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What comes first – “cartridge or the chip”?

October 24, 2016

What comes first – “cartridge or the chip”?Ink Specialist’s Robert Grafton discusses chip issues for remanufacturers, and what the industry can do.

We, the European cartridge remanufacturers, are having a hard time, having to fight at times a losing battle, with the OEMs on one side and the imports on the other. Now, just in recent months, HP Inc in their inherent wisdom decided to do auto firmware updates/upgrades without telling anyone.

The result was panic within the remanufacturing industry, with remanufacturers having to recode chips etcetera, causing the remanufacturers to call back the cartridges, and send out replacements when the new chip was ready. This cost time, money but most of all credibility to the already hard-pressed European remanufacturer.

Also added to this, you get a statement from HP Inc that they will do firmware updates/upgrades whenever they feel they want to – but giving you notice when they will do it. So if HP Inc will do this, what will Epson or Canon do??? That is the question – they will follow suit. What will it cost the remanufacturers and the industry – the hard-earned CREDIBILITY.

Which will mean that in the end, the end user will go back to the OEMs for one reason or another. Mainly, availability of their cartridge. We the remanufacturers have to find ways to combat this the best way we can. But we cannot do this alone – not only do we need the ink producers, but even more so the chip manufacturers. For they are the key to remain in business.

Being a small inkjet cartridges remanufacturer, we are faced at times with more problems than some of the larger remanufacturers. We are, and can be, a lot more flexible, but we have the disadvantage that we only produce smaller numbers. But we do work on the not-so-popular cartridges which the larger remanufacturers are not really willing to touch, as there are not the volumes to justify them to collect and remanufacture the cartridges.

Explanation

Chips are now a fact of life in the remanufacture industry, if it is laser or inkjet, as dealing with inkjet cartridges we face the problem of having to have a minimum of four types of chip: black, cyan, magenta and yellow (just the same as colour laser). But here the difference changes – we have an extra chip, photo black, as number five, but even some printers require more cartridges, meaning more chips – anything up to over 12 types.

These can include: photo black; matte black; cyan; magenta; yellow; light (photo) cyan; light (photo) magenta; grey; light (photo) grey; red; green; blue; and gloss optimiser. All of this we have to keep in stock at a cost. and many have a limited time as they are dated – and to find the OEMs have done an automatic firmware update is total nightmare.

Scenario

There you are, busy re-chipping cartridges that have just arrived from your chip supplier, feeling very comfortable that all is well and good, with no trouble with chips. There you are – you have chipped 90 percent of them – and then the phone rings from a dealer/agent/end user. What you hear is not good, because the very same cartridges that you have just re-chipped do not work.

Now you are faced with chips that are not going to work. Money wasted, as you cannot send the chips back. Added to that you have to wait for new chips/cartridges when they have solved the problem and produced a new chip – this will take time, maybe weeks.

What will be the end result?

You have lost your dealer/agent/end user, lost costumers, but most of all credibility, which we all need to survive.

Solution

I feel it is simple and straightforward, for I have tried to get them to do this. But it seems that the chip producers are not willing to go down this route, as it will affect their bottom line on their balance sheet. I feel it is simple, for the chip producers already have the means to produce and supply not only the hardware but also the software as well.

It just means they have to think outside their comfort zone and work with the users, and not against them, for the world is changing fast – very fast. This has already been proven in the last few months, and it will not get any simpler. As I stated, the chip producers have both the ability to supply both parts and software.

For most chips, hardware is the same from one model to another, and it’s the software (coding) that gives you the cartridge model it is used for. There are, I feel, two ways to go:

  1. Have a chip re-setter
  2. Have blank chips and a programmer.

Option 1

Resetting an OEM chip has a benefit in that it reduces the cost in handling new chips/the cost of making them. This can be done with a device that has X number of resets (you buy) and is programmed to reset a large number of cartridge models. It can also be linked to a computer for any new models and firmware updates via the internet. This would be simple, cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.

Option 2

This would be that the chip producers supply blank chips and a programmer that programmes the chip if and when needed. Working on the same principle as a chip re-setter, this will be able to keep the chips with current firmware update, and also give an end-of-use date that all HP chips have.

As someone that is on the front line as such, it gets very hard not to just give up and enjoy life. It is the challenges that have kept me going. But I am finding that some companies always look at the bottom line when it comes to R&D, and are not willing to pursue new cartridge models unless there is a large volume.

But I have found that with R&D you will never get all the money back, but it is the knowledge that is gained for the next project. As with chips it is not the hardware that is the problem – it is the software – and even this might be very simple, for there might just a few lines of code that have to be altered.

IT IS TIME WE ALL START LOOKING OUTSIDE THE BOX.

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