April 25, 2012
Disrupted quality, high failure rate and landfill rate cited as reasons against using remanufactured cartridges by HP executives.
Matthew Murray, writer for Extreme Tech, has detailed a discussion between HP executives regarding the OEM’s stance on remanufactured and refilled cartridges during a recent site visit to HP’s recycling plant.
Environmental Program Manager Jean Gringas, Director of Worldwide Solutions Jeff Walter and Smyrna facility plant manager Rich Wirick were present for the discussion, with Murray stating that HP were “remarkably willing to discuss (and defend) their position” during a presentation before the factory tour, and first comment on the quality of using remanufactured and refilled cartridges.
Gingras remarked: “If you have a glass and you drink water out of it every day, as long as you wash it the quality of the water doesn’t change. But with a cartridge, we’ve done studies that show when you remanufacture or you refill [it], the quality does change. And so that quality change can cause customers to reprint.
“Because the print heads or the nozzles on the print cartridge, after you’ve used them until the ink is gone in the cartridge, the quality of those change. They’re not going to print necessarily the same way as they did for the first run,” with Gringas referring to an HP-commissioned study that concluded that reprinting due to poor quality offset the environmental savings of remanufactured cartridges.
Walter added: “If you look at cartridges, for example, there’s a massive amount of technology both in the print heads as well as there is some physics associated with the foam and the way the ink flows through the print heads, and over time the foam degrades, gets film, et cetera, and what we’ve found is that, of refilled cartridges, about a third of them wind up failing.”
On opining on simply replacing the print heads, Walter disagrees, noting: “It depends on the system […] and then you still have the ink flow, foam…”
Gingras interjected: “And for printing, much of the technology, I think 70 percent of the technology, is actually in the print cartridge, because that’s where the nozzles are fired at four, six picolitres, very small drops.”
However the HP executives remarked on their interest in remanufacturing, with Gingras stating: “Because we want to know: Can we do it, too?”
Walter elaborated on the OEM’s process: “Trust me, we’ve looked again and again and again: can we refill? Can we remanufacture? […] We look at this all the time, and we cannot figure out a way to do it that provides the same quality.
“Customers expected, fundamentally, 100 percent of the time, that the printer’s gonna work. So every time you get the failure rates, you get the poor quality, which then offsets any manufacturing benefits of the remanufacturing or refilling […] and if you can’t refill it, it’s going to a landfill. Versus us, nothing goes into a landfill.”
Wirick also commented: “You can only refill something, even [remanufactured cartridges], you can only refill a certain amount, once or twice or whatever it is… even they can’t get it to work after that.”
HP’s Smyrna recycling plant saw a number of visitors, including Leon Kaye who celebrated the “Willy Wonka”-style factory and 39 million cartridges having been shredded since the plant’s inception in 2001.
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