Posts Tagged 'refilling ink'

The Quality of Remanufacturing Ink Cartridges in the USA

Manufacturing products in the United States has its advantages and disadvantages. The obvious disadvantage comes with the pricing. In the United States we have high wages and high living standards and thus every manufactured project in America takes a lot of money to create as compared to China or Thailand which has much lower minimum wages and in turn, lower living standards. On the other hand, manufacturers in the United States are the most productive in the world according to the National Association of Manufacturers. The Research and development is far more in depth and comprehensive which leads to greater innovation. We can see this effect in the ink and toner industry, especially when it comes to the viscosity, performance, and preservation of the pigments and overall ink compositions.

Our Remanufacturing Station, located in the San Fernando Valley of California, was kind enough to let me poke around and test some of the ink cartridges out. The results were not what I expected, as the ink compositions they are using tended to be brighter and carry more natural saturation. Upon seeing the first sets of printouts, I was stunned at the sheer quality coming from the basic, dual ink cartridge system printer we were using to test with and the remanufactured cartridges I brought from our warehouse located just down the road in Simi Valley, California. The lead engineer informed me that they have a significant advantage when it comes to the selection of ink they put into their remanufactured cartridges. Being in California, they receive more pigments and ink compositions than anywhere else in the world to select from.

The ink-filling team is able to compare hundreds of samples against the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) cartridges and compatible ink cartridges made in China to get the best looking results, measuring  saturation, consistency, definition / gradation, lightfastness, durability, bleed, and ensuring each color is slightly different from the OEM with convenient color rendition charts.

Each aspect being tested is important for the overall quality and best results. The formulation of the ink composition needs to be smooth and uniform in order to guarantee that the first print will be the same as the fifth print and the same as the hundredth print and so on. Printing out colorful pictures and images with large solid color surfaces can help the team determine how consistent the formulation is. We can see a good measure of consistency with the Microsoft umbrellas picture, each being a solid color.

Looking at the Microsoft Umbrellas picture, we can see that each umbrella needs to be one consistent color with proper shading to denote the natural curvature. During this test, both the OEM and the Remanufactured ink cartridges performed with high markings. The only real noticeable difference comes with the shading. With the Remanufactured ink cartridges we can notice a more abrupt change into darkness due to the three colors being more vibrant. This effect makes the umbrellas look sharper and less rounded than the umbrellas printed with the OEM cartridges. However, the vibrancy really makes the umbrellas printed with the Remanufactured cartridges stand out and pop off of each other.

OEM Umbrellas

The OEM Umbrellas Printout

Remanufactured Umbrellas

The Remanufactured Umbrellas Printout

The next picture containing the boy with painted hands is ideal for seeing the gradation and viscosity of the expelled ink, since we can see pale skin tones and textured colors. The gradation, also known as definition is the sharpness at which one color changes to another and how tightly packed the pixels are jetted onto an area. This is a tricky balancing act since the pixels will get tighter the thicker the ink formulation is. However, the thicker the formula is, the greater chance of clots and horizontal lines forming.

With the OEM printed hands picture we can see nice tight lines and good blending with the gradation (the dots are not noticeable at a normal viewing distance), especially looking around the mouth and nose area of the boy. However when the OEM cartridge gets to the deep red paint on the right index finger and left palm of the boy, we see noticeable horizontal lines forming which can be common with thicker compositions of ink when changing immediately from finite red detail found on the skin tone to a deep saturated red found on the painted hands.

With the Remanufactured cartridges we see much more vibrant color once again and some noticeable pixilation or dots around the nose area of the boy. Although the painted hands are far superior with their consistency and ability to instantly change into another color. Like the umbrellas picture, the different colors really pop out from each other creating more sharply drawn shapes.

OEM Boy's Hands

The OEM Boy’s Hands Printout

Remanufactured Boy's Hands

The Remanufactured Boy’s Hands Printout

All the mentioned elements are noticeable in our next three images as well, although the saturation really flourishes in these next examples. Saturation is the intensity of the colors and how vibrantly they play off of each other. Pictures with little saturation are often referred to as dull or lacking in luster. This is definitely the case when comparing the shine and richness on each fruit. Looking at each fruit individually, such as the pear or the shiny red apple, it becomes evident that the Remanufactured printout provides a richer and deeper saturation of color. This makes the shine on the fruit stand out and helps the shapes pop out of their black borders. Just looking at the images, I would rather eat the fruit from the Remanufactured printout than the OEM printout.

OEM Fruits

The OEM Fruits Printout

Remanufactured Fruits

The Remanufactured Fruits Printout

The picture of the parrots in a jungle scene also highlights the deep saturation found with our remanufactured ink cartridges. From the shine on the water to the deep and dark greens found above and around the waterfall, the Remanufactured ink really displays its vibrancy with rich greens. The parrots have a deeper and richer red, as well as a brighter, more contrasting yellow with our Remanufactured ink cartridges. The overall feel of the Remanufactured parrot printout is like that of a painting where all the true colors are enhanced. In the OEM cartridge printed version, everything feels a little washed out or light in color. This definitely helps with pale skin tones, but does not excel at capturing the deep rich color found in nature.

OEM Parrots

The OEM Parrots Printout

Remanufactured Parrots

The Remanufactured Parrots Printout

Moreover, the hot air balloons printout helps show the deep richness found with our Remanufactured ink cartridges. The blues and reds found in the Remanufactured cartridge printout are more vibrant and the yellows slightly brighter than the printout created with the OEM cartridges. Looking at the sun in the picture helps to depict the difference in saturation. With the OEM printout, all the colors almost blend into each other like water colors, where each color of the Remanufactured printout stands out more like an oil painting.

OEM Balloons

The OEM Balloons Printout

Remanufactured Balloons

The Remanufactured Balloons Printout

One of the most important tests is to ensure that each color is slightly different from the OEM cartridge which our Remanufacturing Station views as advantageous. The lead engineer sees this as an opportunity to improve on the existing color formulas already released for the OEM cartridges. The most fitting image to see the color differentiation comes with the image of colored pencils. Comparing each pencil color to the OEM color pencils printout clearly shows the reds and blues being darker and the yellows being brighter. The reason for making the reds and blues darker was to improve the overall saturation while the brighter yellow provides a greater contrast and helps to mellow out the dark reds (magenta) and blues (cyan).

Looking at the pencils we can see the reds of the OEM cartridge appear to have more of a brick red hue whereas the Remanufactured printout displays more of a cherry red hue. The blue or cyan printed with the OEM cartridges is slightly lighter and has more noticeable pink and purple shades mixed with the blue. The Remanufactured printout is darker and has dark blue almost black shades within the blue areas. The Remanufactured yellow ink is the most evidentially different from the OEM version being much more of a highlighter yellow compared to the OEM which is more of a mustard yellow.

OEM Pencils

The OEM Pencils Printout

Remanufactured Pencils

The Remanufactured Pencils Printout

Durability and lightfastness are also major components of their testing. The engineers will leave pictures under controlled UV rays to measure lightfastness or the rate at which the colors will fade in light. They blast pictures with different elements such as water to measure bleed effects. And to test the durability, they have state of the art temperature controlled rooms to measure the how intense of heat or cold the cartridges can take. They also have multiple paper types that they will test on to ensure similar results no matter how thick or flimsy the media is.

All this is to find the absolute best color and performance for each remanufactured and refilled ink cartridge. Although this seems like a lot of testing, the company has specific templates which can gauge multiple aspects at once. This can all take a lot of work, but the end results are worth it and are always improving with the discovery of more compositions and pigments.

Check out some more of our printed pictures and templates below.

Remanufactured Parrot

The Remanufactured Parrot Printout

Remanufactured Template 1

The Remanufactured Template 1 Printout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remanufactured Template 2

The Remanufactured Template 2 Printout

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited (Sources)

The Quality of Remanufacturing Ink in the USA

Microsoft win8download.com. Colorful-Umbrellas. 2013. Windows 8 wallpaper of colorful umbrellas. Accessed 17 June, 2014. http://win8download.com/25-colors-windows-8-background-and-wallpapers.html

Holisms2014.com. Cute-Boy-Colorful-Hand-HD-Wallpaper.jpg. 2014. Holi Wallpaper free download 2014. Accessed 17 June, 2014. http://www.holisms2014.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Cute-Boy-Colorful-Hand-HD-Wallpaper.jpg

Ananya, thephotogallerypages.com. photo-Colorful-Fruits-HD-Desktop-Wallpaper-403.jpg. 2012. Beautiful Fruits Pictures, Ananya. Accessed 17 June, 2014. http://www.wallsave.com/wallpaper/1280×960/ananya-colorful-fruits-hd-desktop-posted-in-album-beautiful-hq-456020.html

Jonkman, desktopwallpapers4me.com. Macaws-on-a-branch-9518.jpg. 2013. Macaws on a branch Wallpaper. Accessed 17 June, 2014. http://www.desktopwallpapers4.me/animals/macaws-on-a-branch-9518/

Stacy, lovethispic.com. Hot-air-balloons-over-lavender-field.jpg. 2014. Hot Air Balloons over Lavender Field. Accessed 17 June, 2014. http://www.lovethispic.com/image/14461/hot-air-balloons-over-lavender-field

Zcool.com.cn, all-free-download.com. color_pencil_closeup_picture_166380.jpg. 2014. Color pencil closeup picture. Accessed 17 June, 2014. http://all-free-download.com/free-photos/color_pencil_closeup_picture_166380.html

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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