Canon temporarily dispenses with intelligent ink cartridges

An unexpected side effect of the global semiconductor shortage came to light this week – Japanese printer maker Canon announced that it would temporarily offer consumable ink and toner cartridges without microchips. In addition, they provided instructions for consumers on how to bypass the printer’s logic to make it work even when it incorrectly thinks it’s running low on ink or toner. Included in Announcement (German)the company explained what most people already knew:

Using consumables without electronic components does not adversely affect print quality.

It’s a well-known fact that many printers make their profits more from the consumables than from the printers themselves. And most printers require consumers to only use genuine factory cartridges, a policy enforced by embedded security ICs. Use a third-party ink cartridge and your printer will likely refuse to print. There is a legitimate concern that poor quality ink could damage the printheads. But with reports like this one from the BBC in 2003 When you consider that 17% to 38% more good quality pages can be printed after declaring the consumable “empty” and that the price per milliliter of ink is seven times the price of vintage champagne, you can reasonably conclude that these consumables are DRM protected it’s more about securing profits than protecting the hardware.

For now, this announcement is for German customers and covers the Canon imageRunner family of multifunction printers (see the company announcement above for the full list).

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