|This article needs to be updated. (October 2012)|
Compatible ink (or compatible toner) is manufactured by third party manufacturers and is designed to work in designated printers without infringing on patents of printer manufacturers. Compatible inks and toners may come in a variety of packaging including sealed plastic wraps or taped plastic wraps. Regardless of packaging, compatible products are generally priced lower than original equipment manufacturer (OEM) brand inks and toners.
While there has been considerable debate and litigation involving the ink and toner patents of printer manufacturers, third party manufacturers continue to thrive. Manufacturers of compatible ink and toner products currently control about 25% the ink and toner market well over $8 Billion annually.
Compatible ink is manufactured for several types of machines including fax machines, laser printers, inkjet printers, multifunction printers, and copiers. Aside from compatible products, three other sources of consumables are also available to supply these machines, including OEM brand ink and toner, remanufactured toner and ink cartridges, and refilled ink and toner cartridges. Compatible ink manufacturers differentiate their product by using all new parts, whereas other ink replacements recycle used OEM parts.
Comparison of performance, quality and reliability
The performance of a printer cartridge needs to be measured by parameters like:
- mechanism of printing (toner and ink-jet) which impacts the resolution and print-rate,
- print quality, the percentage of useful pages (standard required e.g. business use) printed by the cartridge.
- page yield (number of pages printed per cartridge)
- printer compatibility etc.
A comparison between OEM and compatible cartridges for a specific printer needs to take into account the above parameters. For example, a remanufactured cartridge may for example be purchased cheaper, but may not print out as many useful pages. Reliability and consistency associated with an OEM cartidge may be more important than price, for example, when printing output for important business.
One independent test in 2004 on using a compatible ink for one type of printer showed little or no difference in quality between the compatible and OEM products.
A 2007 study, commissioned by Hewlett-Packard, and designed to test the quality and reliability of a Hewlett-Packard toner cartridge compared to 9 brands of remanufactured cartridges, showed that the OEM cartridges significantly outperformed the remanufactured ones in both quality and reliability. The study reported that there were no reliability failures of the OEM cartridges, while reporting that the remanufactured cartridges exhibited 28 reliability failures out of 108 cartridges tested. Of the remanufactured cartridges, the study reported that 9 failed to work at all or failed prematurely and 19 had 50% or more pages of limited or no use. The study additionally reported that OEM cartridges printed an average of 95% of sample pages categorized as "acceptable for all uses", compared to only 70% for the average of the remanufactured brands.
- Epson Files Lawsuit Against 123inkjets.com, PrintPal.com, Supermedia.com, & leading Distributor, 2007, (June)
- Rivals Say HP Is Using Hardball Tactics. Business Week, 2007, (February)
- Ink Inc. San Francisco Chronicle 2004, (July)
- Sahil Sahni 1 , Avid Boustani 1 , Timothy Gutowski, Steven Graves (2010-01-28). Cartridge Remanufacturing and Energy Savings (PDF). Environmentally Benign Laboratory Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity Sloan School of Management.
- "Media Sciences Accelerated Test Xerox Phaser 8200 Ink Sticks" (PDF). Industry Analysts, Inc. April 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 28, 2007. Retrieved 2014-07-02.
- Reliablilty Comparison Study: HP Laserjet 10A toner cartridges vs. North American remanufactured brands. (PDF). QualityLogic. November 2007.