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Cartridge (toner vs. ink): Everything You Need to Know

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Every printer needs a cartridge, doesn't matter if it's a home printer, office printer, or professional one. The selection of the cartridge is not always easy though. First of all, you need to know whether you have an inkjet or a laser printer, and then it depends on the brand and model of the printer. When the cartridge runs out, it must be replaced and properly disposed of. This article explains the difference between ink and toner cartridges, but also explains why printers use a different color model than computers.

Náplně do tiskáren

Cartridge (toner vs. ink) - CONTENTS

  1. What is toner, what is ink and what is cartridge?
  2. Why do printers use CMYK colors?
  3. Toner/Ink Replacement: Are Non-HP Cartridges Worth It?
  4. Disposal of toners and ink cartridges

What is toner, what is ink and what is cartridge?

When we talk about office and home printers, we can say that we divide them into inkjet and laser printers. Knowing which of these two types you have is crucial for the correct cartridge selection. Choosing the right one is even easier once you know what toner is, what ink and what cartridge is. And it's always good to know, at least a little bit, how each printer works. But don't worry, if this is something you are not sure about, you'll find all the important details bellow:

Barvy do tiskáren
The difference between the ink cartridge (left) and the toner cartridge (right) is obvious at first sight.

Cartridge is everything

Although it might seem that cartridge is a specific label for ink or toner cartridges, it is not. Cartridge is a general designation for a container with a printing material, which is inserted in the printer. This goes for both, ink and toner technology, but the cartridges of both types of printers look completely different.

Ink is used by inkjet printers

Basically all inkjet printers can print in both color and black and white. Therefore, they always have at least four cartridges according to the CMYK color system. Each cartridge carries a liquid ink, which is then applied by the print heads to the paper, where it is absorbed and dries out. The print time depends on the content of the page. A black and white text page will be printed significantly faster than a large color photo.

? What does an ink cartridge look like?

Ink cartridges are usually small, color-coded boxes placed side by side in the printer body. They usually have cubic or cuboid shape and they may sometimes look like old cassettes.

Toner is used by laser / LED printers

Laser printers use a color that is not liquid but in form of a powder. We call it a toner. When printing with a laser printer, the laser (or LED light) continually irradiates the printing cylinder, creating negatively charged areas that exactly match the pattern which will be printed on the paper. Due to the negative charge, these surfaces attach toner, which is then transferred from the drum directly to the paper, where it still doesn't hold. Before the finished page comes out of the printer, toner is fused to the paper as it passes between the two heated rollers.

Laser printers usually print black and white, but today there are also models that allow to print in color. The biggest advantage of laser printers is the high speed of printing and quality printing of texts. But they are not as universal as inkjet printers, because they are not very suitable for printing photos, for example.

?What does a toner cartridge look like?

The toner cartridge is a large cartridge, a bit wider than a width of printer paper. For color printers, there are several toner cartridges (one for each color) and are usually placed either one above the other or in a row in the slot.

Tank systems

In recent years, a new trend has emerged in the printing supplies market - refill systems, sometimes also called tank systems . It is an alternative to conventional cartridges that promises lower cost cartridges, their easier and faster replacement, less waste, and a more environmentally friendly approach. When replacing a standard cartridge, you must purchase the entire cartridge with all of its electronics and hardly recyclable materials.

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With tank systems, you can refill the color quickly, at a low cost and relatively ecologically.

It is logical that if you don't need to change the entire cartridge, but only the refill itself (the ink), the price is lower. In addition, ink is usually shipped in disposable, portable containers (typically bottles) and you manually pour it directly in the printer's cartridge, which takes only a few seconds. Tank systems are already very widespread in the inkjet printer segment, and they also appear in toner printers . It is a modern and inexpensive way to refill cartridges (although technically it is no longer a cartridge).

Why do printers use CMYK colors?

When you open a color printer to look at its cartridges, you immediately notice that there are four cartridges and each has a different color. Cyan (cyan), M agent (magenta), Y ellow (yellow), and black, which we refer to as ey. However, in computers, telephones, televisions, and basically in all other devices with LCD or other color display we use RGB, a combination of red, green and blue. Why do we use different color models for different devices?

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RGB vs. CMYK

The most important fact is that displaying colors on a display is something other than applying colors to a paper. The original color of the empty paper is white, whereas the display in it's default state is black. So when we have the lightest (white) color on paper, we need to apply the darkest color. And it is the other way around with the display: we already have the darkest (black) color and therefore we need to apply the lightest (white). We do this by lighting up the pixels.

i Additive vs. subtractive color mixing

The effects described in this chapter are called additive (RGB) and subtractive (CMYK) color mixing. While with additive color mixing, the intensity of light increases with the addition of each color (mixing darker colors creates a lighter color), with subtractive mixing, it's the opposite - mixing colors creates a lower light intensity (darker color).

In the RGB model, blending red with blue creates a lighter magenta. In the CMYK model, it's the opposite: if cyan (bright blue) comes in contact with magenta, it creates a dark blue color, darker than the two mixed colors.

Therefore, the colors on the paper and on the display cannot work the same way: if we mix the basic colors of RGB, we get white (maximum pixel light), while mixing all the CMYK colors, we get black (a color that is missing on white paper). If you work with RGB files (photos, graphics) on your computer, they are automatically converted to CMYK when printed. However, color printing professionals should already work with the CMYK on a computer, to get a better idea of how their materials will look on paper.

Toner / Ink Replacement: Does buying non-genuine cartridges worth it?

Replacing a cartridge in the printer is relatively simple, but we can't give you more detailed advise, as each model is a bit different. Choosing the right cartridge can be a bigger challenge, especially when there are a number of non-genuine cartridges on the market. But these are a good way to save money. With the original color cartridge, the printer manufacturer guarantees quality and compatibility, but it costs a lot more.

Barvy do tiskáren
If you have a laser color printer, the toner cartridges are placed in the printer similarly.

If you don't want to pay the high price that printer manufacturers often ask for for original cartridges, you can opt for an alternative cartridge. This usually costs a fraction of the price of an original toner / ink cartridge, but offers comparable print quality and a large number of printed pages. But not all brands are the same quality. If you choose a dubious product, you may experience compatibility problems or short cartridge life. But you don't have to worry about making a bad choice, you can buy high-quality alternative toners and inks directly under the Alza brand.

i Why choose alternative ink cartridges for printers

At Alza.com we have a compatible cartridge search engine, which is an assistant who will help you choose the right cartridge. You just need to enter the type, brand and model of your printer and all the compatible cartridges will show up. There is no risk of cartridge incompatibility in this case.

If you have any doubts about alternative printer cartridges, you can read more about them in Why choose alternative printer cartridges?

We shouldn't forget to mention tank systems, which allow fast, easy and inexpensive ink tank refill even with original cartridges. If you are planning to buy a new printer, you should definitely consider getting one of the models with the tank system.

How to replace the toner cartridge (INSTRUCTIONS)

When replacing toner, refer to your printer's manual for the detailed instruction. The following procedure may not work with all laser printers:

  1. Turn the printer off and unplug it.
  2. Open the front panel where you should already see the toner cartridge.
  3. Slide the drum tray out of the printer.
  4. Then locate the safety lock that releases the cartridge so that it can be removed from the tray. Then remove the cartridge.
  5. Take a new cartridge and remove the protective cover.
  6. Then insert the cartridge into the tray so that it is in the same position as the old cartridge.
  7. Slide the tray into the printer and close the cover.

Replacing the ink cartridge (MANUAL)

Even for inkjet printer, we can't give you general instructions applicable to all models. There are significant differences between ink cartridges. Cartridges of some manufacturers also include a printhead with contacts, others are just ink cartridges that are only inserted into the printhead module. You can follow the instructions below, or go directly to the printer manual to find the procedure for your model.

  1. Turn the printer off and unplug it.
  2. Open the cover of the printer.
  3. Make sure the print head is in the default position (on the left side of the printer).
  4. Locate the safety lock on the cartridge and press it. If the cartridge has no safety lock, try moving it gently to see if it can be pulled out in any direction.
  5. Remove the empty cartridge from the printer.
  6. Unpack the new cartridge and remove the protective seal.
  7. Insert the cartridge back into place of the previous cartridge and close the printer.

Disposal of toners and ink cartridges

How to dispose of toner or ink cartridge? A question that certainly many printer owners worry about. The empty cartridge is still composed of a large number of materials that certainly do not belong to the trash. However, there are places where you can bring empty toners and they will be properly processed and ecologically disposed of.

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What about old cartridges?

Bring the old toner cartridge to any Alza.cz office where you can find collection boxes with the Green Company logo. You can dispose of used cartridges, knowing that they will be taken care of and processed in eco-friendly way. Today, however, tank systems are clearly the most sustainable solution. You only fill up the cartridge with new color, and the only waste that remains is a small, relatively easy-to-recycle container that you can treat just like an ordinary waste.

i We have other articles for you in AlzaMagazine :

There are three things about printer cartridges that are particularly important: To save money, you may prefer cheaper alternative cartridges. Empty cartridges should not be placed in the trash or plastic recycling bin. Printers with tank systems are the future.

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