Article updated March 7, 2023
Inkjets. The well-kept secret that keeps the world turning, or at least keeps printers printing.
With the average US office worker going through over 10,000 sheets of paper every year, an entire industry is built on keeping your printer running.
With phrases like OEM, compatible, toner, and remanufactured, it’s easy to become confused. Isn’t ink just ink?
Yes and no.
At Inkjets.com, we’re here to help you navigate the industry because we understand how complicated and confusing all the different terminology and technology can seem.
So let’s take a look at the life cycle of an inkjet cartridge and see how we can help you get the most bang for your buck.
OEM, Remanufactured, Compatible… What does it all mean?
If you've spent any time online looking for the best prices on printer ink (and who hasn't?), then you're bound to have come across these terms.
But what do they actually mean?
If you buy OEM cartridges, you're buying a brand new cartridge that's never been used before; made and sold by the big printer companies under their brand name.
While this might seem like the obvious or convenient option, it's often the most expensive.
In fact, many consumers are surprised to discover just how much money they spend on their printing after they buy their printer. The truth is, the printer itself is often priced very low to get you in the door, with the company knowing they'll make their real money on selling you the ink long after. Customers can be misled by the low price of a printer and not realize the long-term cost associated with the printer ink.
You may think that companies like Canon and HP are in the printer business. They're actually in the ink business. And business is booming.
OEM ink cartridges can often cost as much as three times more than aftermarket options, such as compatible and remanufactured ink and toner.
So, what does it mean when you see the words 'Compatible' and 'Remanufactured' referring to ink and toner cartridges?
Compatible Ink and Toner
A compatible ink or toner cartridge is a brand new cartridge made by a company other than the one who made your printer. Though it might look slightly different than the OEM Cartridge, a compatible cartridge will fit perfectly into your printer and work just as well, if not better.
Since compatible cartridges are brand new, you can expect the same quality as an OEM cartridge but at a much lower price. In fact, compatible ink cartridges can cost up to 50% less than OEM cartridges!
Remanufactured Ink and Toner
A remanufactured (or “reman,” for short) ink or toner cartridge is a recycled OEM cartridge that has been cleaned, refilled, and tested to ensure it meets the same quality standards as a brand new OEM cartridge.
The process begins with an empty, used OEM cartridge, which is thoroughly cleaned to remove any residual ink and debris. Then, the cartridge is refilled with new ink or toner, and all moving parts are checked and replaced if necessary, including the computer chip.
After that, each cartridge undergoes a print test to ensure it meets the same standards as a brand new OEM Cartridge. If it doesn’t, it’s recycled, and the process begins again.
We’ll dive a bit deeper into this process a little bit later in the article.
You Have More Options Than You Realize
The important thing to know is that as a printer customer, you're not limited to the ink and toner options you see on the shelf at the big box store. Inkjets.com offers a huge selection of high-quality inks in our store for almost every printer available- often at enormous savings compared to the prices typically paid at the checkout of your local office supply store.
If it feels like you've been paying too much for ink, it's because you're right!
The printer companies are banking on their customers never realizing this!
Over 80% of inkjet and laser printer users pay too much for overpriced OEM ink - but they don't have to.
These costs can significantly impact the budget of small businesses, schools, or home offices- all of which are already often trying to search for the most affordable deals to save on all types of office supplies, from pens and pencils to paper types.
Many customers have found that if they shop at a traditional big box store and compare those prices with our prices, they can save over half the cost on ink just by shopping at Inkjets.com!
Once you discover the savings of shopping at Inkjets.com, you'll wish you started years earlier!
What About Quality? Is Aftermarket Ink As Good As OEM?
When sourced from a reputable reseller like InkJets.com, a compatible or remanufactured cartridge is guaranteed to meet or exceed the quality of the OEM cartridge, but will cost you a lot less.
How is this possible? The answer is simple: economies of scale.
The top compatible ink manufacturers have invested millions of dollars into research and development to create their own formulas for inks and toners that match those used by the OEMs.
They also purchase high-end equipment to manufacture their products in bulk, which drives down the per unit cost. When large ink dealers like InkJets.com do business with these cartridge manufacturers, we make large volume purchases for even greater savings, and are able to pass those significant savings on to our valued customers.
Why buy from Inkjets.com?
We can't speak to the quality of all third-party compatible printer ink and toner products offered elsewhere. As with any industry, a wide variety of products are offered for sale online that look similar but have very different levels of quality.
However, we take quality extremely seriously. We only deal with the top compatible and remanufactured cartridge manufacturers in the business and make sure each and every batch of ink and toner that comes into our facility has been tested to ensure it meets our high standards for printing quality.
From the quality of the ink to the mechanics of the cartridges and electronic chips, the level of precision and attention to detail in the compatible cartridges we sell is equal to or greater than that of the big printer companies.
This is why we can confidently offer our 100% satisfaction guarantee to our customers. If you have any issues or are unsatisfied in any way with your purchase of a compatible or remanufactured cartridge from InkJets.com, simply return it for your choice of a replacement or full refund of the purchase price.
So now you know a bit about the different types of options that are available to the ink consumer.
You're sure to be the hit of the next party when you start pontificating about the pros and cons of graphics professionals using compatible printer toner cartridges vs. the merits of reman ink in laser printers and inkjets printers.
To REALLY impress with your aftermarket ink know-how, let's take a closer look at--
The Life Cycle Of A Remanufactured Ink Cartridge
OEM Inkjets Are Recycled
Just like many other consumables like glass jars and cardboard boxes, your used ink cartridges are recyclable. However, it's not just the plastic material that can be used again and turned into something different. In the case of ink cartridges, they can be cleaned, refilled, and reused again.
When you're finished using an inkjet, and it's time to get rid of it, the first step in the recycling process is to take it to a center that accepts ink cartridges for recycling. Once there, the cartridge is placed in a dedicated container where it will be taken to a specialized facility to be dismantled.
The Recycling Process
Special remanufacturing companies begin the simple but intensive process of using the empty inkjets to their fullest potential, being recycled for more cost-effective imaging solutions.
If you’re looking for places that recycle your inkjets, check out Earth 911.
Inkjets are received from recycling locations and are stored, sorted, and inspected for damages
When the remanufacturing company receives recycled inkjets, their first task is to visually inspect them and confirm that they are usable and in proper condition to be remanufactured.
This is a crucial step in the life of a reman inkjet because it is where high-quality control standards really begin. Issues like leaks, broken parts, and wear-and-tear that make inkjets unusable are not uncommon, and those cartridges must be rejected.
This step cannot be overlooked in an industry with quality control as bread and butter.
Step 1. The remaining ink is emptied
If an inkjet is deemed suitable to be remanufactured, it is then emptied of leftover ink. This is where the complexity of inkjet remanufacturing begins. Inkjets are highly intricate machines, and the process of emptying them is no simple task. Specialized machines are used to remove the remaining ink from the cartridge. Strict safety protocols are in place to protect workers from being exposed to the ink and other chemicals used in the cartridge.
Step 2. Inkjets are cleaned and dried
Remanufacturing companies then use demineralized water to thoroughly clean each individual inkjet. They use custom-designed machines to ensure the cartridges are cleaned to the best possible level.
After the inkjet is cleaned, it must be dried completely to prevent mold or other bacteria from growing inside the cartridge. The inkjet is placed in a drying oven, where it is heated to high temperatures until all moisture is eliminated.
Steps 3. Each inkjet is filled with new ink
Then, each inkjet is filled with ink to exact OEM specifications. The ink used is not the exact same as OEM inks, but it is formulated to be as similar as possible without infringing on any patents or intellectual property. Often, remanufactured ink cartridges are filled with more ink than the OEM versions, which is one of the reasons they are so popular among consumers.
Step 4. The inkjet is reassembled and fitted with new electronics
After being reassembled, the inkjet cartridge is given a new electronic chip. The technology and electronics that are used in this step are critical to ensuring that they work properly with your printer. This crucial step can be the difference between poor-quality products that don't work and high-quality products that won't fail.
The remanufactured inkjet is now one step closer to being in the hands of a customer.
Step 5. The inkjets are sealed and checked
The inkjet is almost complete; it just has to be sealed to prevent leaking and tested to ensure it has the correct ink pressure levels. Without proper pressurization, the inkjet would not be capable of applying ink to paper.
Step 6. Inkjets are tested for page yield
Now that the inkjet has been reassembled and pressurized, it is ready to be tested for quality. The rigorous testing ensures that the page yield and quality meet or exceed OEM standards.
Companies use ISO/IEC 24712 standards to test the inkjets for quality. These are the industry-wide standards. The process is intense and uses multiple test pages and printers to ensure that you receive a product of exceptional quality.
Step 7. Inkjets are cleaned, polished, heat-sealed in a bag, and boxed
If it passes its final exam, the inkjet is prepped to show up on our shelves, and ultimately at your doorstep. It is cleaned, polished, and heat-sealed in a bag. Quality packaging is important to ensuring that no moisture or contaminants compromise your inkjet cartridge.
Step 8. It is shipped to the consumer or seller for use in their inkjet printers
Now the fun part is when we at Inkjets.com receive remans from manufacturers and ship them to you to start printing!
With your completely armed and operational printer cartridge, you are ready to print. Whether for your home, office, school, angry letters, or pictures, inkjets.com has got your back, saving you money and helping reduce your environmental impact.
Step 9. Recycled Again
Hopefully, you don’t stop the cycle at Step 8; instead, pay it forward by recycling your remanufactured inkjet to be reused again and again.
Don't Just Ink About It. Jump On The Ink Train!
Now, with an understanding of the lifecycle of a reman inkjet, you’re ready to make your way in the world. Or at least the printing world.
At Inkjets.com, we’ve spent over 20 years showing our valued customers that we are committed to providing the best quality information, inkjets, and service around. If you have any questions about remanufactured inkjets or anything else, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We would be more than happy to help you on your journey towards saving money and the environment.
Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you back here at Inkjets.com soon!