Testing Toner Cartridges against Industry Standards

By Thomas F. Kelly, Jr., Toner Cartridge Testing Lab //

Remanufactured toner cartridges are comprised of a changing medley of new and used components. The useful life of these components varies from engine type to aftermarket supplier. Testing these cartridges and their components is essential to remanufacturing and marketing a quality product. Different test standards and conditions give different perspectives on cartridge performance, image quality and page yield.

In order to provide an ideal end product one needs to understand those standards and the significance of their test results. What follows is a brief primer on a few of the most common standards, practices and protocols.

ASTM F1856-04(2009) Standard Practice for Determining Toner Usage is a cost per page and yield analysis. This ASTM protocol requires cartridge disassembly prior to testing in order to weigh the toner fill. By calculating the difference in weight, in grams, before and after running 1,000 or more pages at 5% page coverage, the approximate “page yield,” in number of pages per gram of toner consumed, can be determined. Although this method is quick and simple, it does not reveal the actual life of the cartridge. One reason is that disassembly prior to testing affects the integrity of the cartridge.

Another issue is that not defining the 5% page coverage to a specific or standardized test pattern (or, preferably, to a suite of patterns) leaves room for error. Test patterns using a mixture of marching text, solids, ghost patterns, etc., are all helpful guides to understanding cartridge performance as well as wear on cartridge components. If, for example, you use ASTM standards and only run the cartridge to 1,000 pages then the majority of component failures will not be given sufficient time to develop. This is especially true for the higher yield cartridges. Basing a stated page yield and page cost a “glimpse” of the cartridge’s life cycle cannot provide enough confidence in cartridge reliability.

ISO/IEC 19752 Standard Method For The Determination Of Toner Cartridge Yield For Monochromatic Electro photographic Printers And Multi-function Devices That Contain Printer Components ( June 2004) and
ISO/IEC 19798 Standard Method For The Determination Of Toner Cartridge Yield For Color Printers and Muti-function Devices That Contain Printer Components are two, well-rounded protocols for testing cartridges that are being used by a majority of OEM manufactures. Instead of using 5% page coverage, these ISOs use a specific test page with every pixel on the page being predetermined so that it can be used in any printer on different paper sizes. This test pattern is used to evaluate cartridges for the duration of life. Recently, ISO/IEC 24712 was released giving color cartridges a five-page suite of test patterns. This set incorporates all colors with text, solids, and a photograph. ISO/IEC 24712 also establishes strict standards for test preparation, ambient environmental conditions, sample size (at least 3 printers with 3 cartridges in each), paper type, print mode, and source (3 different product sources of product). By establishing such standards this ISO removes many variables that can affect the performance of the cartridge.


The only real issue with this (monochrome) standard is its use of a single test pattern; it creates a problem in printers working in the landscape format. The image is burned into the OPC drum thereby creating an uneven wear condition. More specifically, the squares used for density are missing their centers, leaving just a picture frame which skews the results by making the densities appear better than they truly are. Since the document is mainly text, it is hard to recognize component failures when they occur. However, since this is the protocol used by the majority of OEM manufactures, ISO/IEC 24712 becomes the best option for determining cartridge yield.


Toner Cartridge Testing Lab (Sacramento, California) is a third party hardware and imaging materials test facility. We use a modified ISO protocol to test toner cartridges, following all of the regulations set up by the ISO standard. However, we then add a number of test patterns that are run every 1,000 or 2,000 pages (depending on the target yield of a particular cartridge). Our unique test suite includes an image density page with 1x1-inch black squares in accordance with ASTM F2036-05 and a variety of other test patterns.

By taking three readings in each of the five density squares we are able to chart the fluctuation in density over the life of the cartridge. The additional test patterns are used to observe cartridge performance while putting “real world wear and tear” on it. Every test protocol includes appropriate acclimation, ambient conditions, imaging media, and wellmaintained printers set to their default settings. Pages per gram of toner, efficiency, page coverage and densities, as well as yield, are all derived from the test with a current OEM benchmark. Deltas for L*A*B* and MICR readings are also incorporated for color and MICR testing respectfully.

With more than 65 years of combined experience in nearly every aspect of the cartridge reman and toner industries, TCTL is familiar with the properties and performance of each individual cartridge. For those who seek more in quality control and aim to lower their defect rate, while saving their company money, TCTL believes it is important to not only run life tests to qualify a product but to be proactive in other regards. TCTL offers testing directed towards the individual needs of its clients, including component and print quality analysis.

TCTL professionals guide clients to the quality of cartridge they want and help them maintain that plateau. Through its expert defect analysis and a customer support hotline they help eliminate defect trending issues. They also provide expert technical support to endusers in the US to ensure early detection of potential problems while educating them on proper performance of hardware, materials and media. TCTL has resolved many issues over the phone for client customers here in the United States, from seal pull instructions and chip removal to freeing a seized wiper blade. All necessary steps are taken to help customers achieve the most out of each client’s product without returning it. Aside from what is done at the headquarters facility in Sacramento, TCTL also offers periodic plant inspections ranging, from consulting, in-house Life Cycle Testing, and corrective actions, to post-qualification audits for larger client companies.




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