Compatible - alternative Toners

Refilled or rebuilt? A closer look at alternatives to new toner cartridges.

Refill, rebuilt, or completely redesigned? – If the price for original toner cartridges sends shivers down your spine, you'll find that you have many options. And the wide variety of compatible toner  types and vague terminology certainly don't make it any easier for you.

Printer manufacturers have long been at war with the makers of cheap no-name printer cartridges, but they seem to be relatively relaxed when it comes to rebuilt toner cartridges. Why? People using  inkjet printers tend to be home users, while laser printerslargely remain a product for business. And the majority of business customers are tied to the original manufacturer's toners thanks to service contracts they've signed.

But if you are free to decide which toner cartridge to use in your machine, you should know that there are serious differences, especially among recycled products.

Toners: a look inside.

Toner cartridges are more expensive, but have to be replaced less frequently. This is not just because they differ from ink cartridges. The most interesting aspect with toner cartridges, including alternatives, is their combination of reusable components and replaceable wear parts. While the first can safely continue to be used, some wear-and-tear parts have to be exchanged to prevent damaging the printer. This includes drums, toner seals, and transport wheels.

The toner powder also matters: for each cartridge type, there is a specific, optimal blend precisely matched to the hardware components and only produced by a few companies worldwide.

Refill: new toner in old cartridges.

Refill toners are, as the name suggests, simply refilled again. Unfortunately, this is rarely done with toner: even if the refilling is preceded by a thorough cleaning, there is still a risk that individual parts will no longer function perfectly on the second use. After all, the recycled empty original toners are only intended for one-time use. It's also difficult to check whether refill toners really have only been refilled once and not several times.

Environmentally friendly refill toners?

The benefits of refill cartridges: the process does not require much effort and the price is therefore low compared to buying new cartridges. At the same time, the refill method protects the environment, since, ultimately, the complete cartridge is recycled.

The disadvantages: Incompatible toner powder can be a serious hazard to the printer. When it comes to refill toners and unbelievably low prices thanks to the use of cheap powder, users are not doing their equipment any favours. In addition, any damage caused by the use of refill toners is generally not covered under the manufacturer's warranty..

Refilling? Best not do it yourself.

Some people suggest that you can refill your cartridges yourself. There are complicated instructions to follow together with advice always to wear a respirator to protect yourself from inhaling the pollutants. Needless to say, you should think about the health concerns before deciding to this yourself!

Rebuilt: new parts, new toner.

Rebuilt toners take equal account of quality assurance and environmental protection: these are original cartridges from the printer manufacturer, which have not only been cleaned but also reconditioned. The largest part, the plastic shell, is retained, and the individual wear parts are replaced by new individual parts. The company rebuilding the cartridge decides which parts to replace as well as which toner powder to use.

Rebuilt toner cartridges are offered by some original manufacturers as well as other suppliers. Even when it comes to "new" original cartridges, recycled elements are sometimes used. Most rebuilt toners , however, come from third parties who process the empty originals and typically remove or obscure the original brand name on the cartridge for legal reasons.

When it comes to rebuilt products, the maker is key.

There are significant differences in the quality of recycled toners. While products from reputable suppliers are often in no way inferior to the originals and sometimes even offer more print pages than the originals, there are also some rotten apples making their way onto the market. And, as is so often the case, they initially stand out due to unrivalled low prices. It's only later that the consequences of their inferior materials become apparent with defective heating rollers, increased soiling, or poor printing results.

Another indicator of well-built rebuilt toners: reputable manufacturers will take responsibility for any damage to the printer demonstrably caused by their product!

Consumers would do well here to avoid cheap imitations from Asia. Because Asian countries don't force companies to comply with the DIN guidelines and controls prescribed in the EU, the low prices they can offer are often offset by the damage their products cause to your hardware. Patent-infringing reproductions are another problem, especially with imports from Asia. This is an offence that can have criminal consequences, and not just for the company that sells you the fake product.

Toner powder: a science in and of itself.

Toner powderis the only thing that needs to be replaced in every cartridge. If the toner is not optimally matched to the machine type, problems are inevitable: for example, incorrect toner can clump together, damage the printer roller with coarse grains, or prevent the ink particles from adhering to the paper because its melting point is too high. A non-uniform print image would actually be the least of your problems and universal toner is never a good choice.

Newly built imitation without warranty.

And finally there are the new  toner cartridges that are newly manufactured by third parties. For them, the basic rule is that it's not possible to rebuild the original cartridges without infringing a patent. Most manufacturers have protected their products and are very sensitive to counterfeiting. Companies, customs agencies, and other regulators are now taking very decisive action against toner plagiarism and counterfeit certificates of authenticity.

The consumer should also exercise great caution here – not least of all because harmful heavy metals play a major role in the production of toner cartridges.

And what do the recycled products cost?

As with recycled printer cartridges, demand determines the price.

The supply of rebuilt toner cartridges for newer laser printers is naturally low, so the prices are often only just below those of the originals. Of course, this is different for older laser printers. Here, you can expect higher savings.

Rebuilt: an optimal mix of new and recycled.

In practice, the terms refill, rebuilt, and compatible are often not uniformly applied and are sometimes even equated. A second look is therefore highly recommended: when purchasing compatible toners, always check the manufacturing process. One thing is certain: those who value both quality and sustainable production are on the safe side with a "genuine" rebuilt toner. And whether it's been re-manufactured by the original manufacturer or a reputable third-party vendor, frankly, it doesn't make much of a difference.