by Luke Goldberg
Ever since the first toner cartridge was remanufactured back in the 1980s, OEMs have been disparaging the quality of aftermarket cartridges. And while in those early days they were probably right to do so, times have changed and today’s remanufactured cartridges — some of them anyway — can be a quality alternative to the OEM.
While aftermarket manufacturers have been making claims of quality for years, they have typically sold their products on a combination platform of lower price, environmental responsibility and “good enough” quality. Although the industry quickly moved on from the drill-and-fill methods of its earliest years, remanufacturing techniques had a long way to go before they could begin to make claims of equal quality to OEM products.
Even once remanufacturing techniques began to improve and aftermarket companies could begin to make those quality claims, the OEMs were working hard to prove the opposite. Tests from various firms found varying degrees of quality, and while some brands were of inferior quality, others were not — yet the OEMs used those less favorable results to paint the entire industry with negative implications.
The company I work for has long been dedicated to quality remanufacturing. We continually invest in our engineering infrastructure to be able to build automated and robotic solutions to our process wherever possible in an effort to mitigate human error and to produce products that meet OEM standards In some cases we also have invested in patented technologies and processes that allow us to overcome challenges posed by OEM technologies. In addition, we perform an arduous battery of testing that includes OEM benchmarking, rigorous component and raw material testing, environmental chamber testing, pre- and post-production testing and a centralized quality monitoring system to ensure consistent quality and performance.
It’s one thing to talk about quality, but it’s another thing to prove it, and so we recently put our money where our mouth is by commissioning an independent third-party testing lab to benchmark three of our cartridges against three HP cartridges — specifically in the HP Color LaserJet M651 printer, the HP LaserJet M402n printer, and the HP LaserJet P3015 printer. Until now, all such testing has been commissioned by the OEMs — this is the first time that we know of that an aftermarket company has spent the money on such testing. The results speak for themselves.
A total of 72 cartridges were tested on six printers (with three printers dedicated to each brand to eliminate cross contamination). The results showed that the remanufactured cartridges were on par with the original HP cartridges in terms of reliability. In BLI’s testing, all cartridge sets from both manufacturers achieved full rated yield and completed testing with no failures of any kind.
To summarize the results of the testing from BLI, all the remanufactured cartridges tested met or exceeded OEM stated yield, there were zero out of box failures, there were zero midlife failures, and print quality was highly comparable to the OEM units tested. We believe that these results further corroborate what we have been claiming for some time; that it is possible for remanufactured cartridges to provide a real alternative to the OEM in terms of value, reliability, and quality.
BLI tested the cartridges using the ISO 24712 test target. The ISO, or International Organization for Standards, is an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 163 national standards bodies. Specifically, ISO/IEC 24712:2007 “defines color test pages for the measurement of consumable yield. The test page suite includes four "customer" type documents and one "diagnostic" page that is used to determine end of ink or toner consumable life. These pages can be used for electrophotographic, inkjet printers and multi-function devices that have a digital printing path, i.e., an all-in-one electrophotographic machine that has digital printing capabilities.” Learn more about this specific ISO test here.
Even more than 30 years after the first cartridge was refilled, the aftermarket has a way to go to be viewed as a viable competitor. But, we’ve made great strides in closing the gap. While it is true that not all brands of remanufactured cartridges perform at a comparable level to the OEM, some now do — and there is a study now to prove it.