Source Technologies MICR laser printers and OEM MICR toner cartridges are designed especially for printing MICR documents such as checks, WIC vouchers, and other negotiable documents. This comprehensive MICR printing solution incorporates robust security functionality, MICR fonts and MICR toners all designed to optimize the security of your check-printing processes and the quality of the documents produced. Decades of research, development and testing inform our products, resulting in a solution that securely produces quality MICR documents using plain check stock.
We regularly reinforce our commitment to quality MICR printing solutions through constant testing. This testing begins during a product’s development phase prior to general availability and continues after our products are released for sale to ensure consistent MICR toner quality over time.
A MICR document’s quality is determined by many things, including the MICR toner cartridge, the MICR font, the MICR printer with fuser and developer controls, the paper stock, the document design, and the internal controls over media storage and operations. Here you’ll find various quality measurement criteria we use in our stringent testing.
Quality Measurement Criteria
The quality of MICR printing must adhere 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.
The quality of the MICR toner cartridges must also address the needs of our customers in terms of yield (number of pages printed per cartridge) and defect-free performance. Based on these criteria, we are proud to report an overall quality level of 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%.
The key elements of performance for MICR toner include the following:
- Character Signal Strength - a measurement of the magnetic property of the toner.
- Adhesion - the ability to adhere or fuse the toner to the paper stock.
- Durability - the performance of the toner through multiple passes in reader/sorters.
- Contamination - the effect of MICR toner on the base printer hardware.
- Toner Yield - the measure of output expected per toner cartridge (pages per cartridge).
The criteria for determining the quality level for each element, our test methods and current results are all detailed below.
Character Signal Strength
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 to meet the stricter Canadian requirements when possible.
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:
- Initial - First 10 documents printed from a new cartridge
- Toner Life - Signal strength pattern through life to toner low sensing
- Cartridge - Cartridge to cartridge variances
- Toner - Batch to batch variances
- Printer - Variances between printers of the same model family
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. Given today’s technology, the opportunity for fraud must be addressed. 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, performed on Source Technologies paper, signal strength readings are taken before and after and are then compared. The amount of toner removed in the test, as measured by the loss in signal strength, should be within criteria, or 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 were with check paper classified as MOCR (MICR & OCR) with an overemphasis on smoothness, whiteness, and sizing additives. These may also lack any chemical additives to aid the toner fusing process.
Note: Be informed of the fraud risk 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 laser generated MICR documents, the key quality measurement is their performance in the MICR reader/sorter equipment. Some laser MICR toner formulations may not perform well in the reader/sorter document transports. This results in higher read error rates and increased printer maintenance costs. Larger financial institutions demand extensive testing prior to committing to the MICR laser technology. Our test procedures are patterned after procedures used by a major financial institution.
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.
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.
The reader transport is inspected 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.
Note: The above results were achieved on our recommended papers using the least priced, entry-level products for multiple manufacturers. We provide, upon request, a list of recommended check stock products. Please contact Source Technologies for more information. We strongly recommend that alternative paper stock beyond those that we have tested and recommended should be independently tested before use.
The basic formulation of MICR toner is significantly different than regular toner and must be thoroughly tested to ensure the MICR toner resins and iron oxide do not contaminate or effect the performance of the base printer. Extensive testing by Source Technologies and Lexmark has taken place and our MICR toner is covered by the Lexmark printer warranty. Customers should, however, be instructed to expect their operators to more closely monitor the general cleanliness of the paper transport given the MICR printing operation.
All Source Technologies’ MICR toner cartridges are new cartridges. We do not offer recycled or “drill and fill” cartridges due to quality problems.
In conjunction with the contamination testing, our MICR toner is also tested to document the life expectancy to TONER LOW indication. Our testing results and the results noted at Lexmark are combined providing high 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 a customer print MICR documents beyond the initial TONER LOW indicator. Source Technologies MICR printers prevent the customer from doing this.