Breaking the myth that after-market cartridges will destroy your printer or void your new printer warranty is what I’d like to address in this article.
I have serviced thousands of businesses in person over the past nearly 20 years in the after-market print supplies industry. From companies with 1-2 employees to Fortune 100 Corporations. Some of my clients use 1 or less cartridges in an entire year, others purchase tens of thousands of dollars worth on a regular monthly basis. And all using after-market inks and toners.
Before we go any farther I’d like to introduce the terminology used in the industry so that we are all on the same page. So many people I see on a daily basis react violently when I first begin talking about my product(s) and eventually, as they become educated, leave the notion that “All ‘refilled’ cartridges are garbage and all you want to do is ruin my printer.” Like cars, and hospitals, and lawyers, and insurance sales people… NOT ALL CARTRIDGES ARE CREATED EQUAL.
1. OEM Cartridge – This is a product that is manufactured by the company that built the printer, also known as Original Equipment Manufacturer, but it is not necessarily the “best” and it most certainly is not warranted as long as a lot of other products.
2. Refilled – This refers to a cartridge (ink or toner) that was simply refilled – nothing more, nothing less. You may have seen kits you can purchase to refill your own cartridges, this is fine as long as you don’t care about quality and/or potential damage to your printer.
3. Re-manufactured – This refers to a product that has gone through a reverse engineering process. In other words, it has been taken apart and certain components have been replaced along with the cartridge being refilled.
4. Generic – This refers to a product manufactured by a company that would prefer to not be known (hmmm, I wonder why that would be?). It is a knock off and may or may not be re-manufactured. Stay away from this product unless you can learn more about it.
5. Drill & Fill – Oh how I hate this junk. Someone just drills a hole in the cartridge housing (ink or toner) puts more ink or toner inside and puts a plug in it. Basically the same as your refill kit for home use, but some resellers actually buy and then resell drill & filled cartridges to unsuspecting customers. Most of the people I’ve run into who are frustrated about after-market cartridges ended up with this stuff because they were trying to save money, but HONESTLY didn’t do ANY research and then they blindly label ALL after-market cartridges as junk and harmful to printers. Seriously folks, there are some “BUYERS” who are just as “defective” as this junk!
6. Compatible – This is a cartridge that may well be re-manufactured… the right way. A truly re-manufactured toner cartridge has been ENTIRELY disassembled, thoroughly cleaned, ALL the internal components replaced with brand new, refilled to the OEM specifications with a product equal to or better than the OEM for maximum image quality and page yield. For inks it’s slightly different: the contact plates are thoroughly cleaned, micro-chips replaced, print head and interior electrostatically or chemically cleaned and then prepped for refill with the proper grade of ink to provide maximum image quality and page yield.
7. Genuine Compatible – This is a brand new cartridge made for use in a particular printer type. Here I would like to reference a brand I’ve been particularly impressed with, mediaSciences. This company manufactures their own Solid Ink for use in Xerox’s Phaser printers, as well as building their own clear-case toner cartridges for use in Xerox’s laser Phaser printers.
8. Commercial Grade – This is a product that goes beyond the typical re-manufactured or compatible products that are made on a local level. This product is built to such exacting standards in ISO-9001 factories so as to be even BETTER than the OEM product. Many times this product has a lower failure rate than the OEM and typically is warranted much longer.
Now that we all know what we’re talking about, in terms of product used in the various equipment, we can have a serious discussion about the new printer warranty that has so many people scared to buy anything but the brand that has the printer manufacturer’s name on the cartridge itself.
First, we must all realize that, naturally any printer manufacturer would write their new printer warranty to “LEAD” you to believe your warranty could be voided… after all, the printers are very inexpensive to buy – all the OEM hopes for future profits are in the consumables they hope you’ll keep buying. Ink and toner is about 70% PROFIT!
Second, we must understand that the new printer warranty does not emphatically state “YOU CANNOT USE ANYTHING BUT OUR BRAND OF SUPPLIES OR YOUR PRINTER WARRANTY WILL BE VOID” because that would be illegal! There’s a little known law that all the OEM companies MUST abide by, the Magnuson Moss Warranty Act, which basically states an OEM company cannot compel you to purchase their consumable or replacement goods with the threat of a voided warranty. Think of it like this; you buy a new car and it’s time to change the oil, legally you may use Quaker State, Valvoline, PennZoil, Auto Value, Parts Plus, K-Mart, Walmart, or any other brand you want… it is YOUR CAR. The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act stops the car manufacturer from getting together with any one particular oil company in order to raise prices and force a sale, or voiding a warranty if you don’t comply. The same law applies to your printer, and your toaster, and your microwave, and your DVD player, etc. That said, the buyer should be wise about the choices they make. The Magnuson Moss Warranty Act is there to protect your right to use the products you prefer and/or can afford.
Now that we know your warranty CANNOT be voided, let’s consider the other side of the coin. They can’t void your warranty, BUT, they don’t have to warrant any part of the printer damaged from you using the WRONG cartridge or a defective cartridge. This is where you should have a solid relationship with the supplier you’re buying your ink or toner from. Buying cheap junk from Joe Schmoe from Cocomo off eBay just because it’s cheap is asking for a problem, and quite frankly if you buy that way you deserve what you get. Still, it is extremely rare to have a cartridge actually damage or break a printer.
More often than not what happens is the person using an alternative product in their machine doesn’t know the first thing about their printer. So, when they call a technician to check into why it’s not printing or giving some type of code all to often the technician will point to the cartridge, blame everything on it and tell the end-user it wouldn’t have happened if they were using the products the technician sells. Don’t even get me going on dishonest technicians – they make me sick, they’re like slick used car salesmen putting sawdust in the transmission.
What are some of the cartridge failures that one could experience? Streaks, smears, lines (colored or white), spots, blotches or dusting the entire page. These things happen to brand new, brand name OEM cartridges just as often as a well made after-market cartridge, but they won’t damage your printer. If you notice these things, replace the cartridge with another one and contact your supplier, they should warrant it for at least 12 months or longer. Every cartridge you put in your printer should give you perfect prints, if it doesn’t, replace the cartridge, and if it happens a lot – replace your supplier.
What are some of the things your machine will do regardless of what cartridge you use? If you have one type of laser printer you will periodically need to replace your drum unit or assembly – that’s not because of a defective cartridge, it’s like replacing tires on your car… they’re not meant to last forever. The other type of laser printer has the drum built into the cartridge – this should last longer than the toner so it’s a non-issue. You will also need an occasional maintenance kit which should contain pick-up and feed rollers, possibly a transfer roller. The fuser is another thing that is not meant to last the lifetime of your printer and should at some point (after much use) be replaced – not replacing a fuser on an old and heavily used printer could cause serious damage and even start a fire. Scanners occasionally will need to be replaced – this is what puts the image on your drum so that it can be transferred to paper. NONE of these things come in contact with your toner cartridge, yet I’ve seen dishonest technicians blame the necessity for replacement on a toner cartridge. Most laser toner cartridges have a shutter which, if handled improperly, could come off inside your printer – simple fix… if you see something hanging off your cartridge DON’T INSTALL IT. Other than that, the cartridge only comes in contact with your paper, and the gears on either end of the cartridge connect to coinciding gears located inside the printer. In 20 years, and tens of thousands of cartridges, I’ve only had one printer damaged because a cartridge had a broken gear which caused it to jam the gears inside the printer and break what would be the equivalent of the printer’s transmission. Solution? we repaired the printer at no cost to the customer. Regarding your inkjet printer – well, quite frankly, there’s no drum, no fuser, no maintenance kits, there’s only the cartridges, and some inkjet printers will also require printheads. Replacing a printhead is NOT a result of using a different branded ink. True, some inks are just plain garbage and they will plug a printhead, but a well made inkjet cartridge uses the same identical type of ink used in the brand new, brand name OEM cartridges and will not ruin a printhead. For those machines with changeable printheads consult the OEM website to see how many times you’ll change your ink cartridge compared to your printhead.
Inkjet print failures and simple fixes: (note: these are typical of ALL cartridges)
- cartridge won’t print > maybe it’s empty, if not empty the printhead may be dry, follow a good support site for cleaning
- cartridge prints wrong color > if it’s a multi-color cartridge you probably used up one or more of the colors inside it
- cartridge prints white lines > something is plugging one or more of the jets, follow a good support site for cleaning
- cartridge prints thin colored streaks > ink can be sticky, there’s probably something stuck on the cartridge printhead [pet hair, dust or fuzz, lint, eyelash, etc. acting like a “Paint Brush”] follow a good support site for cleaning
If your supplier isn’t knowledgeable about such things or doesn’t offer a good online source for support, you should seriously consider a new supplier.
So, OEM vs. After-Market, who wins? A true Commercial Grade, Unconditionally Guaranteed after-market ink or toner wins by a mile, maybe more like a hundred miles, and for many reasons:
- You save money
- You have a better warranted product
- You determine what to use based on your own personal preferences
- The savings you have will most likely pay for all your maintenance AND even replacement of your printer when you’re ready for a new one
- You’re “GREEN” – you’re no longer filling the landfill with empty cartridges that can be re-used dozens of times
- And if you’ve done your homework right, you’re probably also supporting American industries who build and sell these Commercial Grade products
I’m proud to say that over the past nearly 20 years I’ve helped thousands of businesses (and individuals) save a combined MILLIONS of dollars on their printing supplies. So, whether you’re printing at home or responsible for hundreds of printers at a large corporation, you can “buy right” and save you or your company a LOT of money if you’re willing to put the effort forward to being an informed and educated Buyer.
Written by: Dan Widdis