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
President
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 www.vibrantink.com and www.cartridgetech.com.

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.

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