Toner refill

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Color Toner refill

Toner refilling is the practice of refilling empty laser printer toner cartridges with new toner powder. This enables the cartridge to be reused, saving the cost of a complete new cartridge and the impact of the waste and disposal of the old one.


While toner cartridges are commonly refilled with results reported to be very good, in at least some cases refilling without full remanufacturing may never leave waste toner from each print and paper debris in the cartridge, potentially causing backgrounding problems and producing contamination in the refilled cartridge. [1]

The U.S. patent for the "Refillable toner cartridge" was issued to Fred Keen on March 28, 1989. [2]

Refilling methods

There are several different methods for refilling cartridges:

Refilling and reuse by the end userThis is normally done by use of a DIY laser toner refill kit that includes a supply of compatible toner, reset chips where required, and instructions for the process of refilling. There are various types of toner powder, and many DIY toner refill products are available either online from ecommerce suppliers or through specialist retail stores.
Refilling and resale by the original manufacturerIt is common for toner cartridges to be sold with reply paid labels enabling them to be returned to the manufacturer for recycling and reuse.
Refilling and resale by a third partyMany independent companies that sell toner cartridges refill and reuse the original manufacturer's cartridges which they typically obtain from recycling companies. This is generally considered legitimate if the original manufacturer's branding is removed from the recycled product.
Refilling as a serviceMany independent companies offer a refilling service where customers can bring empty cartridges to be refilled. Toner refill franchises have sprung up over the last few years. Such refill chains offer services for customers to bring their empty toner cartridge and have it refilled on site or exchanges with a ready filled toner cartridge.
Toner RemanufacturingSimilar to refilling, with the exception that not only is new toner added to a cartridge, but parts that ordinarily wear out are also reviewed and replaced as required.

Toner cartridges cannot be refilled indefinitely, because mechanical parts such as rollers wear out. Some cartridges include the electro-optical drum, which becomes depleted and can be scratched. Organizations refilling cartridges for resale usually clean and test each cartridge to ensure that it is fit for reuse and resale. While several sources offer empty inkjet cartridges to be refilled[ citation needed ], brand new empty OEM laser cartridges are not easily found. Also, some models of laser print engines, like most inkjet printers, communicate with "chips" or fuses inside the toner cartridge which indicate that the cartridge is exhausted, whether or not it actually is. Some research is usually required to determine the feasibility of refilling a particular cartridge.

In general, DIY refilling requires opening a cartridge designed not to be opened, refilling it with toner, and capping the opening that was made to gain access. Some cartridges can be disassembled; others require a hole to be drilled or melted.

Toners vary in composition; manufacturers make toner designed for their own printers, and a generic toner may not work as well. In some cases there may be separate additions of toner and "developer". Refilling kits include printer-specific instructions.

The following basic types of refill toner (differing mainly in particle size and fusing temperature) have been identified by one vendor while other refill vendors insist that each printer or copier model requires a unique type.[ citation needed ]

  1. HP, Canon printers
  2. Canon PC copiers
  3. IBM/Lexmark Optra and similar
  4. Epson EPL, NEC Silentwriter
  5. Xerox and Sharp
  6. Samsung and Lexmark Optra E
  7. Brother

Kits are available to refill the 4 toner cartridges used by colour printers (cyan, magenta, yellow and black), or to fill a single cartridge. Kits include a reset chip where necessary. In all cases a toner that is at least compatible must be used.

While there are environmental benefits to refilling the toner cartridges of laser printers, a refilled cartridge may produce inferior print quality and reliability. [3]

  1. Refilling cartridges either by the end user, or as a service, is claimed by most printer manufacturers and toner remanufacturers to be harmful to both the quality and reliability of the prints, the cartridge as well as the life of the printers. [4]
  2. Life cycle assessments may indicate that recycling is a preferable option. [3]
  3. The quality of third party toners can vary immensely, and it is also important that the toner is appropriate for the particular printer.

Common problems can include:

  1. Insufficient lubricant in the toner, leading to drum, developer unit or cleaning blade damage.
  2. Wrong melting point, leading to fouling in the fusing unit, print rubbing off, etc.
  3. Wrong electrostatic properties or particle size, leading to a dirty machine and poor quality print.
  4. Large amounts of loose toner in the machine can also cause fouling and damage to the mechanisms, and air filters can become clogged, causing overheating.[ citation needed ]

Companies and individuals that refill toner, however, indicate that in most cases the cost benefits of refilling outweigh the possible disadvantages. [5]

Safety considerations

As a fine powder, toner can remain suspended in the air for some period, and is considered to have health effects comparable to inert dust. It can be an irritant to people with respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis.

Toner powder is not toxic but does need to be handled with care, as carbon black (one of its components) has been designated by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a possible carcinogen. [6] Health and safety regulations must be considered when handling, transporting and storing toner powders.

Safety precautions include the use of gloves, and a protective dust mask to prevent inhalation. If spilled toner is cleaned with a standard vacuum cleaner the toner may become electrically charged and catch fire, and is so fine that it passes through filters and can escape into the room or the vacuum cleaner motor.

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Printer (computing) Computer peripheral that prints text or graphics

In computing, a printer is a peripheral machine which makes a persistent representation of graphics or text, usually on paper. While most output is human-readable, bar code printers are an example of an expanded use for printers. The different types of printers include 3D printer, inkjet printer, laser printer, thermal printer, etc.

Laser printing Electrostatic digital printing process

Laser printing is an electrostatic digital printing process. It produces high-quality text and graphics by repeatedly passing a laser beam back and forth over a negatively charged cylinder called a "drum" to define a differentially charged image. The drum then selectively collects electrically charged powdered ink (toner), and transfers the image to paper, which is then heated in order to permanently fuse the text, imagery, or both, to the paper. As with digital photocopiers, laser printers employ a xerographic printing process. Laser printing differs from traditional xerography as implemented in analog photocopiers in that in the latter, the image is formed by reflecting light off an existing document onto the exposed drum.

Inkjet printing Type of computer printing

Inkjet printing is a type of computer printing that recreates a digital image by propelling droplets of ink onto paper and plastic substrates. Inkjet printers are the most commonly used type of printer, and range from small inexpensive consumer models to expensive professional machines.

Dye-sublimation printing

Dye-sublimation printing is a computer printing technique which uses heat to transfer dye onto materials such as a plastic, card, paper, or fabric. The sublimation name was first applied because the dye was considered to make the transition between the solid and gas states without going through a liquid stage. This understanding of the process was later shown to be incorrect, as there is some liquefying of the dye. Since then, the proper name for the process has become known as dye-diffusion, though this technically-correct term has not supplanted the original name. Many consumer and professional dye-sublimation printers are designed and used for producing photographic prints, ID cards, clothing, and more.

Xerography Dry photocopying technique

Xerography is a dry photocopying technique. Originally called electrophotography, it was renamed xerography—from the Greek roots ξηρός xeros, "dry" and -γραφία -graphia, "writing"—to emphasize that unlike reproduction techniques then in use such as cyanotype, the process of xerography used no liquid chemicals.


Toner is a powder mixture used in laser printers and photocopiers to form the printed text and images on the paper, in general through a toner cartridge. Mostly granulated plastic, early mixtures only added carbon powder and iron oxide, however, mixtures have since been developed containing polypropylene, fumed silica, and various minerals for triboelectrification. Toner using plant-derived plastic also exists as an alternative to petroleum plastic. Toner particles are melted by the heat of the fuser, and are thus bonded to the paper.

Lexmark International, Inc. is a privately held American company that manufactures laser printers and imaging products. The company is headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky. Since 2016 it has been jointly owned by a consortium of three Chinese companies: Apex Technology, PAG Asia Capital, and Legend Capital.

Dot matrix printer

A dot matrix printer is an impact printer that prints using a fixed number of pins or wires. Typically the pins or wires are arranged in one or several vertical columns. The pins strike an ink-coated ribbon and force contact between the ribbon and the paper, so that each pin makes a small dot on the paper. The combination of these dots forms a dot matrix image.

Continuous ink system

A continuous ink system (CIS), also known as a continuous ink supply system (CISS), a continuous flow system (CFS), an automatic ink refill system (AIRS), a bulk feed ink system (BFIS), or an off-axis ink delivery system (OIDS) is a method for delivering a large volume of liquid ink to a comparatively small inkjet printhead. Many business and professional grade printers incorporate a continuous ink system in their design to increase printing capacity.

Ink cartridge

An ink cartridge or inkjet cartridge is a component of an inkjet printer that contains the ink that is deposited onto paper during printing.

Lexmark International, Inc. v. Static Control Components, Inc., is an American legal case involving the computer printer company Lexmark, which had designed an authentication system using a microcontroller so that only authorized toner cartridges could be used. The resulting litigation has resulted in significant decisions affecting United States intellectual property and trademark law.

Inkjet refill kit

An inkjet refill kit is a set of tools and ink used to refill ink cartridges. The specific tools and the amount or type of ink depends on which cartridge the kit is designed for. The purpose of an inkjet refill kit for consumers is that it offers a low-cost alternative to buying original, genuine cartridges.

Compatible ink 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.

Dynamic Cassette International (DCI) is an internationally recognised Boston, Lincolnshire, UK based ink cartridge and laser toner manufacturing company, producing products under the Jet Tec brand name. DCI is the sole UK manufacturer of compatible ink cartridges. DCI is notable for winning the Queen's Award for Enterprise: Innovation in 2004 and the Queen's Award for Export and being one of the biggest employers in Boston, employing over 300 staff at its 40,000 square metres factory. The company is currently Europe's largest manufacturer of compatible inkjet cartridges and has a turnover in excess of £20 million.

Photocopier Device for reproducing documents

A photocopier is a machine that makes copies of documents and other visual images onto paper or plastic film quickly and cheaply. Most modern photocopiers use a technology called xerography, a dry process that uses electrostatic charges on a light-sensitive photoreceptor to first attract and then transfer toner particles onto paper in the form of an image. The toner is then fused onto the paper using heat, pressure, or a combination of both. Copiers can also use other technologies, such as ink jet, but xerography is standard for office copying.

Toner cartridge

A toner cartridge, also called laser toner, is the consumable component of a laser printer. Toner cartridges contain toner powder, a fine, dry mixture of plastic particles, carbon, and black or other coloring agents that make the actual image on the paper. The toner is transferred to paper via an electrostatically charged drum unit, and fused onto the paper by heated rollers during the printing process. It will not stain like ink cartridges, but it can get messy if handled improperly.

Island Ink-Jet is a large printer ink and laser toner supply chain store with stores in Canada and Puerto Rico. The brand is currently owned by The Equipment leasing company ltd. and based in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and locations operate under a franchising business model. The chain offer a printer ink cartridge refill service and sell several varieties of ink cartridges and toner cartridges including remanufactured cartridges.

Remax World Expo

The RemaxWorld Expo is an annual trade show comprising vendors from within the print consumables industry. The event began in 2007, resulting from a joint venture between the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and Recycling Times Media Corporation. Centered in Zhuhai, widely recognized as being the print consumables capital of the world, the exhibition currently takes place in the newly constructed Zhuhai International Convention & Exhibition Center. In 2015, the show accommodated 463 exhibitors and 13,938 visitors from 83 countries.

Katun is a supplier of OEM-compatible imaging consumables and supplies for office equipment. Katun designs, manufactures, sells, and distributes OEM-compatible imaging products for copiers, printers, and other imaging equipment worldwide.

Impression Products, Inc. v. Lexmark International, Inc., 581 U.S. ___ (2017), is a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States on the exhaustion doctrine in patent law in which the Court held that after the sale of a patented item, the patent holder cannot sue for patent infringement relating to further use of that item, even when in violation of a contract with a customer or imported from outside the United States. The case concerned a patent infringement lawsuit brought by Lexmark against Impression Products, Inc., which bought used ink cartridges, refilled them, replaced a microchip on the cartridge to circumvent a digital rights management scheme, and then resold them. Lexmark argued that as they own several patents related to the ink cartridges, Impression Products was violating their patent rights. The U.S. Supreme Court, reversing a 2016 decision of the Federal Circuit, held that the exhaustion doctrine prevented Lexmark's patent infringement lawsuit, although Lexmark could enforce restrictions on use or resale of its contracts with direct purchasers under regular contract law. Besides printer and ink manufacturers, the decision of the case could affect the markets of high tech consumer goods and prescription drugs.


  1. Uninet: Remanufacturing the Brother HL23xx cartridge
  2. USpatent 4816877,Fred Keen,"Refillable toner cartridge and method of manufacture thereof",issued 1989-03-28
  3. 1 2 EuroVAprint 2014, p. 1.
  4. "Are remanufactured/refilled toner cartridges a better value?".
  5. "Life-Span Costing Analysis Case Studies" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 3, 2010. Retrieved 2012-09-05.
  6. "Material Safety Data Sheet: High Yield Toner Cartridge" (PDF). Lexmark. 2005. p. 3.