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That is the Question!

Even with toner cartridges, you have options.  As a consumer you can choose to buy a new, compatible or remanufactured cartridge.  So many choices for a seemingly inconsequential piece of plastic, components and gears!  Long gone are the days where your only option is the expensive new or OEM toner cartridge (Original Equipment Manufacturer).  Companies that remanufacture or produce compatibles emerged committed to producing a product that had the same quality and defective rate of OEM cartridges at a much lower cost to the consumer.

New or OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) toner cartridges are produced by the same company that manufactured the printer.  Such companies are HP, Lexmark, Canon and Brother.  They use all new components but up to 10% of the cartridge can be made from recycled product (typically the plastic shell of the cartridge contains recycled plastic).  The Federal Government mandates that at least 90% of the cartridge has to be brand new to be considered new.  This definition of “new” allows OEM manufacturers to produce a lower cost product and claim that they fall in line with the “green” or environmental movement.  New product does have a low defect rate (<1%) because the shell and component parts were specifically designed to work together, however you are paying up to 50% more for that claim.  There are many reputable remanufacturing companies that have produced a product with the same defect rate.

Compatible toner cartridges are new cartridges made by a third party unrelated to the original manufacturer.  These companies adhere to the same standards as OEM cartridges which include all new component parts/shell with no more than 90% of the cartridge being recycled.  These cartridges do not carry the brand name however they have similar defect rates to new cartridges.  The cost can be significantly less than brand name toner cartridges because they do not carry the brand name and components may be less expensive.

There isn’t one definition for a remanufactured toner cartridge.  How a remanufactured cartridge is made depends on the company remanufacturing it and their integrity.  A good remanufacturing company will use an empty toner that has only been through its original or OEM cycle.  That empty will be stripped of its consumable parts which are the drum, mag roller and wiper blade.  These parts will be replaced with new component parts, the cartridge will be cleaned of any old toner to limit cross contamination of toners which can produce print problems, filled with new toner specifically formulated to work with that cartridge and will be post tested for quality.  There are less reputable companies that still “drill and fill” which is taking any empty, regardless of how many cycles the cartridge has been through, not replacing its component parts or cleaning the cartridge, then filling it with toner.  It is a very cheap way to produce a cartridge and they are not to be confused with remanufactured cartridges, which is why you as the consumer need to be prepared to ask questions when purchasing a remanufactured toner cartridge.  Your documents and time are too important not to. 

There are so many options when it comes to making a toner cartridge purchase.  Nowadays, you can buy a quality remanufactured or compatible product for up to 50% less than New or OEM product.  The drill and fill companies have tarnished a very good remanufacturing industry.  All you need to do is ask questions when making your purchase and you too can save a lot of money without sacrificing quality.

Article Written by Kristi Remick
Advantage Laser Products, Inc.
May 24, 2006