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 user 2003-11-24 at 12:44:00 pm Views: 52
  • #7974
    To Recharge or not to Recharge?
     Brand-name printer cartridges can put quite a financial strain on a company crisscrossed with networked printers and dotted with independent inkjets.

    The average business spends 1 to 3% of its revenue on ink and paper every year, according to printer-maker Lexmark. And if the growing consumption of office paper is any indication, that expensive trend is only going to get worse.

    So the question is: How can a company slash printing costs? One way is to recycle.

    For about half the price of a new laser-printer cartridge, you can get your old cartridge refilled and refurbished, said Cheryll Frascella, co-owner of Akron, Ohio’s Lazer Action.

    “You’re getting one that lasts just as long and works just as well,” she said. Lazer Action is a “recharger,” one of 8,000 companies nationwide that turn out high-quality cartridges known as “compatibles.”

    In the remanufacturing process, every part of a spent laser cartridge is replaced, except for the plastic shell. Each cartridge is then tested for quality and performance, Frascella said. “We have a lower failure rate than new cartridges,” she said, “and they perform better than the original.”

    How does that translate into dollars? Frascella said a laser cartridge that originally sold for $239 can be recharged for $110. A brand-name cartridge that goes for $95 in the store costs $50 to recharge. That can add up to thousands of dollars a month for companies that do a lot of printing.

    Nationwide, only about 30% of printer cartridges get recharged. Frascella blames the low rate on cheap knockoffs, because they turn off customers.

    “If you’re going to buy the cheapest thing on the Internet, it’s not going to work,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know about (high-quality compatibles) because they had a bad experience once.”

    When you can save more than 50% on a compatible cartridge, chances are it’s a rip-off. Such cartridges often have reused components or cheap toner, and the print quality suffers as a result, said Gary Pendl, chief of Wisconsin compatible maker Pendl Companies.

    Typically, the more expensive the parts, the better the compatible cartridge will be, Frascella said.

    Price isn’t the only advantage compatible cartridges carry, said Ed Swartz, chief executive of Static Control Components of Sanford, N.C. Helping the environment is an additional, intangible benefit, he said.

    Recycling could become more important as consumers snap up more and more printers. Swartz, citing a study by Hewlett-Packard, said the printer maker expects to sell 240 million printers during the next five years. It took HP 18 years — 1984 to 2002 — to sell the same number, he said.

    Now, HP and Lexmark have the biggest pieces of the printer-industry pie. But the companies make far more money selling cartridges and other “consumables” than they do printers, industry leaders say.

    Lexmark has come out against compatibles to defend its market share, suing supplier Static Control Components for copyright infringements and violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

    Instead of compatibles, Lexmark wants companies to use document management techniques to cut costs, said Emily Strickland, of Lexmark’s Printing Solutions and Services Division.

    “As odd as it sounds, we want people to print less,” she said.

    Employees should be urged to print only when necessary and use the right equipment for the job, such as duplex printers, said Bruce Dahlgren, general manager of the Lexmark division.

    But Pendl said Lexmark has gone a step further, embedding microchips in its new printer cartridges to prevent reuse. The microchips were designed to notify Lexmark when users’ printer cartridges run low.

    HP puts similar microchips in its cartridges, but they don’t prevent recharging, Pendl said. HP, for the most part, has stayed out of the compatible cartridge battle.