Overall MICR quality depends on several factors working together - the MICR toner cartridge, the MICR font, the MICR printer, the paper stock, the document design, and the internal controls over media storage and operations.
At Source Technologies, we are committed to providing only the highest quality MICR printer solutions. To ensure this level of quality, we start testing at the product’s development phase and continue that testing even after our products are released for sale to ensure MICR toner quality over time.
So why do we spend so much time and effort testing? Because we take care of our customers. The quality of the MICR toner cartridges we develop must address the needs of our customers in terms of yield (number of pages printed per cartridge) and defect-free performance. We’re proud to report that our overall quality level is over 99.95%, or a failure rating of less than 0.05% for check processing quality, and a cartridge defect-free performance consistently above 98%.
Our MICR quality also adheres to national and international standards established for MICR documents. In the United States, these standards are developed by the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) on Financial Services, X9, operating under the procedures of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Since 1996, Source Technologies has been a voting member of the ASC X9AB subcommittee on Check Processing.
Here are the elements we look at when testing the performance of our MICR toner:
Signal strength is a measure of the magnetic waveform generated by each MICR character as it passes by a reader/sorter write and read head. The peak values of the induce waveform are referenced to a nominal or desired value. United States specifications for the signal strength are bounded by 50% and 200% of the nominal value (i.e. one-half to twice the nominal value). Specifications in Canada narrow the bounded values to 80% and 200%. Our objective for signal strength is always to meet the stricter Canadian requirements.
Signal strength is measured using a MICR Qualifier GTX system from RDM. We use a random pattern of 30 MICR characters per document to monitor its value. Ten consecutive test documents are printed to generate an average value for 300 characters and each individual character is checked for the 80% to 200% nominal range.
The key measurements of signal strength include:
Our MICR toner formulation generates initial average values in the range of 90% to 125%, which ensures adherence to specifications, given all variances.
Note: Normal print density settings are used. Light print density settings can give unsatisfactory results. No other density settings are recommended. Source Technologies’ secure MICR printers automatically control density, fuser and developer settings.
The primary focus on adhesion is to prevent the lifting, scraping or removing of the MICR toner from a printed document. Best results are achieved through a combination of MICR toner, printer fuser capability and paper stock.
We use a combination of standard rub tests, lift tests, and scrape tests to quantify the adhesion capability. These tests are repeated on various paper stocks, all classified as MICR or MOCR Bond paper with various safety features available from multiple suppliers and distributors.
For our standard rub test we use Source Technologies paper, take signal strength readings before and after the rub and then compare the two. The amount of toner removed in the test (as measured by the loss in signal strength) should be less than 3%.
The adhesion capability in lift and scrape tests vary greatly with the type of paper. Results may range from no visible toner removed to some portion of the toner being removed. Similar results have been observed with regular non-MICR toner and on competitive MICR-capable laser printers. The best results are achieved with paper available from Source Technologies, or most major check paper manufacturers. The worst results came from check paper classified as MOCR (MICR & OCR) with an emphasis on smoothness, whiteness, and sizing additives. These paper products also lack chemical additives that aid the toner fusing process.
Note: Be aware of fraud risk potential with some check stock available on the market today. You should test your chosen paper for lift and scrape exposure. Fraud experts recommend security numeric fonts to minimize this exposure.
For any MICR document, the real measure of quality is how it performs in the MICR reader/sorter equipment. Poor readability results in the document being rejected, which triggers additional back-office costs. Larger financial institutions demand extensive testing prior to committing to the MICR laser technology. Our test procedures are patterned after procedures used by major financial institutions.
Through the local Federal Reserve, Source Technologies has access to UNISYS 1800 Reader/Sorter equipment. Additionally, the IBM 3890 development laboratory is located near our corporate headquarters, and we have an open-ended contract for laboratory test time and assistance. Our initial testing showed the IBM 3890 to be far more critical to laser generated documents and as a result, we focus more of our performance on the IBM 3890. We do periodic test runs with the UNISYS, NCR and Banctec equipment as well.
To test for durability, we print a batch of 500 test documents containing a reference to a specific toner formulation, printer model and paper stock. The test documents are 8.5” x 3.67” with Aux On-Us, Transit, and On-Us fields set at 30 characters. The test batch is fed 20 times through the reader/sorter. Any documents with a read error are selected to a separate transport pocket. Read errors that do occur are compared to the 10,000 read attempts (500 documents times 20 passes) and measured to our objective of 99.95% successful read rate.
We inspect the reader transport for any toner contamination, particularly the read-and-write head Mylar shields. Signal strength readings are taken before and after the 20 passes. We also check for any substitute character reads (like when an 8 reads as a 3, etc.). Rarely have we noted any substitutions occurring with laser printing.
Our total read errors must not exceed 5; our objective is 0. Signal strength loss after the 20 passes should be less than 3%; our objective is less than 1%. Also, little-to-no toner contamination of transport should be present.
We achieved these results using the least priced, entry-level products from multiple manufacturers we know are reputable. Please visit our check stock page or contact us to learn more about the check stock products we recommend.
The basic formulation of MICR toner is significantly different than regular toner. Part of the reason why we do so much testing is to ensure that the MICR toner resins and iron oxide do not contaminate or effect the performance of the printer. Source Technologies and Lexmark work together extensively on testing and our MICR toner is covered by the Lexmark printer warranty.
All Source Technologies’ MICR toner cartridges are new cartridges. We do not offer recycled or “drill and fill” cartridges because of the associated quality problems.
In conjunction with the contamination testing, our MICR toner is tested to document the life expectancy of the cartridge until reaching the TONER LOW indication. Our testing results and the results noted at Lexmark are combined in order to provide the highest confidence levels in our yield claims. Testing shows a cartridge-to-cartridge variance of approximately 5%. The final yield in terms of pages per cartridge is determined using the procedures outlined in the ISO 19752 international standard.
We do not recommend that customers print MICR documents beyond the TONER LOW indication, so we created a feature in our MICR printers to prevent the user from printing checks when the TONER LOW indicator is on. Just another way we protect our customers from potential bank rejects and the associated fees.
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