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The Science Behind Page Counts, Cartridge Yields and The 5% Rule!

Everyone wants to make the right decisions when buying printing supplies. Reliability, print quality, print speed and ease of use typically are the most important considerations, but comparing costs is also very important.  You want products that deliver on their promise!

What Is Printer Yield?

Customers are becoming increasingly aware of the cost of owning and operating their printers and multifunction products (MFPs). The cost of consumable supplies such as toner cartridges or solid ink sticks is a major component of the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for a printer or MFP. The per-page cost of printing is driving many printer and MFP purchase decisions today, as these costs can be combined with print volume and print coverage assumptions to give companies a reasonable estimate of the monthly and annual TCO for a specific printer or MFP.

In the past, printer and MFP original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) used different, proprietary methods for testing and reporting consumable yields. This made factual and accurate comparisons of products from differing manufacturers impossible. Reporting was traditionally done using “5% area coverage,” but that did not guarantee comparable results because many other testing variables affect the stated yield, including:

  • Page size and margin settings

  • Image types used to create 5% area coverage

  • Number of cartridges used during testing process

  • Number of printers/MFPs used during testing process

  • Environmental testing conditions (humidity, temperature, and so on)

  • Lack of stated confidence level for published consumable yield

Any variation in these factors during the testing process can cause significant differences in reported yields. The development of an industry standard method for testing and reporting consumables yields has helped eliminate these inconsistencies, and gives customers the reliable information they need to make their technology buying decisions.  Thus, almost all manufacturers now support industry standards such as those set by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The International Standards

The ISO and IEC have adopted a standard for black-and-white devices – ISO/IEC 19752 – which is described as a “method for the determination of toner cartridge yield for monochromatic electrophotographic printers and multifunction devices that contain printer components.”   Black-and-white printers and MFPs reporting toner yields under ISO/IEC 19752 use the following explanation: Toner Cartridge Yield: Average XX,XXX standard pages (declared yield in accordance with ISO/IEC 19752. Yield will vary based on image, area coverage and print mode).

ISO/IEC 19798 is a similar standard that has been adopted for color laser devices. ISO/IEC 19798 is described as “a method
for the determination of toner cartridge yield for color printers and multifunction devices that contain printer components.”  Reporting format is as follows: Average Continuous CMYK Yield: XX,XXX pages, or Average Continuous CMY Yield: XX,XXX pages and
Average Continuous Black Yield: XX,XXX pages (if the black Yield is different than color - such as where a printer has a larger capacity black cartridge).

ISO/IEC 24711 is another standard that has been adopted for inkjet and solid ink devices. ISO/IEC 24711 is described as “a method for determination of ink cartridge yield for color inkjet printer and multifunction devices that contain printer components.” Reporting format is similar to ISO/IEC 19798 shown above. Different implementations of color tables and color balance optimization among manufacturers can lead to yield variations between color cartridges, even if they have the same toner weight. To account for this, ISO supports a second reporting method called “composite yield,” allowing a single average reporting yield for Cyan, Magenta and Yellow toner cartridges. Black is reported separately as an individual yield.  Average Continuous Composite CMY Yield: XX,XXX pages. Average Black Continuous Yield: XX,XXX pages.

ISO/IEC 19752, ISO/IEC CD 19798, and IS0/IEC 24711 specify the use of a standard test page for black-and-white and multiple test pages for color products, explicit testing procedures, statistical sampling, environmental controls and well defined cartridge end-of-life status.

ISO Standard Methods

Because of ISO's explicit test procedures, the ISO standards are the only standardized rigorous method for determining toner & ink cartridge yield for laser, color, and ink jet printers. Some of their key features are:

  • Using A Standard test document:
    Use of a standard page printed with printer default settings. This ensures that settings remain consistent across different tests, independent of platform or paper size. The document uses 5% coverage as its basis for comparison.  (see photo of document at right)

  • Number of cartridges tested:
    Nine of each cartridge are tested, allowing reliable estimates of lowest predicted yield with 95% confidence.

  • Source for cartridges:
    Cartridges and printers are purchased on the open market from three different sources. This ensures the cartridges tested are representative of those available to customers and ensures lot variation.

  • Clear, objective, end-of-life criterion:
    Determines cartridge yield through measurements that establish an end-of-life criterion based on usable pages and that reflect the manufacturers' recommendations on how cartridges should be handled as they approach their end of life (for example, how many times they should be shaken).

  • Number of printers:
    Cartridges are tested on three different printers (three cartridges on each printer) to avoid bias due to printer variability.

  • Controlled environment:
    Printing environment is controlled and consistent because temperature and humidity variations affect cartridge yield.

  • Objectivity:
    Because of worldwide and industry-wide participation, this reflects objectivity in developing a reliable and rigorous standard.

The ISO/IEC standards allow for objective comparisons of stated toner or ink yields for different printers or MFPs, regardless
of the manufacturer. Many customers use consumable yield information to estimate the toner life they can expect to
experience with their particular use and printer, and the manufacturer's adherence to these ISO/IEC standards enables this comparison.  But, it is important to note that the yield is a comparative statistic, and not a real world prediction of the final results. The number of pages that any user will get for their own printer will depend on a variety of factors, with page coverage (square inches of printing, density, and quality settings) having the highest impact. Research has shown that the industry average black-and-white page coverage is between 4% and 5%. There is an inverse relationship between page coverage and toner/ink yield — the lower the page coverage, the more pages
the toner/ink will print. Conversely, higher coverage pages result in fewer printed pages.

Cartridge yield - Things To Consider

As we indicated in this Guide, many factors affect cartridge yield. These include:

  • Coverage of the printed document - how much toner is printed on the page. Values are usually based on 5% (page of text) coverage.

  • Temperature and humidity.

  • Age Of Cartridge.

  • Toner "Hopper" or Ink Reservoir Design.

  • Drum or Print Head Design.

  • Storage prior to use.

  • End Of Life Actions (such as shaking).

Q&A On Printer Yield

Q: Can I get the published yield for my specific printer?

A: Unfortunately No. The standards just ensure that the stated printed page yields of different printers are comparable, not what you will actually get (unless you only print thousands of the ISO test page!).  Also, the yield page number is not a guaranty that users will get
the declared yields in their own printer (as page coverage has the highest impact on actual yields). User applications running at approximately 5% page coverage under normal office operating conditions can expect on average to experience yields that are fairly close to the ISO declared yields.  Home users though may not get anything close, since home printing tends to be much more high coverage graphics, which reduces yields dramatically.

Q: What are the factors that will impact the user's yields the most?

A: The most important factor affecting yield is page coverage.  It is not unusual for office or home usage to run above or below that 5% average (for example, if you print a webpage with the Print Background Graphics option on, you could be printing 80%+ coverage). In general, pages with significant dark, shaded, or colored areas (logos or pictures) or a large amount of fine print will generate area coverage much higher than 5%. Other factors that
can reduce cartridge yield include: higher temperature or higher humidity levels where the printer operates (in laser printers, high humidity can cause clinging or clumping of the toner, and in inkjet can cause evaporation or clogging of the print jets), and using a higher print resolution setting (which causes more dots to be printer per inch resulting in higher density).  Color coverage varies by product class, but is generally much higher than black-and-white products. Letter/A4-size color printers and MFPs can have average page coverages in the 7 to 15% range (depending on the application and mix between color and black-and-white documents). Tabloid/A3-size color printers and MFPs tend to drive higher
color page coverages in the range of 10 to 30% in office environments. In graphic arts environments, average color page coverages can increase to the 40 to 60% range. In the home, coverage can be even higher since home users tend to be less aware of options and use best quality regardless of need.

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Tags: Inkjet Printers, Laser Printers, Color Printers, Inkjet cartridges, toner cartridges