Saturday, December 08, 2007

What is MICR Ink?

What is MICR Ink?

What about MICR Ink? Since 2003, VersaCheck has produced and sold its MICR ink “VersaInk,” which it sells through its website and various retailers. This is an ink product available in common cartridge types for various HP, Canon, Lexmark and Dell inkjet printers. Versa also produces magnetic ink which can be used in remanufacturing or refilling these inkjet cartridges.

Inkjet printers, which utilize MICR ink for the black printing and color ink (which is not MICR) produce attractive and colorful checks for individuals and businesses which want that option.

“If you do not need color printing,“ says Shulman ”and you will be printing several hundred checks, you will want to use a MICR laser toner cartridge and printer. The cost per page will be substantially below an inkjet. It isn’t worth going to MICR printing and a dedicated printer if you only print a few or occasional checks. You are doing this because you have substantial volume.”

In addition, explained Shulman, inkjet cartridges are not only expensive (about $35 for an HP compatible MICR cartridge), but have a 2 year shelf life and six month usable life once opened. “If you only print a few checks a month,” explained Shulman, “your ink cartridges could dry up between use-causing substantial waste. I constantly have that problem with my own rarely-used home multifunction – and I don’t pay for my ink.”


Saturday, October 06, 2007

MICR for the Masses: Part II

MICR for the Masses
Part II: MICR Printers and Toner Cartridges for Small Business Check Printing
By M. Shulman
Cartridge Technologies, Tempe, Arizona

As a business owner, you’ve decided to print your own business checks. You’ve purchased check-printing software compatible with your accounting and/or payroll system. Now, you must choose a printer, purchase MICR toner and purchase check stock.
What are your options?

Bank security check stock uses security paper that is resistant to tampering and forgery. The paper is engineered with fiber composition, “underlying printing” and other features designed to create a secure check document. Various companies sell secure stock, including ACOM Solutions ($36. for 2500 sheets), Versa, Troy and others.

Whether or not a business decides to purchase a specialized MICR printer, it should dedicate a printer to use for its MICR checks, deposit slips and other secure documents. That printer will be fitted with MICR Toner and should not be changed back and forth from MICR to regular toner. To fill the business need for a dependable, low-priced printer for dedicated MICR use, Cartridge Technologies produces a “HP1020MICRPak” which combines a new HP LaserJet 1020 monochrome laser printer equipped with a new MICR toner cartridge and sells for the price of a regular HP LaserJet 1020 printer.

“If the goal is to be cost effective, the business owner should choose a laser printer for checks which will fit the business’s need for quantity and speed and also a printer for which there are good low-cost compatible MICR toner cartridges available, “ explains Jeremy Shulman, Vice President of Cartridge Technologies which manufactures low-priced generic MICR toner cartridges sold at and

Until the last few years, companies such as Troy Group and Source Technologies had the MICR printer and MICR toner market practically to themselves, concentrating in high volume corporate and government uses. Troy is a formidable player in the market, with its own line of Troy secured printers, which are primarily security-adapted HP printers. Source Technologies adapts Lexmark printers for its line of secured printers. Both Troy and Source Technologies produce their own lines of MICR toner cartridges for HP, Lexmark, Xerox and IBM printers.

However, as Troy states on its website, if a company does not require the highest level of security and just wants to make sure its checks will be acceptable to the banking system, standard laser printers equipped with MICR toner cartridges produce excellent quality product.

“Most low-end HP monochrome laser printers provide more than acceptable quality for MICR check printing, “ explained Shulman. “While a business may print a large number of checks, a printing load of 500 or so pages per week is not substantial for even the smallest laser printers.”

“The HP LaserJet 1010, 1012, 1018, 1020 printers sell for prices as low as $128 (HP web price for the new LaserJet 1018 printer) and use a 2000 page yield Q2612A MICR toner cartridge – which we produce at Cartridge Technologies and sell for just $62.99.” This is a new generic toner cartridge, explained Shulman, which is opened, the regular toner removed and converted to MICR toner use. It has never been used before the conversion. Other MICR toner cartridges may be remanufactured HP, Lexmark or Samsung toner cartridges, where some or all components are replaced and the cartridge filled with MICR toner. Or, an original unused toner cartridge may be converted to MICR. Price differentials can depend on the method of production – or the marketplace.

“Like any printer purchase, you should first find your supply and then purchase the printer,“ explained Shulman. “There are good generic and compatible MICR toner cartridges available for most HP LaserJet printers, Lexmark laser printers, Canon laser printers, Xerox printers, IBM printers, Samsung laser printers and Dell laser printers. You should identify your volume, types of paper handling required and your toner supplier.”

Cartridge Technologies produces MICR toner cartridges at similar price points for most of the popular HP LaserJet printers, Canon laser printers, Lexmark printers, Samsung printers and Dell printers. Cartridge Technologies also produces MICR toner cartridges for Source Technologies printers, which it sells at prices significantly below that of Source Technologies.

MICR toner cartridges must comply with American National Standards Institute (“ANSI”) and/or American Banking Association (“ABA”) requirements for MICR toner. MICR toner is produced and certified by the toner manufacturing plant, then distributed to cartridge conversion and remanufacturing plants in sealed containers.

“MICR toner is not made for Brother printers,“ said Shulman. “People tell me about it, but it is a myth that I cannot substantiate with any of the MICR toner manufacturers or distributors in the United States – and I’ve called lots of them. You may see it advertised, but it is always “out of stock.”

“The reasons are technical. The Brother toner cartridge/drum system operation is incompatible with MICR toner – and I don’t think it is anybody’s priority to adapt for this specialized use when there are so many easier alternatives available.” Early Brother printer models, which use Canon, Lexmark or Xerox print engines, have MICR cartridges available under the Canon, Lexmark or Xerox cartridge number.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Epson Patent Litigation Against Inkjet Cartridge Manufacturers

Epson Wins Preliminary ITC Ruling on Printer
PatentsNineStar Technology Co. Ltd. Announces Plans to Appeal

April 11, 2007

The ability of third party manufacturers to import and for retailers to sell, inexpensive generic inkjet cartridges for many Epson printers will be determined by the U.S. International Trade Commission (“ITC”) on July 30, 2007.

On March 30, 2007 the Honorable Paul J. Luckern issued an Initial Determination which found that certain ink cartridges produced by third party manufacturers within and outside the United States infringe Epson’s patents. He recommends a General Exclusion Order barring the respondents and all others from importing infringing cartridges and Cease and Desist Orders barring the respondents from selling infringing cartridges imported before the exclusion order becomes effective.

Ninestar Technology Co., Ltd., the U.S. affiliate of a major Chinese cartridge manufacturer announced that it will appeal the judge’s ruling when the matter is considered by the ITC.

The judge’s ruling arises from a complaint filed with the ITC by Epson Portland Inc., Epson America Inc., and Seiko Epson Corp. in February 2006 that accused 24 U.S., Korean, German and Chinese companies of importation and sales of infringing ink cartridges. The Epson companies filed parallel actions in the U.S. District Court in Portland, Oregon against the same 24 companies for compensatory damages and injunctive relief.

Judge Luckern conducted a trial in January 2007 that was defended by Dataproducts USA LLC, a division of Clover Technologies Group LLC, Ninestar Technology Co. Ltd., Zhuhai Gree Magneto-Electric Co. Ltd., and their affiliated companies. Based on the evidence presented at the trial, the judge found that more than 750 models of cartridges imported by the defending and defaulting respondents infringe one or more of 11 Epson patents, which he upheld as enforceable, that apply to cartridges for desktop inkjet printers. The judge’s Initial Determination was submitted for review to the ITC for a Final Determination scheduled for July 30, 2007. Until that time, cartridge importation is unaffected.

“We are gratified that Judge Luckern upheld the validity and enforceability of Epson’s ink cartridge patents,” said Elizabeth Leung, director of Consumer Supplies, Epson America. “Epson has invested continuously in R&D and manufacturing to produce high quality, innovative ink cartridges. These lawsuits were filed as part of Epson’s worldwide efforts to protect the company from unfair competition. We urge manufacturers, distributors and retailers of ink cartridges to recognize this further validation of Epson’s patent rights and act accordingly. Resellers should be mindful that, in addition to the import restrictions that can be ordered by the ITC, patent infringements can result in very substantial compensatory damages in District Court actions. We will continue taking whatever action is necessary to protect Epson’s invaluable intellectual property rights.”

Since Epson’s filing of its action in February 2006, many of the major international cartridge manufacturers have developed their own “patented” Epson compatibles, which utilize different shapes and sizes to avoid any similarity to Epson products.

A significant portion of the third party inkjet cartridge market is comprised of generic inkjet cartridges similar to those Epson seeks to bar through their patent infringement suits. These inkjet cartridges are manufactured in high technology plants operated by multi-million dollar manufacturers and are regularly sold in the United States for prices ranging from a small fraction to half the retail price of Epson’s own product. Sales of these generic cartridges now account for a significant percentage of the replacement inkjet cartridge market in the United States.


Sunday, March 04, 2007


MICR for the Masses
March 1, 2007
Part I: Why Small Businesses Print their Own Checks and How They Do It
By M. Shulman
Cartridge Technologies, Tempe, Arizona

As small US businesses adopt computerized bookkeeping and accounting programs, and routinely print check information using standard accounting programs, many business owners investigate whether to print their own checks.

Programs such as QuickBooks, Quicken, Peachtree and internet and computer-based payroll programs, allow users to print check details (date, payee, amount, memo and any additional information) on pre-printed check stock forms using their office printers.

These pre-printed forms have intrinsic drawbacks. The user synchronizes the pre-numbered checks with the program. Businesses with multiple accounts, such as general payables, payroll and escrow, must maintain multiple stocks of preprinted check forms. The forms are expensive and companies frequently do not upgrade or replace them until they are completely used.

MICR printing provides an alternate means of issuing checks.

Magnetic Ink Character Recognition, or MICR, is a special kind of optical character recognition (OCR) technology that was adopted by the US banking industry to facilitate check processing. MICR characters are printed in a specialized font using “ink” that has magnetic properties, allowing the MICR characters to be read by high speed check reading/sorting equipment used by financial institutions.

As the checks travel through the US check clearing system, they pass through high speed MICR reader/sorters which use a device, similar to the head of an audio tape recorder, which sends a magnetic charge to the check, allowing the reader/sorter to read the information contained within the “MICR line” quickly-at speeds of up to70 mph.

The combination of specially-designed characters and magnetic ink make the error rate for check scanning extremely small. If negotiable documents are printed with regular toner, the reader/sorter will reject the check for manual processing – and the company that issued it may be charged a fee.

Within the past few years, check printing programs have been released which allow “on demand” (as opposed to the large batch printing used by government agencies, banks, insurance companies) MICR check printing by businesses, at very reasonable prices. By printing checks using MICR laser printer toner, all check information, including static information such as the company logo, name and address and the MICR line, as well as all variable information (frequently including pre-authorized signatures) is printed directly onto blank check stock.

In order to implement MICR check printing, a business must have (1) a check printing program, either free standing or integrated into its general accounting or payroll program; (2) a dedicated printer capable of MICR check printing; (3) blank secure check stock and (4) MICR toner (or ink) cartridges to fit the printer.

The price of check printing programs is now within most small business budgets, and versions are now available that work directly with most standard accounting programs. For example, VersaCheck QuickBooks and Quicken compatible programs sell for $59. Check Factory by Trans-Micro, Inc. also coordinates with QuickBooks. The programs supply designs, characters and the MICR line-the 65 character line of numbers and special characters that appears at the bottom of every check—describing the routing information and account. They usually allow for multiple accounts, logos, company and other information and provide varied security features.

“The term “magnetic ink” in MICR is deceptive, according to Jeremy Shulman, Vice President of ReInk Technologies Inc., operator of Vibrant Ink. “With limited and recent exceptions (Versa released an actual MICR “ink” usable in several HP type inkjet printers in 2003), MICR printing is produced via laser toner cartridges which contain a 50% to 60% iron oxide additive content that permits the bank line information of a check to be read by electronic bank processing equipment.”

The intrinsic properties of ink (a liquid) and toner (a powder) make MICR a difficult product to produce with ink, since the iron oxide particles may not properly distribute. Toner powder is more easily produced with high iron oxide contents and much more cost-effective for high volume monochrome printing.

Several companies advertise and sell special MICR Laser Printers which are produced or modified to comply with ANSI X.9 standards for MICR printing and which may also include important security features such as secure numeric fonts, encrypted transmissions, removable font cartridges and PCMCIA Cards, allowing specialized fonts, company logos, signatures and other check information to be removed for security.
Companies with multiple MICR toner stations, advanced requirements or MICR printing through remote printers (where the printer is not within visual range of the person printing) should consider these printers.

“Most small businesses” said Shulman, “find that standard laser printers fitted with MICR toner cartridges fit their check printing requirements.” MICR toner cartridges are produced for most common Hewlett Packard, Canon and Lexmark laser printers as well as for popular Dell, Samsung and Smartech (a brand which uses a Lexmark engine) printers. You can find them on the Vibrant Ink website at “There are no MICR cartridges for current Brother laser printers. Brother uses a toner and drum system which creates magnetic fields which are incompatible with magnetic toner. Manufacturers of MICR toners tell me the R&D required to produce a MICR toner for Brother would be ridiculously expensive.” Early Brother models used print engines manufactured by HP, Canon, Lexmark and Xerox. Those machines use the corresponding HP, Canon, Lexmark and Xerox cartridges, most of which are available in MICR.

Coming Soon: Choices in MICR printers and MICR Toner Cartridges? Cost, Utility and Value.


Monday, October 30, 2006

Refill or Replace? Alternatives to Expensive Ink Cartridges

Nobody bothers to deny that inkjet cartridges are expensive - at least most of the ones sold by OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) to fit their own inkjet printers.

The high cost of ink versus the low cost of many inkjet printers, fax machines and increasingly popular MFC's (multi-function machines which commonly combine the functions of a printer, copier, scanner and frequently a fax machine in one desktop unit) has spawned a multi-billion replacement industry, producing generic ink cartridges, remanufactured replacement cartridges and various self or store-centered "refill" alternatives.

In a 2005 article by author Drew Robb published on ReInk Technologies Inc. (owner and operator of Vibrant Ink and its online store at Vice President Jeremy Shulman explained the most common alternatives to expensive OEM inkjet cartridges for inkjet printing.

"Replacement (also known as generic) ink cartridges are cartridges that are manufactured by a company other than the original manufacturer," says Shulman. "A remanufactured ink cartridge is the original OEM cartridge that has been professionally cleaned, refilled with quality ink that is made in the USA and tested prior to leaving the factory."

What about home refill kits? For people with some technical dexterity, refill kits can prove a cost-effective alternative.

With so much money being poured into ink cartridges, it's no surprise that hundreds of companies have sprung up offering refill kits for ink jets and laser printers. They work for some people, but many find them too much trouble. Most people have blackened their hands, injected the yellow ink into the red receptacle or ruined the carpet with refill kits, according to author Drew Robb.

"You cannot beat the cost of many refill kits," said Shulman. "However, you must be careful to purchase a kit which uses an ink specific to the printer family that you are refilling. Different companies use different types of formulations. So-called universal inks may only work for certain printers and cartridges. In addition, you have to deal with cartridges that cannot be refilled - as many as 50% - and you must be comfortable with the refill process." Shulman does not offer refill kits on his website. He sees them as very customer service intensive and a potential source of customer dissatisfaction, citing the many calls he has received from people who purchased refill kits and ended up throwing them out.

"It is hard to beat the quality of a new manufactured generic replacement ink cartridge produced under ISO 9001 quality conditions in a state-of-the art factory," said Shulman. He cited his popular Vibrant Ink generic cartridges for most popular Epson, Brother, Canon and some HP printers. "We rarely get returns or complaints on those products," he said. "The quality is very comparable to the OEM, at a fraction of the cost," he said, "although using different inks can require adjustments of your printer and many computer programs."

"The one place you see refills for those cartridges," said Shulman, "are cartridges designed for refill and CIS (continuous ink) systems." These refillable cartridges are sold at a premium, for a few dollars apiece, but are designed to be refilled with special needles from convenient 4 oz to 12 oz bottles. CIS systems are sold at various price points and are designed to fill printers from attached bottles. They are used by high volume users such as graphics arts professionals and people who print on fabric.

Replacement and remanufactured cartridges are widely available for inkjet printers. But the success rate is sporadic to say the least. According to Recharger Magazine, a major industry publication, you simply cannot refill every inkjet cartridge. The actual numbers are more like 20 percent of black inkjet cartridges and 50 percent of colors can't be refilled or reused.

"The reject rate is much less of a problem with a professional remanufacturer," explained Shulman. "They have equipment to test for defects, both prior to and after refill, and to replace some defective parts." It is hard to replicate that equipment at home. The quality of popular storefront refill centers is as good as the empty cartridge that goes in, the equipment and ink used and the skill of the individual operator. Storefronts sell their finished product at or above the cost of factory remanufactured.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

VibrantInk is an online purveyor of premium original OEM, compatible and remanufactured cartridges for inkjet and laser printers. Ink and toner for Apollo, Apple, Brother, Canon, Compaq, Dell, Epson, HP, IBM, Lexmark, MICR, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp, Xerox and more are available at a significant discount. All of our products are guaranteed to give you the highest achievable quality and are compliant with strict ISO 9001 standards. We are always updating our product catalogue, sale prices, and coupons. To stay up to date, you may subscribe to our mailing list.