An ink cartridge [or inkjet cartridge] is a replaceable component of an inkjet printer. It contains the inks and even the print head itself sometimes. This is where the ink comes from that is deposited onto paper during image printing. Ink cartridges contain one or more partitioned ink reservoirs. Some manufacturers also add electronic contacts and chips that help the cartridge communicate with the printer.
Companies like Canon, HP, and Lexmark that make consumer inkjet printers use a thermal inkjet. A thermal inkjet has heating elements with tiny metal plates or resistors inside each partition of the ink reservoir. When a printer gives out a
signal, current flows into the metal plate or resistor and makes it warm. This makes the ink immediately surrounding the heated plate to vaporize into a small air bubble inside the cartridge’s nozzle. This forces an ink droplet out of the cartridge and onto the paper in a matter of milliseconds.
Printing depends on how smooth ink flows. If ink begins to dry to a print head this hinders the ink flow. This often happens when ink levels drop. However, printer owners can easily remove dried ink from a cartridge head. A simple and gentle rubdown with isopropyl alcohol on a swab or folded paper towel usually does the trick.
Ink is also a coolant that protects the metal-plate heating element. When ink supply depletes and printing starts, the heating element often burns out. This permanently damages the print head. So, when ink begins to run low on a machine, owners must refill or replace the cartridge to avoid damage to the print head by overheating.
Not all printers use a heating element. Some printers use piezoelectric crystals in their nozzles. When current hits the crystal it changes shape or size. This is perfect for inks that react badly when heated. It can also produce a smaller ink drop then thermal inkjets in some situations.
In most printers, there are two separate cartridges. One contains black ink and the other has each of the primary colors. However, some printers dedicate a cartridge for each primary color. Some of these cartridges contain ink specially
formulated for printing photographs.
All printer manufacturers produce their own ink cartridges. For this reason, cartridges for one printer may not fit another printer. They are typically incompatible physically or electrically. Replacement cartridges are usually expensive when you buy them from the original manufacturer.
Several third-party vendors produce less expensive alternative cartridges. These cartridges are compatible with certain machines. Sometimes these cartridges have more ink than OEM-branded cartridges. They often produce the same, better, or inferior quality cartridges. This depends on a variety of factors including their ability to reverse-engineer OEM products. The vendor’s ability to duplicate ink formulation is very important. Otherwise the consumer may have flow problems as mentioned above.
If you own a printer, you’ll eventually need to buy a replacement printer cartridge. You should buy it from a reputable online merchant who sells refillable cartridges or generic cartridges which are fully compatible with the manufacturers’ own brand replacements. LaptopsForLess.com has a huge selection of replacement cartridges in stock, at very reasonable prices [often a fraction of the cost of manufacturers’ own brand replacements]. We’ll even recycle your old printer cartridges for you!