[SOLVED] What is the likely cause of this print quality issue?

May 13, 2021
OK, first of all, sorry if this post is redundant. I really tried to find the answer in an existing post, but I could not and there are just sooo many to go through.

Also, I have a really good image that shows the problem very well, but I don't see any way to post or upload photos, so, I'll do the best I can with words alone.

I have a laser printer. Brother HL-L2320D to be exact.

It’s always worked flawlessly. Today, I replaced the toner cartridge with a brand new, authentic Brother TN-660.

I’ve done this before, and I’ve always used only authentic cartridges identical to this one.

Put it in, then try to print. Uh-oh. How do I describe what I see?

Multiple things;

- thick, dark-grey bands across the page. Horizontal, not vertical.

- thick, dark lines across the extreme left side of the page. Vertical, each is about 1-2 inches long, and about an eighth of an inch thick from the edge of the page. Evenly spaced, it appears. Solid black.

- “ghosting.” stuff from the middle of the page, for example, is repeated near the bottom of the page in a lighter shade.

- toner is visible on the reverse side of the paper.

- all toner, no matter how misplaced it is, seems to be fused to the paper properly (no smudges).

- at first glance, my most general description would be that it reminds me of some old printers/copiers at work where you could set the darkness, and you would crank it up to the max if you thought the printouts were getting too faint and if you turned it up too dark it would make even the non-printed parts of the paper a little grey and the whole thing kind of dark and shadowy. You know what I mean? It looks a little like that to me.

I tried all the tips from the Brother website, but they didn’t have a troubleshooting page that addressed this particular issue, even though I assumed it must be common.

The cartridge was delivered by Jeff Bezos. Well, not personally. If it was thrown around and handled roughly during transit, is there any way that could cause this type of problem? I don’t know if that happened, but I also don’t have any other brilliant ideas to explain it. Brand new, authentic toner in a perfectly-working laser printer, and right from the start it prints like crap.

Any ideas? What can I do? Just exchange it? Can it be fixed?

The likely cause is a bad or improperly installed doctor or wiper blade in the toner cartridge. One levels the toner and the other wipes off the excess. In your case all you have to know is the toner cartridge is defective and should be replaced.

If they let you keep the bad cartridge, the blades are sold at the places that sell supplies for rebuilding cartridges. I frequently have to replace them in brand new but old-stock factory cartridges after about 20 years, since they dry out and crack over time (so yes, even toner cartridges will eventually expire).

While ghosting down the page is generally listed as being from a bad drum, all bets are off if the drum is being severely overloaded with toner from a bad cartridge.
May 13, 2021
BFG-9000, thank you. Before seeing your reply, I came to the same conclusion, but in a different way and without this amount of detail.

I found online something that suggested that this may be a problem with the drum. There were some instructions given about how to clean the drum. I tried it. Yes, in fact the drum was very dirty (with toner).

Then I tried it again. It was better, but different, and far from perfect. I tried printing 10 blank pages in a row, and the tenth page seemed worse than the first!

I removed it all again, and the drum was dirty like before! I presumed that the new cartridge must be leaking toner into the drum unit.

I cleaned it a second time, and this time put the previous cartridge back in, the one that's now almost, but not completely, spent, that needed replacing in the first place.

Looks great, no issues.

So I concluded that the new cartridge must be defective, and I've already initiated a return. I do have to return it to get the new one, so I can't try your idea.

But one last thing. I looked carefully at the grey case the whole toner cart is enclosed in, and compared it to the old one. The old one is physically pristine despite being in use for over a year. The new one has nicks and scratched on it. It almost makes me wonder if it's re-used or refurbished, even though it's being sold as new. It's not SO obvious, so I can't say for sure, but I wonder......

Anyway, all's well that ends well, at least that will be true when the new toner arrives and it works fine, which I guess I cannot take for granted anymore.......
The "new" Brother cartridges have for decades reused components from returned empty cartridges. They only recycle them if they cannot be reused again. The only thing is, unlike HP who thoughtfully include a postage-paid shipping label in every box, Brother prefers that you print out the free shipping label yourself, preferably on a Brother printer using the new cartridge. Perhaps that way they absolve themselves of killing the trees to do so.

That said, the cartridges Brother make are going to be better than the ones that remanufacturers remake simply because genuine Brother components such as rollers, drums and wipers are not available to the latter so they have to make do with aftermarket components that simply have not had as much R&D invested in them--those eventually have to be sold assembled at a lower price point after all. Like the factory they respray a new coating on drums to reuse them, but unlike the factory they don't have access to the proprietary secret recipe of 11 herbs and spices the factory coating uses.

Anything made by people is going to have some failures, and I wouldn't avoid genuine cartridges in the future just because of one bad cartridge. The remanufacturing process would be pretty difficult to roboticize so they are probably handmade after all, using the old mk-1 eyeball to identify worn parts. And you know it's probably children or Uyghur slaves that make them anyway.

BTW the ductor blade from flatbed presses somehow became "doctor" when the change to rotary printing happened
May 13, 2021
The "new" Brother cartridges have for decades reused components from returned empty cartridges. They only recycle them if they cannot be reused again. The only thing is, unlike HP who thoughtfully include a postage-paid shipping label in every box, Brother prefers that you print out the free shipping label yourself....

...I wouldn't avoid genuine cartridges in the future just because of one bad cartridge....
First, I long since received my new cartridge and it works perfectly, so again, thank you. I'm glad I waited to try the new cartridge before sending the old one back to Brother, otherwise I would not have been able to exchange the defective one for a good one (on Amazon).

Secondly, I take from your reply that the reason Brother (and HP too, I guess) asks you to send the spent cartridge back to them, at their expense, is not because they are so committed to the environment, but because they want to harvest, and reuse the old parts when and where they can? I guess I don't have to sound so cynical about it. I suppose it could be both, so win-win? Except when one doesn't work, which might be due to a faulty re-used part.

And finally, I will continue to use Brother cartridges, but if I read between the lines of what you're saying, I want to ask you something.

It sounds like the only significant difference between authentic cartridges and third party aftermarket cartridges might be the failure rate. They probably all work fine most of the time, but maybe one gives you a dud once in 500 cartridges, and the other one out of 50. Would that be a fair statement, in your opinion? (Maybe with different numbers, though.)