The purpose of this paper is to
provide unbiased information which will enable end-users and purchasers of
replacement toner cartridges to evaluate and make informed decisions
regarding the purchases they make.
It should first be said that while there are several industry trade
associations, there have not been to date, any industry standards developed
regarding the processes, terminology or testing procedures that a consumer
can rely on for direction.
The current standards are those, the printer manufactures establish for
their own products and retain as proprietary information. Aside from page
yields, the printer manufactures have never released test standards to the
aftermarket. Therefore, any advertising claim made stating a product meets
or exceeds OEM specifications, while not necessarily false, simply can’t
be proven because the
OEM specifications are not available.
The only way an aftermarket manufacturer can establish any type of standard
is to purchase several
OEM products of each model and run tests to establish
benchmarks for those criteria they feel consumers deem important i.e. print
density, resolution and page yields. When these have been established they
will adopt them as their own standards for quality assurance purposes.
From its infancy, the industry
has used a number of different terms to describe and market its products,
which has only led to additional confusion in the mind of the consumer.
an early industry term that really meant nothing other than to add a
mystique to the cartridge business. It seemed to imply that it was
plugged into some sort of electrical apparatus that would rejuvenate it.
term still used by many in the industry that can mean a number of
different things. It can mean a cartridge that has been crushed, melted
down and comes back as a wastebasket, storage container or some other
plastic product. It can also denote a cartridge that has been
remanufactured for use as a toner cartridge again.
A spent cartridge that has been remanufactured and made usable again by
some unspecified process. The process is unspecified because every
manufacturer uses different processes based on what they are
technologically capable of and what they are willing to spend in costs
and accept as defective rates. Because there are no industry standards
these processes can vary widely. It can involved nothing more than
drilling a hole in the toner hopper, refilling it, taping it over and
sending it out again. Or, it can be a very involved and thorough process
that calls for replacing either some or all of the parts subject to wear
and thereby producing a product that is essentially new.
A nebulous term that can run the gamut from a poorly
remanufactured cartridge, to a new replacement cartridge that has all
the characteristics of the
OEM, using all new materials.
The term was introduced into the marketplace by
Xerox and has
been adopted by many others, since though it has no meaning as far as
manufacturing is concerned and is used more as a marketing term.
There are many
ways to measure performance and many different components and processes
that affect that performance. Most companies that
cartridges today produce a product that incorporates certain performance
standards that their customer base demands.
Most of today’s
performance standards revolve around yields, print density and defective
rates, all balanced against cost.
If a company’s customer base is primarily a high volume text producer,
such as a statement printer for a credit card company; their standards
are going to be driven to print yields, meaning they will be satisfied
with cartridges that may not print high quality graphics, but good text,
excellent yields and marginal costs. An advertising agency on the other
hand is less concerned with page yields and demands excellent print
quality and is willing to pay extra to obtain that quality.
The manufacturer has to
know what drives his customer base and respond accordingly. If
the customers are willing to accept slightly lower quality and
changing out a defective cartridge isn’t a problem, they will want the
most economical cartridge they can find in the marketplace. For those
that look closely at soft costs, this isn’t something they want, and
won’t tolerate defectives. Fortunately today the aftermarket has
available to it virtually every component that makes up a toner
cartridge allowing it to produce cartridges that will rival an
Hewlett-Packard set the
standard when they developed products that would perform consistently in
any environment producing good quality printing, low defective rate, and
good yields. The aftermarket would do well to emulate their strategy
Information on Processes
There are as
many ways to remanufacture a toner cartridge as there are companies
doing it, there are some things that are givens. The main one is that
virtually anything done with any component is going to affect the
cartridge performance in one way or another. Listed below are the
primary components in a toner cartridge with the options available in
the remanufacturing process and the effects it will have on performance.
The core: This
is the empty cartridge. It can either be a “virgin” (used only the
original cycle) or a “non-virgin” used any number of cycles.
only virgin cores provides a much better platform to begin the process
from. It will have little wear on all its components, both those that
can be replaced with new aftermarket parts and those that can’t.
Virgin cores contribute greatly to lowering a company’s defective rate
and are likely to appear better to the user aesthetically.
use of virgin cores will add substantially to the manufacturing cost of
the product, a part of which is offset by the benefit of less handling
The OPC is the spine of the cartridge and probably has the greatest
impact on print quality, defective rates, page yields and cost of any
component making up a cartridge. The rest of the cartridge will be no
better than the OPC.
OPC from a virgin core can be simply cleaned and reused. Since the OPC
has experienced some wear during its original cycle, some print
degradation is likely to occur and the mid-cycle failure rate is going
to be much higher.
By reusing the OPC in this manner the cost of the cartridge can
be drastically reduced but a substantial sacrifice will be made in
“in-field” defective rates, which can run as high as 25% mid-cycle
a virgin OPC can be done that will add to the cost but will provide some
print performance enhancement and will lower the “in-field”
mid-cycle failures to near 10%. Many companies use re-coating as a
compromise to simply re-using the OPC or replacing it with a new
the OPC with a new aftermarket unit will provide excellent print quality
and reduce mid-cycle failures substantially. The replacement of the OPC
with a new aftermarket unit will drive up the cost of the cartridge
substantially and therefore is avoided by many of the volume producers.
While the replacement of the OPC is an enhancement in nearly all areas,
there is a possibility of lower page yields, something many manufactures
overcome by simply adding more toner.
Charge Roller (PCR):
The PCR is responsible for putting an electronic charge on the OPC that
causes unwanted toner to be repelled. This electronic charge is then
“burned” through by the laser removing it only in areas that are to
receive the toner that will make up the image to be printed. The PCR is
subject to wear because it is driven by friction from the OPC. Like the
OPC, there are several options available to the aftermarket.
PCR can be reliably used an additional cycle with minimal if any print
degradation or increased mid-cycle failures.
can be re-coated to enhance their electrical properties and a number of
companies use this process.
of the PCR is usually done only when there is obvious damage or by
companies that use non-virgin cores. Replacement of this component will
add a cost to the finished product causing most companies to opt for one
of the other methods.
The purpose of the wiper blade is to remove excess toner from the
OPC that was not transferred to the page during the printing process and
deposit it into the waste-bin. It has no effect on page yields but can
be a significant factor in mid-cycle failures. The wiper blade is
subject to degradation from two sources. It rides on the OPC causing
wear through friction to both the OPC and itself and is also subject to
changes in flexibility caused by its exposure to ozone produced by the
printing process. Many companies in an effort to keep costs down either
don’t replace it or will use aftermarket processes that are supposed
to “rejuvenate” the rubber on the blade to allow its use an
The mag-sleeve, through a combination of electrical charges and
surface finish moves the toner from the hopper to the OPC. Its function
is to meter the amount that’s transferred and control the evenness of
the distribution across the length of the sleeve. As the sleeve wears,
its surface loses its ability to pick up adequate toner to produce the
proper print density. Page yields will likely increase but graphics
printing will suffer. Since this component comes with a relatively high
cost and accounts for very few if any mid-cycle failures, most companies
will reuse a virgin mag-sleeve, either replacing or re-coating it as
performance loss becomes noticeable.
The doctor blade is
responsible for metering the proper amount of toner onto the mag-roller
as it rotates. It works much like a squeegee through a combination of
electrical charges and mechanical tension to provide a metered amount of
toner, evenly distributed onto the mag-roller for transfer to the OPC,
and eventually to the page.
doctor blade will nearly always perform through an additional cycle
beyond the original.
When it fails, it usually shows up as light print yet is
responsible for so few mid-cycle failures that most companies reuse the
original, replacing only those with obvious need.
There are probably at least two dozen different toner manufacturers
in the marketplace, with most being blenders. Toner sales are driven
almost exclusively by price. The blending agents and tribo-electric
charges used determine how a toner will perform under various
conditions. Some will provide better density or less wear on components
or better yields; each will perform differently with different
components and environments. Each manufacture will select the toner they
use based on the components they use and balanced against the cost. Most
of the toners in the aftermarket today are designed to perform well in
all environments. This has not always been the case.
the aftermarket was in its infancy, it was believed to sell against the
OEM’s that its cartridges had to print blacker to be better. Because
of this OPC’s and toners were formulated “hotter”. While the
cartridges produced at that time surely did print blacker, page yields
dropped significantly and blasting became a problem. The bigger problem
the aftermarket experienced was that a cartridge could be produced and
work fine in a local market but as our businesses grew and we were
shipping to other markets with different environments problems began to
be experienced. A cartridge might work fine in
but when shipped to
’s higher humidity it would fail miserably; or it might perform well
during summer but when exposed to the drier air of winter would exhibit
static bursts (a little circle) randomly on the page.
There are a number of other parts that can have an overall effect on
quality and performance but the costs are negligible and are usually
replaced as a part of most company’s processes, therefore they
aren’t addressed here.
As can be seen here there are
a number of components that have a direct bearing on yield, quality,
mid-cycle failures and print quality and with each component it becomes
a trade-off. There is virtually nothing that can be done to a cartridge
that won’t have an impact on print quality, defective rate, page
yields or cost. When a manufacturer modifies a process to enhance
quality, it may come with a trade-off in yield or cost. In attempting to
achieve higher yields, we may get it at a cost of print quality or
higher price. In lowering costs, we may increase defective rates. The
key for the manufacturer is to find the right balance that in the end,
meets the customers’ expectations and will provide a better value than
the OEM products which carry a much higher price.
More Information can be obtained from