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Why Printer Manufacturers Measure Ink Yield Differently

2011-08-30

Standards for measuring the ink yield of printers and ink cartridges can vary greatly. Over the years, printer manufacturers employed different statistical methods for determining the average yield of a given printer and cartridge combination. Today, the industry is one step closer to developing a universal formula for estimating the average page yield of ink and toner cartridges. In 2004 and 2006, standards for measuring the page yield of inkjet and color cartridges were adopted by the Organization for Standardization (ISO), yet the ink yield many printer manufactures advertise is not what consumers experience when they use their printers at home.

Industry experts often compare ink yield data to the miles per gallon data listed on new cars. While manufactures supply a number, it is generally not the same as the output you will experience at home. Newly adopted ISO standards instruct printer manufactures to use three identical printers, which are each loaded with three sets of cartridges. The data is then averaged out to determine a general ink yield. These precise standards use statistical models to create exact measurements. Monochrome printouts typically have a 4 to 5 percent page coverage rate, while color printouts have a 20 percent coverage rate, including 5 percent coverage for black ink and each color cartridge. These standards are designed to be completed on 8.5" X 11" copy paper, although other manufacturers base their color and photo printouts on a 4" X 6" model, which is not a universally accepted standard.

Varying statistical models and inconsistent ink yields make it difficult to accurately compare printers, cartridges, and estimated page yields. Many other factors affect the ink yield as well, and these are not compensated for in the ISO-approved formulas. When calculating the page yield, printer manufacturers will print one page after the next until all three sets of cartridges are empty. This process includes short breaks to reload paper and replace the cartridges, but it doesn't represent normal usage for most consumers. If you regularly print full-coverage photos or black and white printouts with more than 5 percent of the page covered, your ink cartridges will run out faster than the printer manufacturer originally estimated.

Manufacturers' ink yield calculations do not replicate the stop-and-go printing habits of home users and regular consumers. Every time your printer primes itself and prepares to print, more ink is used. Ink levels can also drop due to evaporation if you don't use your printer often. Likewise, nozzle and print head cleaning procedures to remove dry ink particles and clogs use ink even faster. How you use your printer is one of the most unpredictable and important factors in determining your actual ink yields.

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