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What Are Compatibles Made Of?

What Are Compatibles Made Of?

Sep 27th 2021

You print dozens of documents every month, but have you ever thought about where compatibles comes from? Pproduction involves a careful balance of chemicals, and you can choose dye- or pigment-based ink, depending on your unique needs. Many misperceptions also exist about the production of compatible cartridges, so clearing those up will also help you understand the chemical composition.

Common Misperceptions About How Compatible Replacements are Made

To understand how replacments are made, you should first understand some of the myths surrounding ink, so you can separate what is true and what is not. Three common misperceptions about manufacturing are:

  • Brand name cartridges are original manufacturing. While the term original equipment manufacturer (OEM) frequently indicates high quality, having the print manufacturer's brand name doesn't mean anything about the quality of toner and ink cartridges. Compatible cartridges are made in the same way and deliver the same results. The brand name doesn't matter at all for the quality of printing.
  • Brand names make their cartridges in the USA. While you may see "made in the USA" tags on brand-name items, many companies have moved their manufacturing offshore to China, Korea and other nations. The brand names often don't even manufacture the ink themselves — they outsource it and sell it under their brand.
  • Replacements are expensive. They don't have to be. While brand names charge a high price, manufacturing doesn't justify that high price. You can find compatible cartridges for much cheaper.

How Replacement Are Made Today

A range of chemicals makes up standard items today. Each one serves an essential part of the printing process, ensuring you will get the document you want in the colors you desire when you hit print. Understanding the job of each component can help you understand the end product:

  • Varnish forms the base and is made from a combination of resins, solvents, and soybean or linseed oil.
  • Resins can improve tink adhesion and make it hard. It helps the ink bond to the paper.
  • Pigments provide the coloring and allow it to spread across the printed product uniformly.
  • Additives can change the properties of the ink to help it spread more effectively on the page. This includes lubricants, surfactants, drying agents and alkali materials.

Products can be either pigment or dye-based. Pigments are insoluble, so they need something else in ink to help dissolve them. Dyes, by contrast, dissolve in liquid. Pigments may be more expensive, but they can also print archival-type images and stand up better to water. Dyes present a brighter picture, but they aren't waterproof. Dye-based inks fade more quickly, while pigment can lasts up to 200 years.

Though the components are nontoxic, you should keep it away from small children and call a poison center if someone ingests it. It can also produce small amounts of ozone, though the emissions are quickly replaced by oxyen.

Types of Components

There are two main kinds. Inkjet printers rely on liquid ink, while laser printers employ toner. Both types work equally effectively, and the type you need depends on your printing priorities. For example, offices generally produce lots of printed materials, so a laser printer may handle the volume better. Inkjet printers can be less expensive and still produce good-quality results.

Toner for Most Common Printers

A fine powder that sticks to the page through the addition of heat. Laser printing appears cleaner than standard printing, especially for smaller fonts, though it doesn't work as well with images.

How Lasers Products Work

By the simplest analogy, a laser printer works similarly to writing with clear glue and then blowing glitter onto the page. How so?

  • Part 1 – Understanding the components. The components to understand are the Photoreceptor Drum, the Laser, the Roller, the Fuser, and the Discharger. Yes, there are many more gears that are turning and switches that are flicking on and off, but that’s for another article.
  • Part 2 –Setting a patterned electric charge. The photoreceptor drum can hold an electric charge. The laser rapidly scans across the drum and creates a pattern of letters and characters (either creating a positive electric charge or highlighting the negative space). This is done in rapid succession where the drum will be circulated and discharged by the discharger—essentially, “erasing” the charged sequence.
  • Part 3 –Getting toned. Now that the electrical image is set on the drum, it turns past the roller. Because the microplastics can hold a responding electric charge, static electricity attracts and holds together the solution where there’s positive electric charge.

Note, this is where the “glue and glitter” comes into play. We warned you it was a simplistic analogy.

  • Part 4 – Transferring to paper. The drum, now with the solution set, rolls onto the printing page which has been charged with a stronger electric charge. The product is attracted to the page and then the page is discharged. Now, the product is sitting atop the page with nothing holding the two together.
  • Part 5 – Fusing to the page. Finally, the paper glides through the fuser which consists of two heated rollers and melts to the page.

One interesting note is that the paper doesn’t burn despite the roller being hot enough to melt. This works because different materials have individual rates of thermal conductivity. Thermal conductivity accounts for phenomena like the ability to quickly touch a hot stove and pull your hand away before getting burned.

But that’s enough about the machine, let’s bring it back to the microplastics…


Styrene acrylate copolymer, styrene butadiene copolymer, polyester resin—what do these terms have in common? They’re all hard to spell and harder to pronounce for the non-chemist. Joking aside, these terms are a result of chemistry nomenclature. Within these terms are “codes” for the chemical compounds that make up the type of plastic used. So, what is it made of, really?

  • Polymers – Polymers are linear chains of organic molecules (those with the Carbon atom as the backbone) or inorganic molecules (those without the Carbon atom backbone).
  • Styrene – Styrene has a known chemical formula of C6H5CH=CH2. It’s a colorless liquid with a sweet smell that’s used in many plastic formations.
  • Acrylate – Acrylates are salts that are commonly used as monomers in polymer plastics.
  • Butadiene – Isolated, butadiene is a colorless gas that will condense to a liquid at around 4 degrees Celsius. It is commonly used in synthesizing rubber.

Because most plastics are bland or colorless, relying on the dyes and pigments to bring the page to life, not too dissimilar to inkjet ink.

Ink for Inkjet Printers

Inkjet printers rely on liquid ink, with coloration that dissolves in glycol or water. The ink dries quickly on the page, and it flows from the printer head onto the page easily. It works best for images, but the color can fade with time. Dye-based inks are most effective, especially when using matte paper for prints. You will see a more vibrant color in the finished product.

Pigmented ink can be ideal for professionals making color prints. It comes in different tones and works with different types of paper.

How Inkjet Printers Work

The heart and soul of the infamous inkjet printer is the print head, which consists of a series of tiny nozzles that push out a small drip of ink. What becomes fascinating is how the ink actually gets pushed onto the page. There are a lot of problems that using microplastics (toner) instead of a fluid solves. The trouble with aqueous ink is:

  • The size and precision of the dot must be tiny and exact. The dots made on the page are about 50–60 microns—that’s smaller than the diameter of hair.
  • High resolution typically means about one million dots per square inch.
  • The dots also have to be made incredibly quickly.
  • Liquid naturally disperses when it’s met with a flat surface.
  • Liquids also attract inward. It’s why water droplets are always spheres—the molecules arrange themselves to create polarization.

To combat these phenomena, inkjet printers are set up using one of two droplet systems:

  • Thermal bubble – Also known as bubble jet, this technique uses resistors to heat the ink and create a bubble. A tiny amount of ink squirts onto the page through the nozzle, and when the bubble bursts, a vacuum sucks up a little more ink from the cartridge. Because resistors can be heated and cooled quickly depending on if charge is running through them, this ends up being a highly effective method of ink distribution.
  • Electric vibration – Another technique to create the ink droplets come from a crystal vibrating back and forth when an electric charge runs through it. This causes a tiny amount of movement, pushing ink out of the nozzle and being refueled by the ink cartridge simultaneously.

Ink Cartridge Ingredients

Ink is a concoction of other commonly unknown compounds from glycol to nitrates to sulfonates. Let’s break these down further to get a better understanding.

  • Glycol – A glycol is a set of compounds from the alcohol family (ethylene glycol, propylene glycol, etc.). These are commonly found in liquids with anti-freezing properties.
  • Nitrates – Nitrates are naturally occurring polyatomic ions. They’re common in mixing agents, acids, and fertilizers.
  • Sulfonates – Sulfonates are the sulfur equivalent of nitrates. While nitrates’ chemical composition is (NO3), sulfonates are part of a functional group of SO3.

Again, these terms are coded with chemical information that makes it easier to discuss and improve upon in research and development labs. Once the formulas are created, the fun aspect for ink comes from the pigments and dyes.

Learn More About Our Products Today

With all of this information, you can understand ink's origins and pick the right one for your projects. Supplies Outlet has what you need, including compatible cartridges from Brother, Canon, Dell, and HP that cost an average of 60% less than the brand names. You can get your order quickly, too. Browse our selection and place your order today. Get in touch with any questions.