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Ink cartridges and how we use them

Jul 12, 2008
An ink cartridge is a changeable component of an ink jet printer. It contains the ink that is spread on paper during printing and sometimes the print-head itself. Each ink cartridge contains one or more partitioned ink reservoirs and certain manufacturers also add electronic contacts and a chip that communicates with the printer.

Before printing anything, the ink level must be checked. If it is too low, ink may dry on the print head and lead to low quality prints. The ink must have a smooth flow in order to produce high quality prints. To clean the dried ink from the print head, it is strongly advised to gently rub the head with isopropyl alcohol on a swab or paper towel.

In most cases, ink cartridges are very expensive. Many people prefer to use compatible ink cartridges, made by a company other than the printer manufacturer. These cartridges can sometimes match the quality, but with possible savings. Another alternative involves some modifications to allow the use of continuous ink systems that use external ink tanks. Some people even choose to use aftermarket inks. They can refill their own ink cartridge, buy aftermarket remanufactured brands, or even take them to a local refiller to refill them.

Consumers are often surprised at the price of replacing their printer cartridges, especially when compared with that of purchasing a brand new printer. The major printer manufacturers, Hewlett Packard, Lexmark, Dell, Canon, Epson and Brother often break even or loose money selling printers, and expect to recoup their losses by selling expensive cartridges over the life span of the printer. Since much of the printer manufacturer's profits are made up of ink and toner cartridge sales, some of these companies have taken various actions against aftermarket cartridges. Sometimes, even legal action was taken.

Many consumers opt to have their cartridges refilled or purchased remanufactured cartridges from third parties to save money over buying new cartridges. This is much cheaper (as you need only buy the ink and some other small raw materials), and a whole industry has grown up around this idea. There are several qualities and types of refilling, some of them being safe and successful, while other types can ruin the printer and/or give bad quality prints. Options include taking empty cartridges to "refillers" or "remanufacturers" who pump in new ink, and buying store-branded ink.

Another option is for the consumer to refill the cartridges. Instructions for most cartridges are available on the web, as well as sources who sell "bulk ink" in pints, quarts, and even gallons. This can be extremely cost effective if the consumer is a heavy user of cartridges. One pint (473 ml) is sufficient ink to fill approximately 15 to 17 large cartridges of a typical 27 ml capacity. At the price of an original cartridge, you can buy at least one pint of ink.

Generally speaking, Brother, Canon, Dell, HP, and Lexmark cartridges are not difficult to refill (sometimes a syringe and ink are enough), while Epson cartridges usually require the additional purchase of a chip resetter to reset the counter chip inherent in the Epson cartridges. However, since it involves handling ink, the refill process can be inherently messy until some experience has been acquired.

Laser/toner cartridges labeled as "compatible" are often refilled cartridges. Many third parties offer newly manufactured cartridges. Ink cartridges labeled as "compatible" are all newly produced. "Remanufactured" inkjet cartridges have been used previously and refilled by a third party so caution is advised when buying them. These cartridges may not work like new ones.
About the Author
Andrew James can provide a great deal of interesting content relating to ink cartridges as well as information relating to other topics to do with printing supplies including inkjet cartridges
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