||Feature: Leveling the Field
Before coming to ASTMs consensus standards development table,
OEMs and remanufacturers of printer toner cartridges were on anything
but a level playing field. Overmatched by the OEMs marketing
dollars and sometimes harshly assessed by users misinformed about
what to expect from remanufactured printer cartridges, small remanufacturers
struggled to maintain or improve marketshare. Working within the
ASTM standards-development process, however, all players in this
manufacturing subsector may have found a way to compete in a fairer
As representatives of competing printer cartridge manufacturing
companiesoriginal equipment manufacturers, testing facilities,
and remanufacturing companiesthe members of ASTM Committee F05
on Business Imaging Products subcommittee on Electrostatic Imaging
are natural enemies. However, for a few days twice a year, they
come together as colleagues for the good of the entire imaging
For remanufacturers of printer cartridges, developing standards
in ASTMs consensus process at the same table with large OEMs
has leveled the playing field and benefited this subsector. The
cartridge remanufacturing industry is comprised of small- to medium-sized
businesses that must martial resources carefully. Sophisticated
testing equipment is an exotic luxury beyond the reach of many.
Most are pleased to afford suffi-cient numbers of test printers.
Sandwiched between the demands of the consumers and the power
of OEMs, aftermarket entrepreneurs devote themselves to meeting
the challenge of withstanding these two pressures.
However, the threat of extinction from well-endowed external sources
pales in comparison to a far more devious threat from within:
self-annihilation caused by producing a poor-quality product.
A cartridge remanufacturer that produces an inferior quality product
will eventually lose his customer. That customer now has acquired
a negative perception of remanufactured cartridgesall remanufactured
In this day and age, with all the technical resources available
to the remanufacturer, such a scenario is tragic and unacceptable.
Yet, it happens often. Recently, a major international organization
contacted remanufacturing industry representatives to seek a source
for remanufactured cartridges. The buyer failed to solicit bids
from the recommended sources, and with no standards on which to
base the bid, it accepted the lowest-priced bid. When the cartridges
leaked in the printers, the organization returned to buying new
Another example of the quality priority dilemma occurred in the
industrys legislative efforts. Three states have passed legislation
to limit single-use cartridge purchases and enhance purchases
of remanufactured products. The purchasing office in one state
conducted an informal survey of agencies purchasing opinions.
Generally the agencies indicated a preference for new products
because the supplier that provided remanufactured cartridges in
the past was inconsistent in supplying quality products.
On the other hand, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has
already issued public statements proclaiming the parity of remanufactured
products with new ones. Legislators across the country have agreed
and are enacting legislation that gives a remanufactured cartridge
preference over new in-state purchasing.
This is good news for remanufacturers. But this necessary first
step is followed swiftly by the next obstacle. How does a remanufacturer
prove that his cartridge is equal to or better than another? For
that matter, how does the customer, state agency or otherwise,
have any criteria on which to base a purchasing decision other
than price? Using the ASTM system to develop standard test methods
for printer cartridges offers a solution as well as the potential
for market parity.
Working through Subcommittee F05.04 on Electrostatic Imaging,
the printer cartridge industry has taken important cooperative
steps toward leveling the playing field for OEMs and remanufacturers.
Standard F 1856, Practice for Determining Toner Usage for Printer
Cartridges, was adopted in 1998 and provides guidance on accurate
measurement of toner usage and its subsequent effect on page yield.
This test is an essential cornerstone to a barrage of other planned
test methods. It offers the entire imaging industry a definitive
method for determining the number of pages a cartridge will produce
in a controlled atmosphere. In addition, the new standard will
afford the remanufacturer a new sales tool. Printer owners rarely
recognize that the OEM page yield is based upon five percent coverage.
Thus when a remanufactured cartridge falls short of the stated
OEM yield under normal printing conditions, the consumer mistakenly
believes that it is inferior. ASTM F 1856 will allow a remanufacturer
to approach a customer complaining of yield shortfall with a standardized,
independent example of what five percent actually entails.
Since the development of F 1856, a standard test method for evaluating
all-in-one toner printer cartridges has been proposed and it builds
upon the previous standard in several ways. It provides an overall
basis for comparing all printer cartridges, new or remanufactured,
based on product quality and integrity. In addition to testing
page yield pursuant to ASTM F 1856, it also provides methods for
evaluating image density. For cartridges that are transported
via a common carrier or in packaging designed for transportation
other than by hand, tests are included to evaluate cartridge and
The implications for the proposed standard test are dramatic,
especially for remanufacturers. Once their cartridges have passed
the testing requirements, remanufacturers of any size can bid
on contracts against larger competitors with the assurance that
their product measures up. Moreover, consumers will now have a
purchasing requirement with which to select suppliers other than
The subcommittee has many more plans beyond test methods to evaluate
cartridges. It hopes soon to undertake standards that will address
both the quality and endurance of components. The subcommittees
chairman, Dr. John Wyhof, envisions a day when the standard test
process becomes so entrenched that regional associations pose
issues that their members encounter, and the committee responds
with test methods to overcome the obstacles. Until such a pipeline
of information becomes available, Wyhof hopes more remanufacturing
industry participants will become involved in the ASTM process,
or share ideas for new standards with him if the time to volunteer
is unavailable. There is no end to what we can do, Wyhof says.