Print consumables make up a huge chunk of office expense and you can thank the big printer brands for that. Printer manufacturers may sell printers at low prices but their profit really comes from ink sales. You’ll find that after a couple of ink reloads you’ve spent nearly as much as you bought the printer for.
Only a couple years ago, using genuine brand name cartridges was the only way to go about printing what you need in the office. Back in the era of “drill and fill” compatible cartridges, results were more inconsistent. Today however, technology has caught up a great deal and you can now get similar print quality results for a whole lot less using alternative ink options. Compatible ink cartridges–purchased through reputable companies–are engineered and tested to match the high quality standards of a genuine brand cartridge. Some compatible types even use many of the same component pieces as their much-more-expensive brand name counterparts to keep cartridge waste from landfills longer. Want to know more? Of course you do!
Compatible ink cartridges are called different things by different companies. Some outlets sell them as remanufactured cartridges, other as generic alternatives. Compatible remanufactured cartridges are genuine brand cartridges that have gone through one cycle of use. Each cartridge is inspected and refurbished to meet the specifications of the original cartridge, then refilled for use. Brand new compatible cartridges, however, have been built with 100% new parts.
Where do compatible ink companies get their remanufactured cartridges? Usually from you, the consumer. Most manufacturers partner up with local recycling programs and fundraising initiatives, as well as well known online recyclers like Earth911. The money spent by manufacturers purchasing used cartridges helps fund recycling efforts, which keeps the cycle going (and keeps waste out of landfills).
How are compatible remanufactured cartridges made, you ask? The good folks at Clover Technologies, a leading cartridge manufacturer in the US, describe it this way:
- Cartridges collected for recycling are transferred to the remanufacturing facility, where they are sorted and inventoried. Once they are processed, they are stored in a temperature controlled space to ensure the remaining ink in them doesn’t dry out and damage the components.
- Each cartridge is then individually inspected to visually check for damage, then run through an electronic testing system to test for peak performance.
- Leftover ink in the cartridge is emptied and flushed using high pressure demineralized water.
- The fully cleansed cartridge is refilled using a custom-built machine tuned to return each remanufactured cartridge to the original brand specifications. The ink is formulated to be as close to the brand name ink as is legally possible without violating copyright laws (which is pretty close, mind you). For newer cartridges that feature a smart chip, a new smart chip is installed to interface with the printer and communicate the correct ink levels to your unit.
- The filled cartridge is tested for atmospheric pressure and sealed. If you think this is when it’s boxed and sent out, you’d be mistaken . . .
- The filled and sealed cartridge is given the same page yield testing as an original brand name cartridge would get upon original manufacturing. This involves a minimum of three printers tested using ISO/IEC 24712 standards, an industry standard used to ensure optimum performance and quality. As part of this test, a series of five test pages are printed in order followed by a diagnostic page with key information on whether the cartridge meets standards.
- Once the cartridge has passed the test, it’s cleaned once again, polished, refilled, and heat-sealed in a vapor resistant bag—just like the original manufacturer cartridge is before it’s boxed and shipped out. Voila!
What about warranties? One common, and probably largest, concern many businesses have with using compatible cartridges is whether it voids their printer’s warranty. There’s a widely held misconception that using non-brand ink cartridges will void the repairs and protections that come packaged in your warranty. That simply isn’t the case. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Improvement Act was signed in 1975 to prevent merchants from abusing warranties and disclaimers, including any rules forcing consumers to purchase their products (and their products only!) So long story short, you’re free to put whatever ink you want into your printer without voiding your warranty. This also applies to other generic consumables, by the way.
Other common concerns businesses have when considering compatible cartridges include:
Are compatible cartridges reliable? If you get your cartridges from a reliable company, your chances of getting reliable products are higher. Buying the least expensive cartridges available online isn’t the best way to ensure reliability—many are manufactured in substandard facilities using technology that’s not up to speed with modern printers. Getting your cartridges from a reputable distributor will help ensure the quality of your cartridges. Reputable outlets and distributors only choose products from industry-leading compatible cartridge manufacturers who pay attention to quality first before profit. Look for reviews online of the product and seller to get an understanding of the quality of the products available for your specific printer model.
That said, even original brand name ink cartridges will fail on occasion, so purchasing your compatible cartridges from a company with fast and responsive customer service ratings will help get you the ink you need fast.
Of course, is the print quality as good? Compatible cartridges are tested against original brand name cartridges as part of the inspection process to ensure they are upholding the high standards set by the manufacturer. This includes testing both the page yield, shelf life, and print quality to make sure you get everything you’re looking for. Chances are if you’re unsatisfied with the quality of your prints, you’ve unfortunately happened upon a bad apple—and contacting customer service for troubleshooting or, worst case scenario, a replacement will solve your problem.
They say pictures speak louder than words, so here’s a scanned printout of a photo printed with our compatible HP 564 cartridges.
Today’s compatible cartridges have more than caught up with the brand name cartridges you once relied on—they give you the same results, use fewer resources, and save you money every time you print. People who print with some frequency for their business can turn 30-40 percent savings per cartridge into hundreds or thousands of dollars annually, all without sacrificing the type of print speed and quality your business requires. Not convinced? Check out what other customers and business owners have to say online and see. Never spend more than you need to for your ink.