Friday, January 15, 2010

OEM, Compatible, Reman: What Makes the Difference

Today’s market is teeming with different types and brands of printer cartridges. Indeed, one cannot blame consumers who would often find themselves unable to decide on which type or brand of printer cartridge they should get for their printers.

Consider the scenario in which you own a printer and you have just discovered that you had run out of ink or toner. What will you do? You would probably say “I’ll just remove the empty cartridge and replace it with new ones.” Well, you better think again. Try going to a physical or online store and you’ll see that there’s more to printer cartridges than meets the eye.

A visit to the local computer or online store will make your realize that there are different types of printer cartridges available in the market. To help ensure that you are making the right ink or toner cartridge for your printer, it is important to know that there are three types of printer cartridges in the market today namely OEM, compatible and remanufactured printer cartridges.

OEM Cartridges

OEM is short for Original Equipment Manufacturer. These are what you would call as genuine or original because they are made by printer manufacturers themselves. For example, HP OEM toner cartridges are manufactured by HP for use in specific HP printer, fax, or copier models.

The main advantage of purchasing OEM printer cartridges is you get exactly the same cartridge as the one you got with your printer. This assures that you get a printer cartridge that will surely work with your printer and that you will get exactly the same print quality as you did when you first used your printer.

However, buying OEM printer cartridges can also be disadvantageous because they are the most expensive in the market. In fact, it may cost you more to buy replacement OEM printer cartridges than to get a new printer. Printer manufacturers justify the costs of OEM cartridges by citing that they have invested heavily on technical know-how, expert manpower and technologies to produce high quality printer cartridges.

Compatible Cartridges

If OEM printer cartridges are genuine and original, compatible printer cartridges are their “off-brand” or “generic” counterparts. This is because compatible printer cartridges are manufactured by third-party companies that do not manufacture printers. For example, Fullmark, TonerBoss and Color Toner Expert are three of the trusted compatible printer cartridge manufacturers but they do not manufacture or produce printers, they only manufacture and sell ink and toner cartridges.

The main advantage of compatible printer cartridges is that although they are brand-new, they are cheaper than OEM cartridges. You can save up to 50% (or even more) when you use compatible cartridges instead of OEM. The price difference does not affect the high quality of compatible printer cartridges. Compatible printer cartridges are not just imitations of the original cartridges. In fact, they have different designs to avoid any copyright issues with printer manufacturers. In spite of this difference, users are assured that compatible printer cartridges are 100% compatible to the printer model in its box or label.

Third-party manufacturers assure consumers that their compatible printer cartridge products are fully compatible with the printer brand or model. This is because there are cases wherein printer models of different brands are manufactured using the same equipment, process or engine. For example, the early models of HP LaserJet printers were produced using the same engine, process or devices as Canon does. This means that some HP and Canon printer cartridges may be compatible and can be used in place of one another. The same is true for third-party manufacturers who produce compatible printer cartridges. They make use of the same engine, processes and devices as some of those used by printer manufacturers so the OEM cartridges and compatible cartrdiges are relatively the same except for the brand and packaging.

In general, compatible printer cartridges give the same print quality as OEM cartridges do. However, one disadvantage to this is that the print quality may vary from one manufacturer to another. Also, some manufacturers do not have standardized quality control measures particularly on sealing the cartridge shell. In some cases, there are certain brands of compatible cartridges that spill toner or ink so the printout exhibits minor differences in color and print quality.

With compatible printer cartridges, it is important to have a keen eye for a brand that you can trust.

Remanufactured Cartridges

Remanufactured cartridges are used cartridges that have been cleaned and refilled with toner or ink for reuse. Only the parts or components that are no longer fit for reuse are chnaged.

The main advantage of remanufactured printer cartridges is that these have been remanufactured and produced to give cheaper alternatives for printer brands like HP, Epson, Lexmark, and Okidata which cannot use compatible printer cartridges for legal reasons. Also, these printer manufacturers are known to produce printer cartridges that have complex design. All the printing technology and components like the print head are built within the printer cartridge instead of installing them as parts of the printer. These complex design and technology are copyrighted and cannot be copied or imitated legally.

Patronizing remanufactured printer cartridges also allow you to contribute to the conservation of the environment and to decreasing waste volumes especially in landfills. Instead of throwing away empty or used cartridges, these are refilled for reuse.

However, the main disadvantage of remanufactured cartridges is that they cannot be mass-produced. The volume of remanufactured printer cartridges in the market is determined by the number of re-usable empty or used cartridges. Admittedly, this is not a main problem right now since there are thousands of used printer cartridges being discarded annually.

Just like compatible printer cartridges, the quality of remanufactured printer cartridges depends on the manufacturer. Some manufacturers would just drill a hole and refill it with ink or toner. Although the drilled hole is covered and sealed, some manufacturers do not make use of efficient quality and reliability measures so that the print quality and overall quality of the cartridge suffers. Most of today’s printer cartridge remanufacturers (e.g. Toner for Earth) observe a full quality control process for every stage of production such as cleaning, refilling, reassembling and testing of the end products.

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