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How Long will your printer cartridge last? Feb 28, 2006 16:20 by John Sollars

How Long Will Your Printer Cartridge Last? – Get to Know Your Ink Cartridge!

Like all other consumables, printer cartridges definitely have a life span after which they will not perform their role. In simple terms, a cartridge has a limited shelf life. However, very few are aware of the duration after which cartridge will become useless.

There are number of factors that affect the life of a printer cartridge. Depending upon these factors, the life of a cartridge varies from a few months to a couple of years. Although there are many factors, the most important one is that whether the cartridge is opened or sealed. When the cartridge is kept in company packing, it will remain intact in good condition even for a year or more. However, if the cartridge is opened, it may dry up if sufficient care is not taken.

Usually, any printing consumable with or without usage over a year is in danger of being been dried up. The life of a cartridge is also dependent on the kind of wear and tear it gets over the time period it is in use. The life span of a cartridge can be significantly increased by recycling it or refurbishing it. In general, a cartridge can be refilled 3 to 6 times, if the cartridge holds out.

However, these are rough figures and the actual printer cartridge shelf life would depend to a certain extent on the make and model, and also on storage conditions. Quite often, cartridges have been known to last longer than 12 months.

Cartridges are best stored in a cool dry place with attention paid to making sure that the cartridges are sufficiently protected as even a small pin prick in the packaging will break the seal and the ink will begin to dry out. In fact, cartridges can even last a couple of years in a sealed condition. Some people have reported buying cartridges in bulk and finding them in perfect condition even 3 to 5 years later. The manufacturer’s given expiry date, however, is usually of 20 to 24 months.

The same also applies to a printer cartridge’s life when it is in use. Even if you print something every two months, the cartridges should last a couple of years with no degradation in quality.

Remanufactured Printer Cartridge Life
A number of people prefer remanufactured cartridges due to cost effectiveness. However, the life span of such cartridges is a cause of concern for many. These days, remanufactured cartridges are usually of the same quality as the original OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) cartridges.

Refilling Your Printer Cartridge?
Like printers, printer cartridges have also gone under numerous changes. Printer cartridges are complicated structures which play a very important role, that of being reservoirs of ink. If you are considering refill your ink cartridge, then it is very important for you to know its structure and basic parts.

When refilling, the part to you need to look at is the print head. The essence of your printer, the print head is a metal part with hundreds of tiny, delicate nozzle assemblies. Each nozzle assembly comprises an ink chamber, a resistor that controls the flow of ink, and walls that guide the ink to the nozzle plate with a hole from which ink is sprayed onto the printer paper. The print head may or may not be located inside the cartridge.

After the nozzles empty their quota of ink, a new supply of printer ink is automatically drawn into the chamber, to be ready for the next time. When the printer receives the command to print, the copper circuits at the end of the ink cartridge activate the nozzle’s resistor. The resistor subsequently heats the nozzle’s ink supply to an optimum temperature to cause it to expand and to force a drop of ink through the nozzle onto the printer paper. (The resistor can reach a temperature of hundreds of degrees very fast!). If there is no ink in the chamber when the resistor turns up the heat, the nozzle assembly will quickly deform and break apart as it is very delicate.

At the last stage of printing, the ink also performs another important job. The ink flowing through each nozzle assembly functions as a lubricant and coolant, thereby protecting the nozzle from any heat damage.

It is very important to never attempt to print with an empty ink cartridge as the print head can burn out if the ink cartridge is not refilled or replaced promptly. The effect of the damage may range from poor print quality in the form of lines across the print page, to blurring and light or dark patches on the page. Eventually, this error can be fatal for the printer.

Unfortunately, not all printers display the status of the ink in the cartridge. To avoid this disastrous error, you can periodically replenish the cartridges according to your usage, or whenever in doubt, you can top off your cartridges frequently from your refill pack.

Refilling all types of printer cartridges is not easy. This problem is more apparent with some recent models of HP printers. The company has dramatically changed the design of many of their black inkjet cartridges. This step was to taken mainly to curb refilling. The cartridges have gone under many changes like introduction of air bladders, constantly changing maze or venting assemblies at the bottom, and logic to change the signals to the resistor jets on the multiple reinstallation of the cartridge. The colour cartridges have also undergone some changes. These cartridges must be refilled before air locks occur, particularly in the yellow chamber.


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