This page has general information about printer chips, covering what they do and how you can use them to help the environment and save money.What is a cartridge chip?
What does a chip do?
What does a chip not do?
How can chips help the environment?
A brief history of printer chips.
Over the past twenty five years chips have grown to become a large part of the aftermarket supplies industry. The technology used has evolved quickly, sometimes faster than the cartridges they are attached to. When they first appeared they were relatively simple designs. Chips were first seen with the TEC 1305 printer engine in the spring of 1992. The Xerox N24 engine came out shortly afterwards. HP first used simple chips in the Color Laserjet 4500 along with the first Chemical colour powder in this model. The first RF (radio frequency) chips were introduced by HP in the Laserjet 4100, 9000 and Color Laserjet 4600 models.
Lexmark have been one of the most challenging OEMs for our industry. The first chip used in the Optra T was fairly easy to overcome, but the release of the T520 changed this industry. The first aftermarket solution was a "piggyback" chip that fitted on top of the original and was wired to a pass-through board. Later stand-alone boards were developed. These started out with somewhat large components, and were miniaturised as the industry evolved. We now have small boards with extremely complex encryption codes. With a few exceptions HP and Lexmark chips are the contact type, with plated pads that connect with contacts inside the machine.
Other manufacturers use RF style chips, most noticeably Xerox, Dell, Oki and Kyocera. These chips broadcast a small signal through an antenna. The antenna can be a hard wire coil (Xerox, Dell) or even a thin label with a flexible circuit printed on it (Kyocera). They can and do look very different from one manufacturer to the other. There are other styles of chips including credit card sized boards which insert into a slot by the machine's control panel (some Oki, Philips and Xerox MFPs). Some other chips plug into a connector and come complete with a plastic housing (eg. Xerox N24).
Most modern chips use dedicated microprocessors. The programming is built in and is more hardware than software. Microprocessor chips can be very complex. The OEMs use encryption to encode the signals sent to and from the chip. Firmware updates are used to change the encryption key, and to present new challenges. The original chip has an encryption module. This actually calculates the response to the question the printer is asking, instead of using a pre-programmed response. The same chip works with all future firmware updates.
Most of the latest aftermarket chips are fully encoded and also contain an encryption module. Firmware updates do not matter because this module calculates the correct answer to each request. It does not just send pre-programmed answers. They can emulate the original chip 100% and always give the correct response.
Its expensive and time consuming for the chip manufacturer to develop these encryption modules. They must research and work around the OEM's patents and intellectual property so that the finished chip is completely legal. Using reverse engineering methods it is possible for them to develop their own solution independently of the OEM's work. Typically there is a delay of several years when a new model is released before aftermarket supplies become available. The chip must be developed before compatible consumables are sold. These chips are expensive when they are first released, to cover high development costs. A recent example is the Lexmark C/MC/2325/2425/2535 series models. These were released around October 2018. We made the first aftermarket chip available to our customers in August 2020. Other models have taken longer. The CS720/725/CX725 was released around January 2016 and the compatible chips did not appear until July 2020. For the C/MC3324/3326 series models the compatible chips are still not yet available.