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.
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.