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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. 

Voice Recognition Software Set to Trend in 2014

Speaking and conversing with computers has been in Science Fiction Novels, TV, and Movies for decades. Now, speech Recognition software seems to be everywhere in our lives from our mobile phones to our internet search engines.  Although this isn’t a new idea, scientists and engineers have just recently gathered enough sophisticated voice technology to start implementing this progressive software into an increased number of mechanisms we use every day.  

You may have used or noticed Google has added a microphone icon to the far right of each search box, which allows users to verbally state what they would like searched. This technology simply transcribes a recognized voice pattern into typed text for a simpler and hands free way to browse the internet. This was just Google’s first step to comfortably integrating this voice recognition technology on a much wider and more diverse scale.

Google has currently been developing Google Glass, which is a pair of glasses that can take photos and give digital directions with voice commands. A live demonstration of Google Glass at the 2013 MLB playoffs, allowed the operator to highlight architecture and players to pull up information and stats pertaining to the viewed or visually targeted topic. Microsoft is following the trend by developing their version of digitally informative eyewear.  

Nuance has recently developed a speech recognition platform to be used with the creation of newly forming applications that will give programmers the ability to enable voice recognition into new projects. This will let the users operate, navigate, and confirm selections, within the application’s own boundaries, using nothing but their voice. For example, if a company has just developed a garage door opening application and used the available Nuance software, users will be able to open and activate the application by simply stating a verbal command and the garage door will open (no buttons pushed).

To fully understand the progression of this technology, let’s look back at the evolution of voice recognition software. It all started with the idea to create typed text documents using spoken language rather than pushing keys to form words. Companies such as Dragon pioneered a talk to type program that would allow users to create text documents without having to type. The program simply recorded and transcribed recognized speech patterns into words that would display in a word-type document. This technology was soon implemented widely in the 90s in the form of an automated telephone answering service that would guide callers through a couple directed questions until filtering the call to the proper phone or sales representative.

Now the rapid rise of powerful mobile devices is making voice interfaces even more useful and pervasive. Apple created Siri which can respond to questions and like Microsoft’s Voice Recognition Software, give directions and provide visual aids based off compatible key word searched material or an accompanying program such as Google Maps.

Steve Jobs had been working on a computer based Television platform that would allow users to operate and watch TV with recognized voice commands. Currently the Apple Corporation has undertaken this project to employ his idea. The media buzz speculates that Siri will be the controller, able to respond to the user with useful or practical data that pertains to the verbal inquiry or command, when the project is released to the general public.

Ford Automotive has also been experimenting with voice recognition technology, starting with a verbally controlled audio component, Sync. Currently, Sync can pull up directions, songs, and weather information, using particular voice commands to eliminate fidgeting with some common driving distractions.  And like Siri, this program will actually respond with an automated verbal response. The target goal will be to have a fully functioning, hands-free center console that will recognize and respond to nearly all speech with appropriate actions.

After slowly tweaking, adjusting, and adding complex mathematical variations to read Arabic English voice commands, voice recognition software can now interpret almost any voice range accurately. With the advancement of computing power in increasingly smaller host devices, containing Speech recognition software is becoming more common place. Cell phones now have as much or more computing power than most desktops during the initial boom in the 80s and 90s.

In 2006, Canon released their first version of a Voice Operation Kit that users can attach to their already existing Canon imageRUNNER copy machines or printing stations. The Voice Operation Kit allows users to print, scan, copy, and fax projects using a couple tactile buttons combined with speech output and the AI’s verbal guidance. Utilizing this kit, users can choose to operate the machine solely on verbal communication or by combining the built-in touch control panels with speech. Either way, the Voice Recognition software will be beneficial to companies and offices by reducing the time spent trying to figure out how to perform a particular task or fix a dubious problem.

Pretty soon, voice guided interfaces will be controlling elements of our homes. Imagine being anywhere in your home and randomly asking a question out loud and having an AI respond to you with factual information. Until recently, the idea of holding a conversation with a computer seemed farfetched, but it is now becoming a more and more tangible reality. 

Is too much Toner Ink Exposure Dangerous?

Most users of laser toner printers and photocopiers are unaware of the dangers mishandling toner can have to their health. The toner powder used inside each cartridge contains compounds that can be potentially harmful to humans when not handled correctly. The key to properly handling toner is being aware of the risks and how to prevent them from occurring.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified toner powder as a type 2B carcinogen with the primary ingredient in most laser toner cartridges being Carbon Black. Carbon dust, which toner is mainly composed of, is known to emit carcinogens which can be dangerous to humans and result in a form a cancer when inhaled. Normal operation of photocopiers and laser printers will not expose users to these possible risks; however a broken cartridge that explodes toner powder in the office can be a different story.  

To avoid overexposure to toner by inhaling or touching the chemical, gloves and a paper breathing mask should be worn to clean the mess. If any of the toner compounds get onto your skin, you should wash the toner off under cold water. Hot water or even warm water can melt the powder into your skin which can ultimately attack or transform bacteria resulting in some undesirable side effects such as irritation and itchiness. Inhaling the carbon-dominate dust may cause headaches, eye irritation, chronic itchiness, and even small growths on the tongue.

When laser toner cartridges inside of some photocopy machines overheat, the toner can conceivably become even more dangerous. First of all, the cartridge itself can severely burn the skin when handling the toner ink cartridge immediately after printing.  So do not attempt to replace toner cartridges that have recently been used to print with. Give the cartridges a few minutes to cool off inside the machine before changing the toner.

Secondly, photocopiers that use toner ink may emit carbon monoxide into the atmosphere when overheated. Inhaling a cloud Carbon Monoxide can cause an increased heart rate, severe headaches, and drowsiness. To prevent exposure to overheated toner cartridges emitting carbon dioxide, these machines should be used in well ventilated rooms. Opening windows and doors can also be useful to help dilute the air containing the carbon dioxide pollutants.  The most common occurrence of this happening is in offices that are consistently printing throughout the day. So be sure your frequently used laser printers and copies are in a well ventilated room before operating them.

Furthermore, some photocopiers are likely to radiate high levels of ozone during electrical discharges that occur each time toner is ejected from the cartridge. And regular exposure to high levels of ozone can cause some unwanted effects, similar to the effects of overexposure to carbon dioxide, including headaches, irritation, nausea, and even dermatitis in extreme cases. By ensuring your machine is operating in a well ventilated area will prevent this from becoming a potential problem.

Once again, the normal operation will not have harmful effects to users. And to eliminate the potential threats mentioned, be sure to use laser toner printers and photocopiers in areas with good air flow or ventilation, wash toner off with cold water, do not breathe unnaturally close to the machine when operating, and do not attempt to replace or change recently used cartridges. By following these fairly simple guidelines, laser toner printers and photocopiers using toner ink are relatively harmless and are necessary office components in today’s workplace. 

Printers Are Going Digital

In the fifteenth century Johannes Gutenberg developed and used the first form of mechanical movable type that would later pioneer a printing revolution and set the course for the modern printer. It all started with a wooden block, individual cast iron characters (letters and punctuation marks), ink, and some parchment (or paper). This process was painstakingly long, having to load and ink each character by hand, pull the impression, hang the sheets to dry, and assemble the type. The process took about half a day to complete one page, as compared to today where each page takes only seconds to produce.

Now printers come in a variety of forms and sizes with differentiating functions, features, and software to specifically target individual consumer needs. Printers can create photographs, scan and save originals in a file format, copy originals, send and receive fax transmissions, and even access and browse the internet. In order to accommodate these newer aspects consumers are looking for, printing has changed from the traditional offset printing methods established by Gutenberg, to a digital-based image processing device. 

Any printing device that takes an image directly from a computer to print can be considered a digital printer. In essence, we are taking a digitally created image (or an image created by or on a computer) and using a matrix grid to map out and reproduce the image onto a substrate, thus completing a digital process. During the process, lasers inside the machine will polarize and write the image while electricity will affix the toner or inkjets onto the substrate to produce a printout.

With the advancements and evolution of digital capabilities, printers have become more feature rich and often contain a way to connect to the internet for unmatched data communication. Applications can even be downloaded to mobile devices, allowing users to print wirelessly from tablets, smart phones, and other internet connected devices. Each manufacturing company has their own versions of downloadable mobile printing applications, including HP’s ePrint, Canon’s Easy PhotoPrint, Brother’s iPrint and Scan, Google’s Cloud Printing, Apple’s AirPrint, and many more.

Printers without internet connection options can also be set up to receive printing tasks from mobile devices by connecting the printer directly to a computer or device that has internet capabilities. When the computer with internet is plugged into a printer with no independent internet ability, the computer can be used to receive and forward tasks to the printer. The downloadable mobile printing apps will then work the same as intended with internet connected printers.

The latest trend in printing technology, other than mobile printing, is color LCD Touchscreen Displays that can control printer settings, formatting options, and even preview projects before printing them out. Perhaps the most convenient aspect of Touchscreen displays is the fully customizable application placement. These intuitive new control panels will actually compute the most frequently used applications with specific printing tasks and will prioritize the frequently used applications to display first.

Inkless Printers are also being developed that will revolutionize the printing industry. Over the past decade more and more research efforts have been going into Additive Manufacturing or 3D Printing. Instead of using a dye or pigment based substance in liquid form, these 3D printers utilize solid materials such as metals, plastics, starches, proteins, and more to create 3-dimensional, fully-functional items, layer by layer. Therefore eliminating the need for media (paper), while creating a need for 3-dimensional digital Cartesian grids made on computers.

Computers and Printers have been shaping the way we do business, communicate, and handle documentation for years without us ever realizing it. Anytime we want a computer to manufacture or structure an item, we are using a digital process that can replicate lines and curves better and faster than a human can by hand. So keep your printer up to date with the latest printing capabilities such as cloud printing and stay up to date with the communication and manufacturing of the future.  

The New Uvijet KA Ink for Fujifilm Acuity Printers

Fujifilm has announced their latest plans to release a new series of high performing UV inkjet inks specifically designed for their Acuity Series Printers. These new UV inks, known as Uvijet KA, were developed in response to the increased performance demands of current wide format printers. The Uvijet KA series inks are set to offer improved adhesion performance and exceptional post-printing finishing properties on a variety of media types and textures.

Being designed for the large format hybrid Acuity printers, the main challenge for the R and D team was to create a formula that can adhere to almost any surface while keeping the rich tonality and wide color gamut expected from the UV series inkjets. The team ended with a UV ink formula that meets these requirements and also provides superior scratch resistance and enhanced tolerance to unwanted markings caused by fingerprints, protective films, and other paper handling actions. These features are a result of extensive Research and Development, to also keep the bright, “vivid” color output and excellent image quality the other Uvijet inks are known for while being able to handle the increased printing speeds and reduced droplet sizes the new wide format printers are requiring.  

The Uvijet KA inks have been successfully tested across a wide range of rigid plastic substrates and other commonly used media materials making these inks and the compatible Acuity Series Wide Format Printers ideal for customers whose prerogative is adhesion. The adhesion range of the Uvijet KA inks is much wider than other inks currently on the market, allowing users to utilize and manage multiple substrates within a single ink to simplify the already complicated wide format printing process.  

With this kind of ink versatility, Fujifilm has become dedicated to being a leading pioneer of Inkjet Technology. John Kaiser, product marketing manager, Inkjet Inks, FUJIFILM North America Corporation, Graphic Systems Division, also adds that their “rigorous and thorough testing exhibited excellent adhesion to acrylic, aluminum composite materials, fluted polypropylene (Correx), foam core, PETG, and styrene (vinyl).” The Uvijet KA Series is the third generation of UV Inks created, to handle rigid and flexible media types.  

The previously created Uvijet OZ Inkjets were designed to give projects a higher degree of flexibility, enabling users to cut, fold, crease, drive, and route printed material. The Uvijet QN Inkjets showcase an eight color ink system for improved image quality on super-wide printouts intended for indoor exhibitions and as display graphics. Fujifilm has also been developing their Uvijet LL series inkjet system which includes high opacity white and clear inks for optimum performance with proprietary LED curing systems onboard certain wide format LED printers.  

The Uvijet KA ink system is an alternative four color CMYK ink technology for the Acuity printers that was designed to exhibit unmatched adhesive properties and superior resistances to external environmental markings. This ink also performs on a variety of rigid and flexible media substrates. And being the third generation of an advanced UV inkjet ink system, the Uvijet KA inks have had time to be refined and built into a reliable and legitimate inkjet cartridge for hybrid wide format printers from Fujifilm. 


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