HP Develops SecuReuse to Provide Cartridge Remanufacturers with Reusable HP Chips

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Think you know HP’s attitude toward cartridge remanufacturing? Well, think again. On May 15, HP Inc. previewed SecuReuse, a groundbreaking solution poised to redefine the relationship between the printer giant and cartridge remanufacturers and support the circular economy.

Over the past three years, HP has been “renewing” certain toner cartridge models, combining recycling of materials and reuse of parts, in the EvoCycle line, which is now available in selected European countries and North America (see “HP Launches Recycled HP EvoCycle Toner Cartridge Line for LaserJets in France,” “HP Now Offers EvoCycle Toner Cartridges in UK and Germany,” and “Supplies Go Green at HP Imagine 2023”). SecuReuse, however, is aimed at encouraging others to remanufacture by providing remanufacturers with a solution that addresses one of their biggest pain points: chips and firmware updates. Eduardo Macias, Vice President, Consumer Print Supplies, HP Inc., shared information about the new solution with Actionable Intelligence.

Aimed at Major Pain Point

Ask any cartridge remanufacturer what their number-one complaint is about remanufacturing HP cartridges, and you will likely hear it is the problem of chips and firmware updates. While remanufacturers can and do reuse spent HP chips, this is currently less than ideal for a couple of reasons. A spent chip won’t track ink or toner levels, making it unsuitable for reuse for managed print services (MPS) programs and resulting in nuisance messaging about low supply levels. End users also get a “used or counterfeit cartridge” message. The alternative is to use a third-party compatible chip, which will track supplies levels, but HP’s dynamic security authentication technology and printer firmware updates that reinforce this technology can cause the printer to block cartridges using non-HP chips. Printers rejecting cartridges with non-HP chips is obviously a problem for printer users as well, and one HP has faced a good deal of criticism and even litigation over.

HP has argued that reprogrammable third-party chips, which can be updated via a resetting tool to work again after a firmware update, pose a security risk based on research it conducted via its Bug Bounty program in which a white hat hacker gained access to a printer via a third-party cartridge with a reprogrammable chip (see “HP Warns That Third-Party Chips Pose Security Risks” and “HP Bug Bounty Program Finds Reprogrammable Chips Open Printers to Malware”). Third-party supplies vendors have largely dismissed these claims as theoretical, saying there have been no real-world examples of such chips providing an ingress point for hackers. But this is not HP’s only concern about security issues resulting from the use of third-party cartridges with non-HP chips. Third-party supplies vendors routinely advise end users not to update their printer firmware because of the risk of third-party cartridges with non-HP chips being rejected. However, HP argues that never updating your printer firmware can pose both a security risk and lead to a poor-functioning printer because firmware updates are how manufacturers fix bugs and security issues that may arise, as well as add new features.

SecuReuse is essentially aimed at solving all these various problems for remanufacturers and end-user customers by providing remanufacturers with the ability to reset spent OEM chips so they work as well as new HP chips.

What’s SecuReuse?

Eduardo Macias, Vice President, Consumer Print Supplies, HP Inc.

SecuReuse is a new solution currently being tested in Europe with three remanufacturers: Altkin, KMP, and 3T Supplies/Peach. Mr. Macias said HP will be working with select remanufacturers through 2024 and 2025, with the goal of making SecuReuse broadly available sometime in late 2025 or early 2026.

Mr. Macias explained that customers and remanufacturers will get a number of benefits with SecuReuse remanufactured cartridges:

  1. SecuReuse remanufactured cartridges will monitor ink and toner levels and provide alerts when supplies are running low and when empty.
  2. Mr. Macias said SecuReuse cartridges provide “peace of mind of compatibility.” He said, “There’s nothing that customers should worry about regarding any acceptance or rejecting from the printer from an electronic point of view. They’ll get a unique installed message reassuring the customer of what they have bought [a remanufactured SecuReuse cartridge].” While the exact nature of the message is still being worked out, the aim is to make customers aware they are installing a remanufactured cartridge, as opposed to the current messaging that indicates the cartridge may be used, refilled, or counterfeit. But beyond the messaging, end users know that the cartridge will work with their printer.
  3. Mr. Macias stated SecuReuse cartridges provide customers with “all the benefits of enhanced security, being part of the HP ecosystem.” HP recommends that customers update their printer firmware before using a SecuReuse cartridge so that the printer will have the latest update that recognizes and enables features on these cartridges. After that, customers “can keep updating their firmware, getting the latest fixes, getting the latest in security and reliability and performance improvements without wondering if there’s any compatibility issues with our supply,” explained Mr. Macias.
  4. SecuReuse remanufactured cartridges offer an improved environmental footprint because more of the original empty cartridge is being reused including the chip, which means less electronic waste.
  5. SecuReuse supplies will be compatible with HP+ or e-series printers (see “HP Launches First HP+ Printers That Require HP Ink and Toner”). Currently, these printers are not compatible with anything but HP original cartridges, so being able to offer remanufactured cartridges for these devices is a big competitive advantage for remanufacturers and will expand choices for consumers.

There are some additional benefits Mr. Macias highlighted that are aimed at remanufacturers themselves rather than cartridge users:

  1. Because remanufacturers will be reusing the HP chip and the HP cartridge, there is no risk of infringing intellectual property.
  2. There is no need to maintain, forecast, and manage third-party chip inventories for remanufacturing HP cartridges.
  3. There is no need to reprogram third-party chips if there are compatibility issues following a firmware update.
  4. Remanufacturers can reset the HP chips to a variety of yields. For example, they can change the yield of a ship-with cartridge to that of a standard-yield or high-yield cartridge and then add the appropriate amount of ink or toner for those yields. Mr. Macias said this provides remanufacturers with flexibility to adapt their offerings and better meet customer needs.

The plan is for cartridges reset with SecuReuse to be available in European markets where participating remanufacturers sell their products. SecuReuse will first be available for the HP OfficeJet Pro 9010/12/13/14/15/16 and 9020/22/23/25 inkjet all-ones (cartridge 963 and 967 series) and the HP Color LaserJet Pro 4202 and Color LaserJet Pro MFP 4302 color laser series (cartridge 220A/220X series). SecuReuse will be available for European SKUs.

Mr. Macias explained that HP’s current SecuReuse solution has evolved from a similar pilot in 2021/2022 for the Voluntary Agreement on Imaging Equipment. Originally, HP envisioned using specific HP-engineered equipment to reset chips, but the feedback HP got was that the system was too complex for remanufacturers to implement. The new system is designed to have very low setup costs for remanufacturers. All that is necessary, according to Mr. Macias, is about a hundred euros’ worth of off-the-shelf open market equipment. Mr. Macias said HP wanted to create a system that involves a very low capital expenditure so that remanufacturers of all sizes can take part in SecuReuse.

Mr. Macias pointed out that after acquiring the equipment, remanufacturers “must start with an unmodified or original HP chip.” He added, “That means no physical tampering with that chip. That chip must be within an empty or within a supply that was originally sold for the EMEA.” The remanufacturer then places the cartridge in the equipment and HP will enable a reset through the equipment using a cloud service. This cloud service is able to read and write to the chip in a secure manner so that security of the system is not compromised.

Alfred Wirch, CEO of Peach, told Actionable Intelligence, “We are excited to be collaborating in the development of this solution with HP. 3T Peach has always been a believer in reuse.” Mr. Wirch said Peach participated in the 2021/2022 pilot as well. He confirmed what Mr. Macias said about the difference between the original pilot program and today’s solution, saying, “The intent in this version versus the one we tested before is to make it much simpler to implement.” He added, “We are still developing the final implementation, and we are excited to get the products to market.” According to Mr. Wirch, no remanufactured cartridges using SecuReuse have hit the market so far—the project is still in the development and consultation phase.

Mr. Wirch added, “HP has been a pioneer in the print industry, which is why we’re delighted to collaborate in providing our customers with sustainable, secure, and exceptional products from Peach. By embracing HP’s new solution, we can deliver an environmentally conscious printing option, enabling our customers to conserve resources—like e-waste—while achieving high-quality prints. As global temperatures rise, our customers play a vital role in reducing raw material usage and contributing to the fight against global warming. The SecuReuse solution represents a significant milestone for printer manufacturers, end users, and reuse manufacturers alike, as we collectively work to contribute to a circular economy.”

Good for Remanufacturers, the Environment, and HP

HP’s SecuReuse program can be seen as yet another way HP is working to make print more sustainable. But, from our perspective, SecuReuse isn’t only a response to a growing climate crisis but also to the European Union’s plan to impose strict new environmental regulations on imaging equipment and supplies (see “Goodbye Voluntary Agreement on Imaging Equipment, Hello European Regulation” and “Progress Continues on Preparatory Study for European Environmental Regulations for Imaging Equipment and Consumables”). Those regulations have yet to be announced but are widely expected to include reuse targets—and, if so, the SecuReuse program may help HP to meet them.

HP is also upfront that it sees SecuReuse as a revenue opportunity. “We will be charging for reset,” said Mr. Macias, adding that discussions are ongoing about onboarding fees and maintenance fees versus charging per reset, but that HP is leaning toward the latter. Charging per reset would likely make the most sense if the goal is to enable remanufacturers of all sizes to enroll in SecuReuse because pricing would reflect cartridge volumes.

While HP plans to monetize SecuReuse, Mr. Macias emphasized that HP isn’t looking at SecuReuse purely as a revenue-making scheme—the goal is also to incentivize more companies to remanufacture rather than produce new cartridges, which draws new materials and risks intellectual property infringement. “We’re looking at this as a way to partner with remanufacturers to show the end user that remanufacturing is a viable option, rather than buying a new compatible or a clone or an imitation cartridge.”

We asked Mr. Macias whether, once SecuReuse is officially launched, HP will be choosy about its partners, limiting them to certain European remanufacturers, or whether it will open the program to other remanufacturers around the world including in China. Mr. Macias responded that anybody who is in the business of remanufacturing is welcome. “If through the launch of SecuReuse more companies see value in remanufacturing rather than producing their own [new-builds], we would welcome them.”

We asked if HP has any concerns about SecuReuse partners using reset HP chips on new-build compatibles. Mr. Macias allowed that there is some risk, but that HP will continue to defend its intellectual property. Moreover, Mr. Macias said that the SecuReuse program will be similar to a reseller program in that there will be rules for partners, and those rules will stipulate using reset SecuReuse chips only on remanufactured cartridges.

In our view, there is a lot for remanufacturers to like about SecuReuse. As we noted above, the issue of chips/firmware is one of the thorniest and most expensive business problems that remanufacturers face. SecuReuse would seem to be the perfect solution. However, we believe market acceptance and enthusiasm for the program ultimately will come down to pricing. If the cost is the same or less than that of buying a third-party chip, we expect remanufacturers will be eager to become SecuReuse users. But if a SecuReuse reset is priced higher than the cost of a third-party chip, we expect to hear a lot of grumbling. After all, margins are tight and business conditions are tough. Should HP price its resets higher than the cost of a chip from Apex, Chipjet, or Zhono, remanufacturers may complain that HP is looking to make money off a problem that it essentially caused in the first place by using chips, dynamic security, and firmware updates.

Unfortunately, because this program is still in early development, pricing has yet to be worked out. Mr. Macias promised only, “Our pricing should be comparable to in-market prices.” But he added that whatever the pricing may ultimately be, SecuReuse has advantages for remanufacturers that third-party chips simply can’t deliver. “We’re hoping that remanufacturers get excited by the premise that this is simpler than buying chips. There’s no volume, there’s no forecast, there’s no compatibility issues. And that promise of compatibility and the simplicity of inventory and parts will also make it an attractive solution. It’s not just all about cents and pence—we think it has value on its own.”

If there’s one group that we know without a shadow of doubt will dislike the new SecuReuse solution it is makers of new compatible chips and new compatible cartridges. As much as SecuReuse is about supporting the circular economy and supporting remanufacturing, it is also a clear shot across the bow at those companies’ whose manufacturing has led to an influx of inexpensive, new-build compatibles in Europe and other regions around the world.

HP isn’t shy about the fact that changing the influx of compatibles is a goal. When asked how HP will judge whether SecuReuse is a success, Mr. Macias said, “I would love to see an industry that truly values reuse ahead of trying to produce something again from scratch. There’s a symbiosis between an original supply and reusing it rather than introducing a third vector of unknown quality, unknown materials, unknown design into that equation. I would love to see a positive gravity change towards original supplies and remanufactured supplies. And I would also love to see that customers feel more comfortable making sure that their printers are connected, that firmware is up-to-date, and that they qualify for the latest software and services and solutions without fear that their supply choices impact that.”

Despite the printer and supplies industry’s maturity, every so often an innovation comes along that can shake up dynamics that have existed so long that they feel set in stone. SecuReuse could be one such innovation, but a lot depends on what happens with the development of the solution, decisions made around pricing, and what happens with the broader rollout.

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