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Because printer cartridges from the original manufacturer are often expensive, demand exists for cheaper third party options. These include ink sold in bulk, cartridge refill kits, machines in stores that automatically refill cartridges, re-manufactured cartridges, and cartridges made by an entity other than the original manufacturer.
Consumers can refill ink cartridges themselves with a kit, or they can take the cartridge to a re-filler or re-manufacturer where ink is pumped back into the cartridge. PC World reports that refilled cartridges have higher failure rates, print fewer pages than new cartridges, and demonstrate more on-page problems like streaking, curling, and color bleed.
Another option is for the consumer to purchase “bulk ink” (in pints, quarts, or gallons) and refill the cartridges themselves. This can be extremely cost-effective if the consumer is a heavy user of cartridges, although care is required while refilling to avoid ink stains on hands, clothes, or surroundings. One US pint (437 ml) is sufficient to fill about 15 to 17 large-capacity cartridges (or 34 to 39 per liter of ink).
Generally speaking, Canon, Dell, HP, and Lexmark cartridges are not difficult to refill, though some Lexmark cartridges employ a built-in counter chip that can’t be reset; Epson cartridges and some newer Brother cartridges also have a built-in counter chip, however it is possible to purchase a chip resetter for these models. Since older Brother cartridges generally lack any chip and consist of merely a sack of ink, they can be readily refilled.
Some third party manufacturers have been offering refillable cartridges with an auto reset chip to simplify the refilling process. These refillable cartridges are less harmful to the environment and often easy to further refill.
Perhaps the easiest, most trouble-free method of refilling ink cartridges is through the use of a CISS (Continuous Ink Supply System). A CISS consists of a set of cartridges that have tubes connected to them, through which the ink continuously flows from ink reservoirs on the outside of the printer. Instead of refilling the cartridges themselves, the user simply refills the bottles on the outside of the printer. Early CIS systems were composed of OEM cartridges that had been drilled and outfitted with fittings to accept the ink delivery tubes, a set of ‘ribbon’ tubes, and plastic bottles with holes drilled in the caps for the tubes and the vents. Today’s CIS systems are mass-produced in China, often incorporating all ink bottles into one partitioned container. They typically utilize auto-reset chips, which means the cartridges rarely have to be removed from the printer.
The legality of this industry was brought to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in the case of Lexmark Int’l v. Static Control Components. The Court ruled that reverse-engineering the handshaking procedure to enable compatibility did not violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
HP has fiercely defended its printing interests from the refill industry, including filing patent complaints and false advertising lawsuits which allege that inferior ink is not properly differentiated from the original HP ink.(Source: Wikipedia)