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What is an Ink Jet Cartridge?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 16, 2024
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Ink jet cartridges are components in ink jet printers that house the ink used in any printing job. An ink jet cartridge is usually less expensive per unit than other options, such as toner cartridges used with other types of printing materials. Relatively easy to replace, many people choose to purchase printers that use these types of cartridges for use at home for simple printing jobs.

There are various designs of the ink jet printer cartridge in use today. One option is the single cartridge that contains individual compartments filled with the four basic colors of inks used to create a wide range of colors. Depending on the requirements for the print job, the cartridge may release black ink only or also release, the red, yellow, cyan, and magenta as required. An ink jet cartridge with this design usually has tiny electronic contacts on the base of the unit that communicate with the printer to determine what is needed to handle the current print job properly.

An alternative to the single ink jet cartridge is the use of multiple cartridges. With this arrangement, each of the four colors of ink is housed in a separate cartridge. The cartridges are placed into specific slots within the printer, with each slot being marked to ensure the right cartridge is inserted into the right slot. For people who use much more black ink than any of the other colors, purchasing a printer that utilizes the individual cartridges is usually a more cost-effective option.

Manufactures of ink jet printers tend to also produce their own branded cartridges to use with their equipment. However, many consumers have found they can use a discount ink jet cartridge with equal success. As long as the discount cartridge is compatible with the printer make and model, they can work very well.

Choosing the right ink jet cartridge replacement is simple, if the consumer prefers to go with the cartridge that is sold by the maker of the printer. However, if the consumer wants to look into ink jet cartridge replacement options that involve discounted products, it is a good idea to proceed with caution. Some discounted brands will not produce as many copies as the manufacturer recommended brand. Others may claim to be compatible, but in fact can cause problems in the operation of the printer.

Fortunately, there are a number of discounted cartridges that do work very well and offer a similar number of printed copies. In many cases, these discounted ink jet printer cartridges may cost half of the recommended name brand, and sometimes as much as one third of the cost. The shelf life of most discounted cartridges is similar to that of a name brand, making it possible to purchase several for future use.

It is also possible to refill old cartridges in some cases. Normally, an ink jet cartridge refill can only be done with the units containing the four compartments, rather then the single color cartridges. However, the refill process can make it possible to reuse the cartridge and cut overall costs for printing significantly. Some retail outlets also offer discounts on ink jet cartridge replacement if you use the refill program and turn in your old cartridge after the second refill.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including EasyTechJunkie, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon270160 — On May 21, 2012

What can be done in relation to inkjet printers to help the environment?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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