Toner Cartridge Fill Ratios
I am often asked about fill ratios … as in “How can I tell how much ink and toner my customers are putting on the page?” As value added resellers (VARs) leverage their print management efforts, many look to reduce the possibility of consumers going through toner faster than contracts allow.
Like most print management collection software, Print Tracker, provides dealers with status information about the copiers, MFPs and printers being monitored– showing toner levels as of the last meter collection. Gathered detail permits trends to be discovered:
- Cartridge change dates can be determined
- Cartridge change events can be graphed
- Toner levels at the change can be confirmed
- Meters at the change can be verified
- Output volumes between cartridge change events can be established
- Early changes or excessive toner usage can be discovered
Then, comparisons to an established standard can be used to help determine how much toner may be going on the page, but that is not the whole story. There is a lot more to fill ratios than one might think.
A number of years ago the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) joined forces to set page saturation levels so manufacturers could state the number of pages cartridges may print on some kind of meaningful way. The coalition used a common file format, 5-page document to measure print yields across various printers. The worldwide standard of five percent they proposed is now used to compare products. The five percent standard means only 5% of the whole page is covered with ink or toner. The level was chosen to provide average page measurements for new toner and ink cartridges run through imaging machines in specific printing conditions with printing done until the cartridges run empty.
NOTE – It must be mentioned, five percent ink on the page isn’t very much. If one were to copy the previous two ‘Standardization Background’ paragraphs to a Word ® document, the result would be about 5% coverage. Most documents that people print typically have more words than this! To ensure measurements were equalized, samplings of typical consumer pages were used: a letter, a newsletter, a diagnostic page, a spreadsheet and a slide. Graphics and pictures are not generally used in testing. You may Google and purchase “ISO/IEC 24712:2007” testing documents for your own evaluation.
Actual page output is dependent on the style and make of the copier, MFP or printer. Additional standards were created for manufacturers for each of these machine types and it is important to point out one should only use published information as estimates for comparison purposes. Actual output varies by user and printed content.
Additional Factors to Consider
In addition to words, graphics and pictures, font style can make a difference in page coverage as well. Repeating the old typewriter training sentence “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy brown dog” a half dozen times in font size 12, one can visualize this for themselves:
Times New Roman:
Times New Roman presents as the most efficient, followed by Arial only slightly edging out Tahoma. Comic Sans, a font often employed in education not only increases horizontal density, but vertical space as well. While it may be pleasing to the eye and offer an easier read, the Verdana font imparts the highest saturation.
Printing spreadsheet content affects coverage as well. If one were to print a simple table of numbers with ten columns and 50 rows, ISO/IEC tests have shown page coverage to be around five to six percent. Interestingly, when borders are added to columns and rows, coverage doubles. Recommending pre-printed forms to consumers who habitually print spreadsheets may be a good way to curb cartridge replacement.
Primary Factors Impacting Page Yield
- Job size – A single three-page print job provides better yields than three one-page print jobs.
- Image type – Customers who print text documents experience a higher page yields than customers who print documents with graphics, images and tables. Font size often increases with graphic documents. In addition, printing emails have incredibly high toner saturation on the page.
- Color page coverage – Page coverage for black and white is typically lower than color.
- Spot color – Printing a small amount of color on pages that are mostly black and white requires the color device to engage its color print supplies causing a loss in all toner colors, including black.
- Toner density settings – Some devices have settings that can reduce the amount of toner applied during the print process. Look for adjustable settings to reduce toner use without losing print quality.
- Duplex mode – Printing in duplex mode (two-sided printing) can reduce toner loss due to increased efficiency in machine run time per page printed.
- Copy and fax – Toner usage when copying or faxing is different than direct printing. Scanning to print dark images can result in output that has more image saturation than original being scanned.
- Power on time without printing – Devices powered on for long periods of time without printing may reduce the amount of available toner. Some printers cycle at preset intervals when idle to maintain cartridge quality. Every cycle run results in a small loss of usable toner.
- Machine calibration – Each calibration cycles use a small amount of toner.
- Cartridge end of life – Some cartridges do not deplete at even levels. When this occurs, a significant amount of toner may be left in the cartridge when replaced.
- Environmental conditions – Temperature and humidity outside of standard office parameters can affect print cartridge yields.
… In Summary
One must look beyond the numbers to see what is really affecting toner saturation. During an account review, ask for and review examples of documents printed by the customer. Dig into and discover printing habits.
A dealer once related they had a customer “blowing through cyan toner” and they could not understand why. Upon review it was discovered the customer (a boat dealer on the Mississippi River) was printing brochures off the internet. Along with all the blue-sky boat pictures, the dealer’s logo covered nearly one-third of the page — and was also blue. The dealer rewrote the contract to charge for the additional toner demand. Print management software providers and Supplies/Parts resellers offering document analysis with the services they provide, will often have reporting ability. Information gathered by the collection software can show cartridge change events complete with meters for the date of change, the part number of the cartridge, the cartridge yield, the number of pages since the last change and a calculated yield.
Some software providers can also provide alerts when cartridges are changed early; before low alerting thresholds are met. Commonly referred to as premature cartridge replacement alerts, they can work together with excessive toner alerting to help reduce loss in toner. The dealer’s supply team should be reviewing such documentation on a regular basis to check for usage anomalies. When irregular events do occur, a simple phone call may be all that is needed to correct behaviors.
Finally, we humans like things reduced to the basics. By using an established value like “5% page fill” results can be compared. If the numbers returned are greater than 5% there may be a potential problem looming and further investigation may be in order. When fills are less than 5% all is usually well.