When our industry first began, there was no internet and no remanufacturing aftermarket. Information on how to take a cartridge apart and remanufacture it was hard to come by. Chenesko Products (the company I started with in the industry) developed a “Fax on Demand” system where you would call in from the handset on your fax machine, punch in the document number you wanted and it would fax it back to you, all on the same call.
It may sound primitive now, but at the time it was high tech! Around the same time Chenesko produced a series of “How to” videos. All were produced using a local NY film crew on tape and (painfully!) took an average of 4-8 hours to film for each one. Those two items helped start getting remanufacturing information out there.
The first cartridges to be filled were Canon PC (A20) and HP LaserJet 92285A (CX) (see Image 1), The PC used positive toner and the CX cart’s used negative. By trial and error, it was found that there were some Canon Copier cartridges (tubes) where the toner could be dumped out and used in these cartridges to refill them. The prints were not dark black, more like a dark gray, but they worked, and saved people money. The aftermarket industry was born!
Soon after that the industry started making and selling “drill and fill” kits. At first the components in the cartridges were extremely durable and if the cartridges were cleaned out reasonably well, they mostly worked… not great, but they worked. Then suddenly the cartridge components didn’t last very long and quality became a big issue. The industry almost died before it got going.
Those quality issues and the new SX Cartridge changed the industry in that we now learned to take the cartridge apart and re-manufacture it. The SX drums failed after a few cycles, and the cartridges really needed to be taken apart and cleaned properly. The dedicated aftermarket supplier industry was born as new drums and wiper blades were now being manufactured.
Around the same period of time, IBM released the 4019 series of printers (see Image 2). They used a design completely unlike the Canon-based cartridges we had seen so far. They weren’t terrible, but they used a plastic plate to keep the gears in place, all held together with plastic rivets.
Great care had to be taken in removing those rivets, drilling holes for screws and keeping the plates with their respective cartridges. If you mixed up the plates, the gears could be misaligned when the cartridge was put back together. Some companies had jigs to help with this when drilling but it still was safer to keep the plates with the correct core.
In my opinion, the first huge hurdle from a technology point of view that we ran into was with the HP LaserJet 3Si printers (NX). At first they were fine, but then Canon/HP made a change to the PCR. The new PCR’s had a gray coating instead of the original black coating (see Image 3). This new coating barely made it through the original cycle and really never made it through a remanufactured cycle. Once they failed, the cartridge “back-grounded” and ghosted badly.
The aftermarket industry responded in a number of ways. There were systems to strip the gray coating off and recoat them, systems to place a more conductive coating without stripping the old off, and then finally the true solution… new replacement PCR’s. It was a long period of time from when the first gray PCR’s appeared and new replacement PCR’s that worked became available. The aftermarket supply industry learned much from this.
New machines continued to be released by HP and Canon, but the nice thing was that most were based on the same cartridge. The HP 3Si became the 4Si, the HP LaserJet 4 became the 4+ and then the 5. Life was good for the Aftermarket…