Cartridges and Printing Terminology: All You Need to Know

Looking for a printer cartridge guide that will help you get the most bang for your buck? You’ve come to the right place! We review all factors that are critical in choosing the best printer cartridge.

From the black and colour page yields to the cartridge quality and whether it supports third-party cartridges, there is a lot to consider. We also assess whether the printer uses picture cartridges, the number of colour cartridges it consumes, whether high-yield cartridges are available, whether a drum unit needs to be replaced, and many other factors.

What Are Printer Cartridges?

An ink cartridge, also known as an inkjet cartridge, is the part of the printer that holds the ink that is used to print on paper. Each ink cartridge has one or more ink reservoirs. Some may also have electronic contacts and a chip that communicates with the printer.

Printer cartridges are one of the most widely used technologies nowadays. Despite efforts by the environmental movement to eliminate the print cartridge for good, this technology is more powerful than ever. Traditional ink and toner cartridges are still here to stay for a while, as evidenced by the growth in popularity of refillable, cartridge-free supertank printers.

Types of Ink Cartridges

There are 3 main types of ink cartridges. These include inkjet cartridges, laser cartridges and photo cartridges. Because inkjet and laser printers utilize different types of ink, their cartridges are different, but the function is the same: to provide the ink needed for printing. Here is more:

• Inkjet Cartridges

Inkjet printers employ a printhead with a series of small nozzles to spray pigment-based ink droplets onto paper. When an electric current travels through the cartridge, little resistors heat up, causing the ink to evaporate. A tiny bubble is created, which forces the ink out the nozzle and onto the paper.

SuperTank printers work in the same mechanism but are one-of-a-kind because they do not use disposable cartridges. Instead, they typically use high-capacity ink bottles to fill the ink tanks. It’s a little more work than simply replacing a cartridge or toner, but it saves money and eliminates waste.

• Laser Cartridges

They are used in laser printers whereby a laser beam is used to trace text or images onto the negatively charged surface of the photosensitive drum unit. Only the regions that are illuminated by the laser are free of charge. The toner, an ink with fine powder sticks onto the drum’s non-charged areas.

This toner is transferred to a sheet of paper by the drum, and the paper is subsequently heated by fuser rolls. The rolls heat the toner, an action that fuses the toner to the paper permanently.

• Photo Cartridges

A picture cartridge is designed to improve the quality of photo printing. Although most consumer photo printers only use one “photo black” cartridge, there are various options. If you value the ease of being able to print images at home, consider if the printer you’re considering uses photo cartridges.

Where Did Ink Come From? – Ink’s (Very) Brief History

Ink was invented so that man may write down his thoughts and ideas. It began in a very primitive way, as sooty paintings found on cave walls. Indeed, the ink has come a long way. In the 4th century BC, Indians began producing ink made pitch, charred bones, and tar. The ink was also employed by ancient Chinese civilizations, with evidence reaching back to 256 BC. Here, they used fish glue to make the first Chinese inks.

In the 21st century, blank ink has dominated the printing world. It is made from carbon black, and the process of manufacturing ink gets complex as days go by. Currently, most if not all types of printer models have their own unique set of ink and toner cartridges. HP, a leading printer manufacturer claims to spend around 1 billion euros per year on ink and toner research and development.

How Is Printer Ink Produced?

Printer ink is created in the same way that paint is. Coloured dyes are blended thoroughly with a liquid base. Oil is commonly used as the base ingredient in printer ink, whether it’s linseed oil, soybean oil, or petroleum distillate. Basic black ink is made by combining carbon black and varnish.

To make other colours, different compounds/dyes are used. These colours come from products like phthalocyanine green, diarylide orange, yellow lake and peacock blue dyes. Lastly, white pigments, such as titanium dioxide, are used to change the colour shading.

For printer ink to flow effectively, it contains additives called dispersants. Other additional additives help the ink stick to the paper and are known as resins. Some other vital ingredients include humectants which help to keep ink fresh, defoamers to keep out undesirable air bubbles, and biocides and bacteriostats to prevent bacteria and fungal growth. Inks with specialized components provide more gloss, depth, and heat or water resistance properties.

Different Types Of Printer Ink

Inks used in standard desktop inkjet printers are produced using water, dyes or pigments, and additives. These are water-based inks and are used in thermal inkjet printers. The higher the quality of ink, the more additives to help with fade resistance, water-resistance and lustre. Such additives also help the ink stick to the paper.

Inks vary depending on whether they are made for piezoelectric printers or thermal inkjets. Further than this, ink formulations differ from manufacturer to manufacturer and even model to model.

The 4 colour cartridges that most printer owners will need to replace are black (K), yellow (Y), blue (C), and red (M). With that in mind, avoid printers that use tri-colour cartridges that are all-in-one. This is because when only one colour goes out, you waste ink. After all, you have to change the entire cartridge.

To get the maximum performance out of your printer, stick with authentic OEM inks. OEM ink and toner cartridges produce more pages per unit of time than compatible and remanufactured cartridges, thus they last longer.

Why Is Printer Ink So Expensive in Comparison to Other Ink Types?

Did you know that printers are frequently sold at or below cost? Well, if you don’t, now you do. Manufacturers sell at or below cost with the expectation that you will spend more money on ink or toner during the printer’s lifetime. As such, one of the reasons why printer ink is so expensive is so that printer manufacturers can recuperate some of the losses they suffer in the first place by selling you the printer.

If you wondered why printers are usually cheap, whereas ink and toner are expensive, now you know. At the moment, a gallon of printer ink costs almost 9,400 € The big name-brand printers have complete control over the market and set the prices. More so, ink and toner are in high demand all of the time which explains why each year, more than 20 billion euros in ink is consumed around the world.

How Printers Use Ink

Canon, Lexmark and Hewlett-Packard all use the thermal inkjet process in their inkjet printers. In this process, the print cartridges are made up of a succession of tiny chambers, each with its heating element. When the printer is in use, this element is heated by an electrical current, causing the ink to bubble within the chamber.

The increase in pressure causes ink droplets to be propelled onto the paper. To print using an inkjet printer, you’ll need four different ink cartridges: black, yellow, magenta and cyan. Some printers, such as those made by Brother and Epson utilize piezoelectric material rather than a heating element.

When the printer is in use, an electric current is used to change the shape of the piezoelectric material. This results in a pressure pulse that propels a droplet of ink from the nozzle. Note that thermal inkjets can only utilize a limited number of inks, whereas piezoelectric inkjets can use a wider range of inks. Remember to always clean your print heads regardless of whatever printer you use.

How to Extend the Life of Your Ink Cartridge

Due to infrequent use, ink cartridge heads can dry out. To prevent ink cartridges from drying out and/or clogging, printer owners are urged to do regular ink tests.

Some fonts use up more ink than others. In terms of ink and toner consumption, Times New Roman, Courier, and Garamond are good choices, whereas Arial depletes ink and toner cartridges far faster.

It’s worth noting that in some research tests, some ink cartridges were discovered to have nearly half of their ink supply remaining yet the printer continued to emit ‘low ink’ alerts. According to a 2007 survey, most printers waste a large amount of ink when they declare that a cartridge is empty. On average, up to 20% of ink is left in single-ink cartridges.

Changing the print mode can also help you save money. There are various options accessible in the print window that appears on your computer screen. Look for “draft,” “grayscale,” or other ink-saving choices. Final copies and objects to be presented in professional settings should get the greatest printing but there’s no point in wasting ink on an internal copy that will be lost in the files.

Keeping an Eye on Your Ink Levels

You may obtain a good idea of your ink supply by going to a tab under hardware, or the devices and printers link from the control panel. Here, there is generally an option to find ink levels, depending on whether you are an Apple or Windows user. In addition, most printers have a display panel that shows how low your ink supply is. Again, the visual may indicate that you are low on ink, or even ‘dangerously low,’ but you will be able to print many more pages before any evidence of low ink appears in your output.

Before you say ‘uncle’ and replace the cartridges, it’s worth the extra effort to take the cartridge from the printer and give it a little rock back and forth to get as much ink as possible to the bottom. This will frequently balance out the residual ink and help to extend the printing life.

How To Check Ink Levels On An HP Printer

The HP Smart app is available online for Windows 10, Android, and iOS. Install the app and go to Printer/Supply levels to see how much ink and toner you still have.

How To Check Ink Levels On A Brother Printer

The Status Monitor app is an app that monitors the state of affairs in the printer and is included with most Brother printers, along with the printer drivers and other software. The Status Monitor is located on the taskbar or menu bar of your computer. Simply click it to see how much ink is left in your cartridge.

The ink levels can also be checked on the front control panel of your Brother printer. Click the Ink Management key, then use the arrow keys to scroll up or down until you find Ink Volume, then press Ok. You may then select exit or stop to go back to the main menu.

The Brother ‘Electrical Tape’ Trick

Some sensors run the length of the housings on some Brother printer ink cartridges. These appear to be small holes in an otherwise strong design. Such a sensor informs the printer that it is out of ink. As such, the printer will not work until this sensor is off.

A simple method involving electrical tape will help you get more ink out of Brother cartridges. Cover the cartridge sensor with a thin piece of tape. From here, activate the printer and check to see if the toner level is recognized. Some Brother printers respond to this trick so give it a shot and see whether it works for you.

How To Recycle Printer Ink Cartridges

You should discard your printer cartridge once it is empty. However, empty cartridges in landfills take hundreds of years to degrade, whereas recycled ink cartridges may be refilled and reused. Nonetheless, there is a way to recycle disposable cartridges. You’ll be glad to find out that there are creatives, such as the Lousy Ink company where they make artists’ ink out of used printer cartridges.

HP also recycles old water bottles and converts them into printer cartridges. Asphalt is also being made from old toner! It’s fantastic! We advocate that old printer cartridges be reduced, reused, and recycled!

If you want to be part of the movement, cartridge recycling programs are available from all of the major printer manufacturers, allowing you to send your empty cartridges back for free. Most towns also provide a Hazardous Waste Collection Day where you can recycle potentially hazardous household items, as well as empty ink and toner cartridges.

Is It Possible to Make Money off of Empty Ink Cartridges?

Not enough to retire on, but a few dollars. While we advise against refilling ink cartridges, that doesn’t mean you can’t sell your empty cartridges to someone who wants to try it. Sell your empties on eBay in groups of 6 or 12. Use the phrase “virgin” in your title and description if your empties have never been refilled before; you’ll get more money for them.

Wind Up

With this, you now have all you need to know all there is about cartridges and printing. You can now shop for the best printer, cartridge and even know how to operate your printing business more efficiently!

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