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The Difference Between OEM and Aftermarket Cartridges

For most end users, there is a lack of understanding on the difference between Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) cartridges and Aftermarket cartridges. What are the differences between them? This blog will assist you in understanding more about the differences in how these cartridges are manufactured.


There are generally 4 different types of Aftermarket cartridges. OEM cartridges, Refilled cartridges, Compatible cartridges and Remanufactured cartridges.

  1. What Is an OEM Cartridge?
    OEM cartridges are manufactured by the maker of your printer equipment (i.e. HP, Brother, Samsung, etc.). These cartridges are manufactured using original new components and are often referred to as ‘Original cartridges’. 
  2. What Is a Refilled Cartridge?
    The refilling of cartridges was a lot more prevalent in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. Generally, small companies carried out this process and were often referred to as ‘drill and fill operators’. The refilled cartridge process consists of gaining access to the toner or ink container of the cartridge to refill it with new ink or toner. This is done by drilling a hole into the toner/ink section of the cartridge and filling it with new aftermarket ink or toner. In many cases when refilling laser toner cartridges, very few (if any) of the working components in the cartridge are replaced (or even cleaned in some cases). This is your most risky aftermarket cartridge in terms of quality consistency.
  3. What Is a Compatible Cartridge?
    Compatible cartridges are also often referred to as ‘clones’ or ‘generics’. These are completely newly manufactured cartridges (as well as the casings) that are manufactured as close to the OEM cartridges as possible (i.e. no OEM manufactured components are used in this process). The compatible cartridge manufacturers try to avoid infringing on OEM patents. Currently, this is the biggest threat to the OEM market as these cartridges are manufactured and sold at a fraction of the cost of the OEM cartridges.
  1. What Is a Remanufactured Cartridge?
    Remanufactured cartridges are effectively refurbished empty OEM cartridges. OEM Laser cartridge casings are stripped and cleaned. Depending on the cartridge type, there are differing amounts of OEM components that are cleaned and re-used in the remanufactured cartridge. The components that are not re-used are replaced with new aftermarket components. The quality of the individual aftermarket components is important, however, the key is to get the correct component combinations right. The most important combination is the OPC Drum and Toner combination, as this is key in determining print quality and yield. It is important to stress that the quality of the other components is also very important. 

If I do decide to try an aftermarket cartridge, which is the best type to use?  
It is advisable to be very weary of refilled cartridges. When it comes to the difference between remanufactured and compatible cartridges, the decision becomes more difficult. Due to the big variations in quality and yield from company to company, this is a difficult question to answer. Ideally, our advice would be to try and go with more trusted brands and the companies who offer the most appropriate warranty in terms of what action will be taken should you not be satisfied with the quality of the cartridge. In terms of which is the most environmentally friendly between compatible and remanufactured cartridges, the remanufactured cartridge is the better option.

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