Ever wanted to know how the big boys make remanufactured inkjet cartridges? Read on and I'll give you a quick outline of what you actually get when you buy a remanufactured inkjet cartridge.
The first thing to realize is that refillers, or Remanufacturers only remanufacture inkjet cartridges that contain a print head. Those include Hewlett Packard and Lexmark. All the others are variations of the aforementioned cartridges. This is because the generic or compatible cartridges for the others, Canon, Epson etc., are very cheap and they could not make a profit by remanufacturing them.
Step 1. The Empties Search.
In order to remanufacture an inkjet cartridge you must first have the empty one to refill. When a new printer using a new cartridge is introduced it may take several months if not years for the empty cartridges to become available in the quantity that warrants the refiller to make the investment to tool up for remanufacture. As of this date a very popular HP cartridge that was on the market for over a year is still very scarce as remanufactured. A very popular Lexmark cartridge, the 12A1970 cartridge is almost impossible to locate because Lexmark is buying them back, but these are articles unto themselves.
The inkjet cartridge remanufacturer carefully inspects the cartridges for
blemishes and for evidence that is has been previously refilled. They must be "virgin" cartridges (never refilled) or they won't get refilled. (By most scrupulous remanufactures)
Next the cartridges are electrically tested using sophisticated electronic
equipment that tests the print heads and related electronics. This will be a 100% pass/fail test. No in betweens here. Anything under 100% gets tossed.
Step 2. Cleaning.
Each cartridge is cleaned ultrasonically inside and out. All remaining ink is thoroughly flushed from the cartridge and they are bathed in a cleaning solvent.
Step 3. Refilling.
Here is where to pros are separated from the hobbyist. To properly refill a cartridge there must be a measurable balance between ink flow, vacuum and pressure. Very expensive refilling machines are needed to accomplish this task properly. The machine will have the capacity to refill many cartridges at the same time. The cartridges get snapped in place and when all the gizmos are set properly they all get filled at the same time.
Step 4. Resealing.
After the cartridges are filled with ink, certain ones must be resealed. Clever techniques are used here so you can't tell that is was refilled. I can show you but then I'd have to..... well you get the picture.
Step 5. Testing.
This stage requires several tests and refillers will not always take them in
the same order so I'll just tell you the ones I know about. Print tests are done by either using a regular inkjet printer designed to use that cartridge. A test pattern of some sort will gauge the quality of the printout. Other refillers use a fancy machine that prints out a test strip that checks to make sure all the nozzles are firing properly.
Some remanufactures use equipment that test for altitude pressure. If the pressure in a cartridge gets too high during shipment the cartridge will leak.
Step 6. Packaging.
The cartridges are physically inspected once more. The print heads are
professionally taped using a machine that applies tape to the heads with the exact pressure necessary. This is not guess work. Print head sealing tape applied the wrong way may damage the cartridge.
The cartridges are then sealed in bags, some remanufactures vacuum seal the bags, others do not. Actually I have not seen any difference in performance using either method.
Lastly they are put in pretty boxes and stored in an upright position with the print heads pointing down. This is important because if the cartridges are laid on their sides it's possible that they can loose their prime. This is why so many inkjet cartridges with print heads don't work when they are shipped through the mail.
Note. I am not a professional refiller. I am writing this article based on information that I collected from many different areas. If there are any professional refillers reading this I would love to hear your comments.
to save a bundle on ink.