking to accomplish with their printer replacement components.

Their ideas culminated on forming a solid ink with no cartridge that users could pick up and load into the printer with their hands. Their main goal for the project was originally to just get color onto the page which turned out to have its own complications. The first concept ink stick required special paper to print onto as the formula would not stick to ordinary surfaces.

Throughout the development process, there were several things to consider in order to bring consumers a product they would actually use and enjoy. For example, when things are complex, they become more expensive for the consumer, so the development team had to find the simplest ways to obtain and create the components that go into the solid ink mixture.

Over the years this solid ink technology has been refined into a crayon like substance that has its own unique properties and molecular makeup. In fact, scientists have created nearly 5000 new molecules and around 700 new dye formulations to create the four standard color ink sticks that provide a wide color gamut and unmatched print quality.

When the ink sticks are printed onto media, they create a thin layer of the resin-like substance on the surface covering anything that was previously on the page. This lets businesses recycle unwanted or used documentation by printing over the unwanted images and texts instead of throwing them out or shredding them. This also gives projects enhanced vibrancy that outclasses inkjet and toner application results.

The formula used to create Color ink sticks are much easier to apply onto substrates making the speeds exponentially higher as well. The steady ink consistency and layering effect of the solid ink sticks give them unmatched printing speeds compared to laser toner and inkjet printing. So far the team at Xerox has been able to reach printing speeds up to 2000 pages per minute, only being limited by the size and power of the stepper motors (or print engines).

Currently, the solid ink sticks are only used in some Xerox printer models including the Xerox ColorQube printers and some Xerox Phaser models.

How Inkjet Printers Work: A Look at the Components

Inkjet printers are all around us and used every day to create a vast array of projects from important documentation to photographs taken just prior. An inkjet printer works by creating extremely small droplets of ink and jetting them onto a substrate or surface passing through the printer. The jet of ink droplets is guided by a series of nozzles contained in printheads and release to create a specific pattern based off layouts given to the printer from a computer or other digital device. Small electrical impulses will trigger the ink cartridges to release or eject ink at the appropriate times, forming dots onto the media and eventually creating images and texts. The inkjet printer will be able to handle simple layouts such as text documents and extremely complex layouts that have details challenging resolution capabilities. Inkjet printers are the most common type of household printer because they generally have a quiet operation and can produce photograph quality results.

What components are needed and how do they work?

Inkjet printers have a lot of internal components that affect the overall quality, speed, reliability, and durability of the printer and its ink cartridges. To better understand how the printer works, an understanding of what components are needed, what their functions are, and how they interact with each other is needed.

The Ink Cartridge

Ink cartridges or inkjet cartridges are the starting point and most recognized component in an inkjet printer, as they are the only component that must be replaced when the ink runs out. There are several different types of ink cartridges and they vary greatly depending on the printer model and manufacturer intended for. Ink cartridges can contain black ink only, black and color ink in a single cartridge, just color inks in a single cartridge, or separate cartridges for each individual color. Many photograph printers will even have light cyan and light magenta cartridges to provide life-like tonality on photograph printouts. The main purpose of the ink cartridge is to house the colorant or ink, until being released into the printheads.

Printheads

The Ink cartridges are directly connected with printheads or contain their own printheads built-into the cartridge. The Printhead is where all the magic happens inside the machine and is the component responsible for guiding the ink onto the page. A printhead consists of a series of tiny nozzles that are used to jet out or spray the aqueous ink solution from the cartridges to the piece of media passing through the printer.

When separate from the ink cartridges, printheads are the component that you snap the ink cartridges into when replacing ink. They look a lot like a trough or sunken in bench with small round protrusions arising into the ink cartridges. The round protrusions will insert into the cartridges when snapping them into place opening a passageway for the ink to travel down during the printing process.

An ink cartridge that contains its own printhead will rest at the bottom of the cartridge and looks like a computer chip or smoothed metal contact filled with tiny circuits and groves. Both printheads, separate and included, are responsible for letting the cartridge know when and where to release the ink.

Control Circuitry

In order to figure out the precise mathematics of when to release ink and when to hold back ink, a Control Circuit is interposed between the printer driver from the host computer and the printer itself. The circuit will actually control where energy is distributed amongst the chip and where to remove current flow. This will cause the ink cartridge to open or close particular nozzles to either start jetting ink out or to stop the flow of ink.

The printer driver on the host computer will translate images and text documents into a mathematical map or grid known as bitmap. The process of translating the images from a computer to a grid is known as the Raster Image Process. This lets the printhead Control Circuit know when to energize a specific spot on the circuit, releasing the ink and when to de-energize an area to stop the flow.

Stepper Motors

A Stepper Motor will rapidly move the printheads and the ink cartridges back and forth inside the machine and across the width of the media passing over every portion of the paper.  The Stepper Motor also has a secondary job of putting the rollers in motion during the printing process. This is achieved in a number of ways from belts to meshing gears, a common way to get multiple parts moving. The purpose of the Stepper Motor is to transform received electrical power into motion, which is basically making the internal components move.

Stabilizer Bar

Included with the printheads is a Stabilizing Bar that evenly distributes force on the printheads when they are in motion, moving quickly back and forth along the media. As the printheads and ink cartridges rapidly move back and forth, the inner particles are pulled from one side to the other. Similar to being in a car that is taking a sharp turn, the centripetal force will push you to one side of the vehicle. The Stabilizing bar helps to keep the cartridges at a steady angle to eliminate or reduce this effect. This will help keep the ink formulations from clotting or collecting in one location of the cartridge.

Belt

A belt is also one of the components found inside an inkjet printer. Just like the belts used in car motors, the printer belt is used to rotate additional parts. A belt is generally banded to a rotating component on a motor and stretched to wrap around other components that need to rotate. When the motor is powered on, a magnet will rapidly start rotating inside the motor causing external components on the motor to also spin or rotate. The belt uses the spinning force of the motor to spin or rotate the other parts that need to move.

In the inkjet printer, the belt is connected to the printhead assembly from the stepper motor, in order to move the ink cartridges back and forth inside the machine. Belts can also be used to assist the rollers found inside printers.

Rollers

The purpose of the rollers is very simple. They are used to carry or drive a piece of media (usually paper) through the printer. The rollers will grab a piece of media from the top of the stack placed inside the designated Input Tray and will transport that piece of media underneath the printheads and ink cartridges before ejecting the finished printout to the Output Tray. Some office inkjet printers that have Automatic Duplex capabilities can even have rollers that drive the media back through the printer to expose the reverse substrate underneath the printheads to create two-sided printouts.

Paper Trays

Another very recognizable component of the printer is the Paper Trays. Typically Inkjet printers will have a single Input Tray located at the top or back of the printer and a single Output Tray located in the front of the machine. Another common tray configuration is to have the Input Tray and Output Tray conflated into a single front-feeding tray. When both are used as one tray, such as with the HP PSC series printers, the tray will usually have small mounting members on either side of the tray to elevate the printed material from entering back through the printer. These also act as guides when loading new media into the Tray and as a divider between the Input and Output sections of the tray.

Power Supply

To supply power to the stepper motor and control circuitry a standard power supply has been incorporated into the printer. The purpose of the power supply is to convert the alternating current (AC) from a wall outlet to more controllable direct current (DC), needed to operate the stepper motors and circuitry inside printers. The power supply is also responsible for lighting up and energizing additional features such as display screens and scanning equipment.

Interface Ports

Also included with inkjet printers are ports that allow users to connect and transfer digital data between devices. The most common printer interface is the Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port which was created to outperform the older IEE Parallel interfaces. The Hi-speed USB 2.0 ports also broaden the range of external peripherals or devices that can be connected with the printer. The Interface ports main purpose is to provide a means to transfer data (usually text documents and images) from the computer to the printer and vice versa.

Photograph inkjet printers will typically have compatible media card slots as well, that allow users to walk-up and plug media cards and flash drives directly into the printer to print the files and photographs on the card without needing a computer.

These are the main components that can affect the output quality, durability, and performance of an inkjet printer and its ink cartridges. Hopefully this will help you identify and possibly prevent or fix any issues that are occurring with your machine.

What’s the Difference between Genuine, Remanufactured, and Compatible Ink Cartridges?

With the elevated prices of inks and toners these days, Remanufactured and Compatible cartridges are becoming the more popular choice to replace old or used ink and toner cartridges with. Both Remanufactured and Compatible cartridges are offered at only a fraction of the price the OEM or Genuine ink and toner cartridges are available for and they all contain identical printer compatibility and page yield specifications. So why are there three different choices of cartridges to choose from and what’s the difference between them?

OEM / Genuine Cartridges

OEM ink cartridges and OEM toner cartridges are also known as Genuine ink and Genuine toner cartridges.

OEM is an abbreviation for Original Equipment Manufacturer which means the item comes from the company that built the main equipment or printer in this case. OEM cartridges are created completely from scratch and require a lot of oil to manufacture. Companies such as Brother, HP, Canon, Xerox, Kodak, Dell, and so forth are all OEM or brand name companies that offer Genuine ink and toner cartridges to replace the cartridges that came with the printer during the purchase.

Since each component of the cartridge is created from scratch at the brand name manufacturer’s facility, Genuine cartridges tend to be the least environmentally friendly replacement. Several ounces of oil are used to produce an average sized ink cartridge and toner cartridges, being much bigger components, use nearly a gallon of oil to be created. These replacement cartridges also need new rubber, plastic, foam, metal, paper, and inks or toner powder to complete the component.

These companies make the necessary arrangements for their printers and cartridges to work well together and spare no expense in doing so. OEM companies try to use the best quality parts and fill their cartridges with the best quality inks and pigments to give their customers a high quality consumable product. Unfortunately this makes the components significantly more expensive, ranging from 2 to 5 times higher than their Remanufactured and Compatible counterparts.

Compatible Cartridges

Much like the OEM cartridges, Compatible cartridges are made from scratch and are completely new components. A compatible cartridge is made from a third party manufacturer or company with the intension of bringing consumers a cheaper or more affordable alternative when it comes to replacing ink and toner. These cartridges are not made from the Original Equipment Manufacturer or brand-name Company but are intended to function and work the same way that an OEM cartridge would.

Many of these third party manufacturers use the same elements, steps, and regulations as the OEM companies to create their compatible cartridges for a product that matches or replicates the overall functionality and quality of the genuine cartridge. The quality of a Compatible cartridge will depend on the quality of company making the cartridge and distributing the cartridge.

If an extremely cheap price is available, way below what their competition is offering the same Compatible cartridges for, chances are these replacements are simply garbage and will not print with any consistency or quality if they print at all. Make sure the distributor ensures that all their products have been ISO certified and try to deal only with companies that are accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), as these companies follow stricter guidelines and bring comparable products to the scene.

Chances are that an LC 103 ink cartridge you found for a Brother DCP and MFC printer being sold at $1.99 per cartridge is too good to be true.

Remanufactured Cartridges

Remanufactured Cartridges are the absolute best replacement alternative for the environment. Remanufacturers refill depleted ink and toner cartridges, keeping tens of thousands of pounds of industrial-grade metals and plastics out of landfills each year. Remanufacturers start with recycled cartridges and components and use them to recreate and redistribute cartridges back to the consumers.

Recycled cartridges are delivered to these remanufacturers to start the process of bringing consumers a cheaper alternative component to replace ink and toner with. These remanufacturers will first Inspect, Sort, and Grade all the recycled components and keep only the most premium pieces to ensure optimal output quality. The remaining pieces or non-conforming components are dissembled and recycled appropriately.

Once the pieces have been sorted and graded, they are split open and thoroughly cleaned before being refilled and resealed. After being sealed, factory trained technicians will assemble all cartridges with OEM grade components then send them off to be tested and packaged for quality control.

Quick Overview

In a nut shell, OEM cartridges are from the product manufacturer, Compatible cartridges are from a third party looking to provide a cheaper replacement, and Remanufactured cartridges are simply cleaned and refilled OEM cartridges. At Inkgrabber, we always recommend the less expensive Compatible and Remanufactured cartridges from Inkgrabber.com, as they significantly lower the cost to operate each printer and are tested thoroughly to ensure top quality printing results. We also offer Inkgrabber coupons that will help lower the cost of our Remanufactured and Compatible inks and toners.

What’s in this stuff: Ink Chemical Composition?

Ink cartridges contain some of the most expensive liquid on the planet, but what is ink actually made of?

Impact

The ink itself, after being sold in cartridges at brand name retail prices, can reach upwards of $3 per milliliter which is around $235 per cup or $11,350 per gallon. No doubt, that is expensive any way you look at it and some even compare modern printer ink prices to fine caviars and gold. A lot of printer inks now cost even more to replace then the printer originally cost, begging the consumer to ask, why not just purchase a new printer instead of replacing the ink?

To answer the latter question, printer manufacturers do not advertise the amount of printouts that are possible with the cartridges found inside the box when buying a new printer. This is because they are starter ink cartridges and are intended for consumers to get an idea of what the printer output is like or capable of and not necessarily how much ink will be in a replacement cartridge.  Thus, replacement ink cartridges will always yield more printouts then the included cartridges when purchasing a new printer.

The Mixture

Most ink compositions are a fairly basic mixture of fine pigment particles dispersed in a solvent which is generally a liquid or aqueous solution, although the solvent can be organic. Some formulations will also have colorants when the pigmented materials do not apply to the desired color. And with advanced formulas of inks such as the ChromaLife 100+, DURAbrite, UltraChrome, and other specially named inks, further ingredients are added to improve the overall chemical composition.

The additional ingredients found in these specialty cartridges have a specific purpose from reducing foaming action to controlling surface properties. The addition of pH modifiers will help to control the acidity levels of the mixture so the composition does not corrode the metal printheads inside the machine. Humectants can be added to keep the mixture from prematurely dying a substrate or surface while surfactants act as wetting agents, helping to control surface properties. Defoaming or antifoaming agents can also be added to regulate foam formation, as foam creates air pockets and uneven ink flow. Thickeners or rheology modifiers can also be added to provide needed viscosity to the jetted out liquid ink. Perhaps the most common addition to ink compositions is the polymeric resins or polymers which give pigments or colorants a glass-like coating that protects, reflects light, and keeps particles from binding or clumping together. And to prevent fungal and bacterial growth that can spoil chemical ink compositions, biocides are also added.

Metal Colorants

Black ink cartridges still use carbon to achieve the black tonal output as past attempts at substituting carbon for other metals failed due to toxicity or financial reasons. Most white ink formulations have titanium dioxide, being rutile or anatase crystals in tetragonal form. Both anatase and rutile are just different forms of titanium dioxide known for their rich color and luster. Moreover, specific metallic pigments such as copper-zinc alloy powder and aluminum powder have been used in novelty gold and silver inks which are very rare. Some other miscellaneous inorganic pigmented metals have also been used in various photographic inks to provide luminescent and pearlescent effects.

Colorants

Cyan ink cartridges get their bright blue hue from Direct Blue 199 dye which is made of copper phthalocyanine and sulfur. This substance is a direct dye, being able to directly contact and bond to fibrous substrates like paper and cloth without needing a binding confounder or fixative.

The Magenta vibrancy comes from Reactive Red dye 23 which is a dark red powder that has a high pH level and high lightfastness (resistance to fading in light). Many formulations containing Reactive Red Dye 23, will need both a pH modifiers and a confounder to help hold the mixture to a substrate before the dye reacts and adheres to cellulose like material.

The Yellow coloration comes from Acid Yellow dye 23, which is also known by chefs and food fanatics because it’s a common coloring agent used in foods. And although Acidic Yellow Dye 23 is found in foods, this dye has been known to trigger allergic reactions such as asthma attacks, hives, and contact dermatitis so do not try to ingest this yellow ink as it may be hazardous unlike its more natural cousin, yellow food coloring.

Miscellaneous Materials

Cyclahexanone is an organic solvent or colorless oil that helps ink adhere to polymers, making this chemical ideal for outdoor use and application on smooth surfaces. Cyclahexanone is also a precursor to creating nylon when oxidized with nitric acid. This substance is also commonly found with reactive dyes as it will hold the pigments in place until they naturally react to cellulose like material.

Ethoxylated acetylenic diols is the most common surfactant that is responsible for the viscosity or reduction of surface tension in most ink formulations. This substance is a low foaming wetting agent that also improves freeze-thaw stability of acrylic systems.  Ethoxylated acetylenic diols is also an excellent, oil in water, emulsifier.

Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, more commonly known to be abbreviated as EDTA, is a colorless water-soluble solid used to dissolve limescale and keep the printheads clean and bacteria free. EDTA acts by creating covalent bonds on the printheads, effectively trapping contaminents from ruining or clogging printheads.

Furthermore, Ethylene glycol is also used frequently in ink cartridges to slow evaporation and to help prevent print nozzles from clogging.

Further Reasons for Expenses

Hp claims the reason for the lavish prices is due to the technology put into creating a cartridge that can deliver superior results. Not only does each cartridge contain multiple chemicals, each one is carefully measured out and thoroughly tested to ensure the output results can be replicated naturally. This means, you’re not really paying for the liquid so much as the labor put into designing, creating, and testing the cartridge. Some manufacturers also add other elements to cartridges such as smart chips and piezo crystals which also increase the retail price.

Inside the Ink Cartridge

Most of us use printers in our everyday lives, whether it’s at work, home, or even in libraries and schools. Printers have long been a part of our culture, revolutionizing how we received news, how advertisers were able to relay messages, how stories and lessons were able to be recorded on a wide scale, and much more. The first printers were complex machines with a numerous variety of components and attachments and needed constant monitoring. Now, we see a printer and immediately know how to operate them, how to change the ink cartridges, and how to give them a proper supply of power. In general, these machines and their accompanying cartridges are pretty familiar and very simple to use, although we seldom look at what is really happening inside the ink cartridge during the printing process.

The ink cartridge, although it looks uncomplicated and easily slides in and out of the printer when replacing the ink, is actually an intricate component with several moving, conducting, charging, and supporting pieces that make up a single ink cartridge.

The main components of every cartridge are the sump or receptacle portion which expels the ink and the peripheral walls, encasing the cartridge and giving the object its recognizable, rectangular shape (in most cases, although each manufacturer varies). These also happen to be the biggest and most prevalent pieces as they hold and protect the ink from spilling inside the printer.  The sump is also responsible for responding to and supporting the print heads, which act as a funnel to jet ink through to the media. The sump and the walls together, also make up a reservoir for the ink to rest in.

On the diametrically opposed side of the sump portion, designers usually include a small handle with a knurled surface to facilitate the insertion and removal of the ink cartridge. This basically means the cartridge has a protruding handle at the top and in the back of the unit for users to more easily handle the cartridge.  Along with an added handle, the outer portion also contains stabilizing protrusions or datum features at the bottom of the cartridge (much like a stand or feet) to accurately align the cartridge in the printer.

At the bottom of the unit, a small hole known as the charging opening is also created into the frame or wall which grants access to the ink reservoir. This is where the ink is initially filled when being put together by the assembling machine.

In between the sump portion and the framing walls of the cartridge lies a recessed region which bisects the cartridge. These recessed regions taper off to angled edges known as the chamfers. The chamfers main purpose is to correctly position media when the media is passing by the sump portion of the cartridge. The sump is actually two laterally spaced plates, each with smooth metal faces and ribbed groves on the inner section of the plates to ensure the print head is adhesively secured (or connected) to the cartridge.

A flexible circuit board or flexible member is then added to the cartridge, situated on the sump portion and part of the peripheral wall portion. The circuit board is a crucial piece to the cartridge supporting electrical traces that provide power to an actuating mechanism and delivering electrical impulses to the necessary components inside the cartridge. An electrical impulse will be regulated then distributed to “pogo” pins, a piezo crystal, or an electrical resistance heating material (such as thermal inks) to expel the droplets out of the chamber and through the print head nozzles.

To supply power to the flexible circuit board, a series of “pogo” pins in the ink trough of a printer will touch the conductor strips on the circuit board of the cartridge, creating a pathway for electricity to travel through. Sometimes chips are also added onto cartridges to count the number of pages printed with a particular cartridge and to help big corporations and brand name manufacturers regulate and ultimately monopolize the ink markets.

These are generally the main pieces involved when comprising an ink cartridge, although each manufacturer and each printer series has their own versions, additions, and arrangements of ink cartridge compositions.

Photo Ink vs. Regular Ink

There are several types of inks and ink formulations when it comes to printing, but they all have the same general purpose; to deliver an image onto a piece of media passing through the printer. However, some ink cartridges will deliver superior results when printing text and others will yield better results when producing images and photographs. The differing results are caused by the variation of elements found in the ink mixtures. An ink cartridge contains a basic mixture of water, glycol (a carrying liquid), and dyes or pigments and are intended to be jetted or sprayed onto paper or media, eventually creating an image.

Differences

The main difference between photo inkjets and regular inkjets is the ability of photo ink formulations to provide lighter tones of each color, commonly being cyan, magenta, and black. A regular cartridge will dispense wider set ink droplets to give image colors a lighter look. However, this makes lighter colored printouts look grainy and even multi-colored when inspected closely. This is because regular ink mixtures can only dispatch color so lightly, being intended for brighter execution to give printouts more vibrancy.

Photograph inks, on the other hand, will produce much lighter tones, perfect for shading and coloring elements such as faces and skin tones that have light colors. Since these mixtures produce lighter color, the ink is not as widely dispersed and results in smoother printouts that can capture high levels of detail. Many photograph ink compositions also avoid pigmented colorants since they do not sit as well on coated media such as photo glossy paper.  Ink formulations vary greatly depending on the machine being used, the frequency of ink being ejected, and depending on the type of printing the machine is intended for.

Ink Types

There are three basic ink compositions, that mostly all inks can be categorized into including Dye-Based Inks, Pigment-Based Inks, and Hybrid Inks. Dye-Based inks are composed of colorants dissolved in a liquid, such as water or glycol and have the most vivid and rich finishing results. Dye-Based inks also have a wide color gamut, providing colors unreachable by other mixtures and are compatible with a wide range of photograph papers. Unfortunately these ink mixtures do not last long and fade easily with light and become runny when moisture is added. In general, a dye-based ink formulation printout will last between 5 and 25 years depending on the surrounding environment.

Pigment-Based inks on the other hand, contain insoluble powder pigments that are suspended in the ink composition and do not dissolve into the solution like dye-based inks. These pigments are coated in a resin-like mixture making them much more stable and giving them resistances to fading or light. A pigment-based printout can last anywhere from 75 years to 150 years depending on how and where the printout was stored and displayed.  However, pigment-based inks do not soak into media as readily and have a tougher time adhering to coated paper.

Hybrid inks are a mixture of dye-based inks and pigment-based inks, and are sometimes referred to as pigmented inks. Combining the longevity of pigment-based inks with vibrancy of dye-based inks, Hybrid inks can be used for a number of applications and often offer superior printing results. Hybrid inks are known as pigmented inks since they use dye-based colorants and pigmented particles together, modifying the benefits and weaknesses of each type. Pigmented inks will have a wider color gamut than pigment-based inks but will not last as long. Pigmented inks (or Hybrid inks) can last up to 75 years when kept in an archival environment, such as being behind glass in a picture frame.

Similarities

Most inkjet printers and ink cartridges also contain conductive elements to help shepherd or guide the ink to the page, usually reducing the size of the droplet in the process, for higher resolution printouts with sharper definition. Both photo and regular ink cartridges can be found with these assisting elements. The most common element that helps to shape and delivery ink is the Piezoelectric crystals. When a small electrical current passes through a Piezo crystal, the element will rapidly change shape forcing the ink out of the printer nozzles. The reaction shapes and can reduce the ink droplet size while forcing the mixture out of the cartridge and onto the paper.

Ink cartridges have differing elements depending on the type of printout being created, which will enhance a project and the overall quality when using the right selection of inks. For example, when printing text documents, a matte black ink cartridge formulation such as the Epson T054820, will yield the best results since the ink has a softer look, making the text easier to read for long periods of time. Using a photo black ink cartridge on text document printing will result in overly shiny characters or grayish texts that do not read as well.

What is a Toner Cartridge?

Toner is a reasonably familiar substance to most people working in offices or for companies that have office photocopy machines and big industrial printers. These machines inevitably use toner to form images and text onto a sheet of media, usually being a plain white piece of paper. In other words the toner acts with the same purpose ink has, although ink is an aqueous solution whereas toner is in the form of powdery, dust-like solids. And due to the fact toner is a powder, cartridges should not be shaken as the material can spread through the air and adhere to unwanted surfaces, permanently dying them. Before handling any toner cartridge, make sure you are aware of the potential dangers and health risks involved with these units by clicking here.

In its early form, toner was a mix of carbon powder, iron oxide, and sugar. Eventually, to improve the quality of the printout, the carbon was melt-mixed with a polymer. The polymer is a thermoplastic that now comprises about 40 to 95 percent of the toner mixture and is crucial to binding and carrying colorant to the drum unit and substrate. The polymer is often referred to as the “binder” being able to hold the toner powder mixture together, carrying the powder to the transfer belt or drum unit, and holding the mixture in place for the heated fuser rollers to bind the powder to the paper with heat and pressure.

To better understand this process, let’s take a look at the different components that make up a toner cartridge and their functions. A basic toner cartridge contains several parts; one common component in each cartridge is the hopper which houses the toner powder until being picked up by a magnetic developer roller. The magnetic developer roller is a cylindrical sleeve used to transfer image forming toner powder particles to an image forming drum unit. This roller protrudes partially into the hopper and has several magnetic beads inside that will attract the toner powder mixture from the hopper to the roller during the printing process. As this piece rolls, the picked up toner is brushed against the drum unit.

The drum unit, having a greater static attraction, will once again pull the toner powder but this time from the magnetic developer roller. Any excess powder on the developer roller will be scrapped off with an MDR Doctor Blade before passing by the drum unit. The MDR Doctor Blade is a precision leveling blade that is designed to keep only one layer of toner powder on the developer roller. This ensures more evenly distributed toner and helps to prevent the drum and toner cartridge from clogging. The magnetic developer roller also has a secondary blade, known as the MDR Sealing Blade, to clean off any powder left on the surface of the roller after passing by the drum and before rotating back into the hopper section.

The drum unit itself is sometimes included with the toner cartridge in 2 in 1 or all inclusive toner cartridges. And whether the drum unit is a separate unit or has been included with the toner cartridge, the drum serves the same purpose. The drum is a photoconductive cylinder that contains a laser neutralized image of the project about to be printed out. A laser will actually neutralize parts of the drum unit, based off the desired image about to be printed. The neutralized parts of the drum will not be able to attract toner, which is how the drum forms an image, only being able to attract toner where desired on the image. Once the drum unit has picked up the toner powder from the developer rollers, the unit will then transfer them immediately to the paper substrate passing through the machine.

To keep the drum unit charged, a primary charge roller inside the toner cartridge rests against the unit, recharging the drum and eliminating neutralized areas of the unit. The drum also has a cleaning blade know as the Organic Photoconductor Wiper Blade. Any extra toner left on the surface of the drum unit after transferring the powder to the paper will be scrapped of by the wiper blade into the waste container. The last part to creating a printout involves the fuser rollers and some assisting transfer rollers that drive the media through the machine and are usually separately sold components that do not need to be exchanged as frequently as toner cartridges or even drum units.

All these components are necessary pieces to having a functional toner cartridge that can produce images onto a piece of paper using pigmented polymers, colorants, and carbons as the ink or image forming material being adhered to media. The current laser toner cartridge powders are comprised of a mixture of colorant pigments, external additives, and wax substances in addition to the binding polymers. The external additives can be iron oxide molecules, chemical release agents, charge control agents, and flow agents all designed to keep the mixture at optimal functioning compositions. Many toners now have protective wax coatings encapsulating each toner powder particle for longer lasting printouts and resistances to smudging and blurring.

Smart Chips on Printer Cartridges

Many printer manufacturers’ have added a smart chip to some of their ink and laser toner cartridges in an attempt at combating the fiscally beneficial Refill Kit and Compatible or Remanufactured ink and toner cartridge market. The sole purpose of the smart chip is to count the number of droplets dispensed from the device and report that data to the printer to track ink usage until a predetermined amount has been reached. Once that amount has been reached, the printer will display one of several messages, such as “low ink,” “out of ink,” “replace ink,” and other similar messages that prevent the user from continuing to print. These messages can also appear from time to time if a third party cartridge is used that is not recognized by the printer, even though it was just installed and is full of ink or toner. Simply refilling the cartridge will not fix the error message either, as the chip measures dispensed droplets and not the actual amount of substance inside the tanks. To solve the error message issues, there are a few different solutions consumers can try.

Solution 1: has hidden costs and can be messy

One route is by purchasing a refill kit and chip re-setter device, which is a small box-like device with a few metal prongs (or contacts) protruding out in one little section. These are very easy to use and only take a few seconds to operate. To reset the chip, the user simply has to align the chip on the cartridge to the prongs on the re-setter device and hold it there for a certain number of seconds. The re-setter will then “reset” the chip, allowing users to print the predetermined amount once more. There are some dangers involved in refilling your own cartridges and this method is not recommended unless you have a very safe and clean environment to work in. This method is messy and some toners can be toxic when inhaled or rubbed into the skin. Moreover, the device itself is an additional cost that cuts into the savings earned when refilling the ink and toners yourself.

Solution 2: free but can be complicated

There are some software companies out there offering free programs that can help the user take control of the printer’s chip such as the SSC Smart Chip and Printer Service Utility for Epson Printers. The program works with most Epson Desktop printers and was designed to reset the chip or “freeze” the count in cases where resetting is not possible. “Freezing” is a method that suspends the chip from transferring the droplet count data to the printer, which prevents the printer from locking your cartridge when reaching the predetermined amount of droplets. Freezing the chip can only be done with brand new cartridges before the user starts to print but allows the users to refill and reuse the same cartridges. These programs should always be free to use, so do not get fooled into purchasing a plan from another company offering someone else’s free software.

Solution 3: easy and affordable

The recommended option is to simply purchase Remanufactured or Compatible cartridges from a quality third party ink and toner distributor. Compatible cartridges and Remanufactured cartridges are always offered at reduced prices from the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) or brand name cartridges, helping users save anywhere from 30 to 82 percent off retail. And when purchasing from quality distributors such as Inkgrabber, you can feel safe knowing that all their products have been tested and ISO9001 certified to ensure pristine functionality. These companies produce their own compatible products or refill OEM cartridges and place brand new smart chips on them for a 100% guarantee of compatibility and performance.

Refilling Ink

Is refilling ink cartridges the right choice for you? Refilling cartridges has its advantages and disadvantages depending on where and how it is done. There are several options to consider before making the decision to refill cartridges. The point is, of course, to obtain the best deal, without having to spend so much time on the project as to negate the savings through your own manual labor. That is the tricky part, but knowing what type of kit to buy and how to fill your cartridges can make all the difference.

There are two main types of ink compositions from long-lasting pigmented inks like ChromaLife 100+, DURABrite Ultra pigments, Vivera Inks, and UltraChrome inks, to bolder dye-based concoctions found in most inkjet printers today. The pigmented inks are made up to tiny encapsulated particles that sit on top of a substrate instead of absorbing or sinking into the page like dye-based inks. This helps with placement and overall resistance for printouts that have finer line detail and last longer without fading. However, due to the rather complex chemical formulation, pigment based inks are not refillable (for the time being). So inevitably, ink refill kits are going to be dye-based mixtures in three colors and one shade.

Luckily most refill kits are sold specifically for certain printer models or by the number found on the original cartridge. The color refill kits contain a cyan (blue), magenta (red / pink), and yellow ink bottle each with an accompanying syringe or plunger to transport the liquid from the bottle to the cartridge. The black ink refill kits also contain a bottle or two with accompanying syringes and / or plungers to help streamline the process. When filling a cartridge at home or by yourself, make sure to watch instructional videos or thoroughly read the instructions provided with the purchased refill kit.

Each kit has some similar steps such as working over paper towels and placing or peeling back a guide sticker to direct the insertion of the syringe or plunger, but they all vary slightly. The instructions will provide helpful tips to prevent the cartridges from overflowing or being pierced in an incorrect spot which can lead to leaking. Once a cartridge has been filled, the instructions will most likely suggest letting the cartridge sit for a moment, before doing a final wipe clean and inserting the piece into your machine, to allow any excess ink to drip out.

Taking a cartridge to major store chains such as Costco, Walgreens, and Office Max to be refilled may seem like an easy alternative to refilling the cartridge yourself but beware. The employees have no formal training in office supplies or how ink cartridges work. They are simply minimum wage workers with no prior experience refilling ink or toner. And frequently, customers end up with messy components that leak after taking them to be refilled at the chain corporations.

Before ordering a refill kit, be sure to check out the directions or steps associated with the particular kit. This will help you get an approximate understanding of how much time the entire process will take. If the steps are only going to save you a couple dollars but take an hour to complete, the refill kit may not be the way to go. However, if you have a chance to save tens of dollars and the steps do not seem cumbersome or time consuming, the Refill Kit can be the most advantageous. The Refill Kits provide enough liquid to fill the cartridges multiple times (around 4 to 8 times each) which can significantly reduce the cost to operate your printing machine.

The Final, and perhaps easiest way to obtain a refilled cartridge is to simply buy a Remanufactured ink cartridge. Remanufactured Ink Cartridges are simply refilled cartridges that have been returned or recycled to the vendor. The difference between filling an ink cartridge yourself and having the factory do it, is the testing steps. At the factory, all the cartridges have been cleaned and inspected before and after being refilled to ensure defective products do not get shipped out. They also have the volume to simply throw out or disregard any cartridges that can lead to potential issues.


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