Abbreviated Rough Guide to

  • 1992: were running a small factory remanufacturing HP LaserJet II, IIP and IBM 4019 cartridges
  • 1992: invented and sold world's first "do it yourself" toner refill kit for the HP LaserJet II SX cartridge
  • 1996: invented new method of refilling single-skinned toner cartridges and coined its name, "melt and pour"
  • 1997: sold first HP LaserJet 4 toner refill bottle featuring 8 micron toner particle size
  • 1998: developed world's first ever colour toner refill kit (for the Canon CLBP360PS)
  • 2000 (October): after buying our LaserJet 4000 Starter Kit and four toner refill bottles, a customer is so impressed that they, er, start their own "me too" company. The do-it-yourself toner refill market is born
  • 2002: sold first ever Samsung ML-1210 toner refill bottle and put "unplug and pour" into internet speak
  • 2005: opened enlarged 900 sq ft quality control and test lab
  • 2006: did 37,552 test prints with Epson C1100 before release of full product line-up. "Me too" websites supply the previous (non-magnetic) Epson toner, permanently damaging the integral developer units of their customers' machines
  • 2007: Amongst other things: 31,000 test prints on the HP 2600 and 33 actual refills performed before product release
  • 2008: OKI C5650 / C5750 refills, Epson C2600 and HP CP1215 / CP1515n refill toner all released after tens of thousands of pages printer in test lab
  • 2009: Somewhat eclipsed by publicity surrounding someone called Mr. Obama (even though we're in the UK!) but still managed to release some fine products
  • 2010: Brother HL-3040CN / HL-3070CW Starter Kit released with full analysis of issues posed by starter cartridges and 3 approaches to getting round them. Samsung ML-1910 / ML-1915 and other Samsung monos added to the merry throng
  • 2011: Perfected Samsung ML-1665 series with the addition of a hand tool that allows the cartridge to be refilled in any office without the need for an electric drill. Amongst others, toner refills developed in lab for Samsung CLP-620, Kyocera FS-C5100 and HP's CP1025 and CP1525. Lexmark C543 still stuck for a chip that works properly, although we've had the printer for over 2 years now
  • 2012: OKI C310 / C330 / C510 / C530 Starter Kit released after 10,958 test pages (i.e. one complete drum life-cycle). "Me too" web sites sell toner on its own during 2011. Surely that led to disappointment since we - with 20 years experience and a test lab - couldn't get the refill to work without new chips

"Melt and pour" foxes the "Pros"

Who could make this kind of stuff up?

The story of the "melt and pour" toner refill actually starts in 1992, when a father and son team from Birmingham were running a small factory which re-manufactured laser printer cartridges by the thousand - mainly the HP2/SX - now and extinct species. We'd already developed a "do-it-yourself" approach to the cartridges around then, but they could all be opened, unplugged and easily put back together again. The HP 5L/6L cartridge, on the other hand, was a can of worms on roller skates.

My old dad and I sat in my second-hand Ford outside the works one night in 1996 straining to think of a way to make a hole in a HP 5L/6L cartridge. It seemed hopeless. As if HP had used all its might just to stop us in our tracks. Then one of us said,
"What about an apple corer?"
"Yeah ..... what about it?"
"Melt a hole with an apple corer .... "
"Dunno. Don't think it'll work"

Thing was, though, it did work. And it kept on working.

Over the next couple of weeks we tried to make it fail. The big technical issue we were worried about was "waste overflow" because we knew that our potential customer's cartridge generates some waste during its first run form new. Conventional wisdom said you had to empty that waste before refilling or risk ruined prints from waste overflow.

So how many times did we refill that HP 5L cartridge without emptying any waste? After melting a hole in it with our apple corer? That answer surprised us: eleven times! 11 continuous refills before the waste was full enough to spill out onto any prints. Now, in the interests of historical accuracy, it has to be said that we did get a print problem half way through the seventh refill that would stop anyone from carrying on printing, but that was due to developer roller wear. Still, we reasoned, six perfect refills through one hole melted in a minute or two? Not bad. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. And don't worry, you can leave your apple corer in the kitchen these days.

When we invented melt and pour and began to market it in 1996, our former colleagues in the cartridge re-manufacturing industry laughed at us. They sent us emails telling us to crawl back under our rock. They published scathing articles in their trade press. They held meetings where we were the agenda.


Depending on the cartridge design, a patch can be the way to go

Ignoring our substantive original research and forgetting we earned our stripes in their very own army, they tried to dismiss us as the second coming of amateurish late 1980's "drill and fill". Er, hello? If we're lepers, at least get the disease right. But around 1995, we began to see a new type of laser cartridge from HP. Single-skinned, lacking any kind of plug and about as easy to put back together as a broken ming dynasty vase. Our response, melt and pour, might be direct, even crude: but not naive.

A decade and a half later, "melt and pour" has been field-tested by tens of thousands of our customers around the world and widely copied by more "me too" toner refill companies than you can shake a stick at. Why are we still just as keen on "melt & pour" - the method they laughed at? Because it doesn't disturb the inner workings of your cartridge, that's why. It's completely superficial and changes nothing. If your cartridge was working before, it'll be working after too.

In 1996, we didn't have 19 years of success in the field with melt and pour. Now that we have, maybe even the cartridge re-manufacturing industry will join us in a quick chorus of .... "Ho, ho, ho. Who's got the last laugh now?". And to our customers, who weren't prepared to knock it before they'd tried it, an eternal Thank You.

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