Magnetic Ink Character Recognition, or MICR, is a printing technology which utilizes a specialized type of magnetically-charged ink to make printed documents readable by automated equipment. MICR technology has traditionally been used by the banking industry to read printed characters electronically, such as account and routing numbers on checks. While centralized, industrial printers have historically printed the vast majority of MICR documents, MICR technology is becoming more and more accessible to small business and private individuals.
Differences Between Standard and MICR Printers
The primary difference between MICR printers and their standard counterparts — the kind of printer you’d find in any home or office — is the type of toner that is used. Standard home or office printers use non-magnetic toner, which can only be read using optical technology. Optical readers are less accurate than magnetic readers, and the printed characters can be obscured by stamps or signatures.
Magnetically-charged toner, however, can be read with much greater accuracy and, unlike standard toner, cannot be interfered with by visual obstructions. It is this toner that makes a MICR printer a MICR printer.
Thus, the only difference between MICR printers and standard printers is the type of toner they use. However, printing MICR characters on a standard office printer may not be as simple as buying a MICR toner cartridge from your local office supply store.
Equipping Office Printers With MICR Toner Cartridges
Unlike standard ink printer cartridges, MICR toner cartridges are not manufactured for every home or office printer. While MICR cartridges are available for a wide variety of manufacturers, including, Canon, Hewlett Packard, Apple, Troy, Xerox, Minolta, IBM, Dell and many others, it is important to check with a MICR toner manufacturer before purchasing a printer to ensure that MICR cartridges are made for it. A reputable cartridge manufacturer will provide a list of printer models, usually sorted by brand, that you can consult before making your purchase.
It is also important to note that not all MICR printer cartridges are created equal. To guarantee the best results, it is vital that the manufacturer meets high quality standards. Some of these standards include US ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management), as well as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
Completing the Conversion to MICR Printing
Once you’ve got a MICR-compatible printer and a MICR toner cartridge, there are still a few steps left before a printer is truly a MICR-equipped printer.
First, specialized software is required. Not all standard office software is capable of printing the “MICR lines” that appear on checks, but many accounting programs, such as Quicken and QuickBooks, include check-printing features.
Second, the proper paper stock is required. Blank check stock is available at most office supply vendors, both online and in-store.
Finally, you must ensure your software has the proper MICR fonts installed. These fonts include E-13B and CMC-7. The E-13B font is the most common in North American, Indian, and British industries, while CMC-7 is more common in France and other European countries. These font packages can be purchased from many vendors specializing in fonts, scanning and specialized printing.