What Does Micr Toner Mean? - Micr Printing

By: James Kara Murat

Remember Frank Abagnale, Jr. (or Hollywood hottie, Leonardo DiCaprio, to you!) in the movie "Catch Me, If You Can?" A lot of scenes there showed him cashing Pan Am Airline checks that he wrote using a typewriter. Well, that is not possible now with the emergence of MICR or Magnetic Ink Character Recognition.

Banks have started to find ways to streamline their handling of checks as more people grew mobile and (perhaps have grown rich) found more use for bank checks. To automate the processing of these, a standard electronic processing, handling and reading system was established. This is now known as Magnetic Ink Character Recognition.

Magnetic Ink Character Recognition

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) defines MICR or Magnetic Character Recognition as the accepted machine language specification used in payment transactions on paper - that's bank checks for you. These are characters printed (MICR Printing) in a special magnetic ink (MICR Toner) that is then read by high speed magnetic equipment that is especially made to recognize these. MICR printing follows an agreed pattern or syntax that, besides authenticating the check, provides the bank with the necessary information like the account number, bank routing number, check number and even the amount requested.

Printed with an E-13B font or CMC-7 font, these MICR characters have to follow a standard arrangement of numbers and symbols for these to be read by a high speed check sorting and reading machine. Just like some barcode fonts, these symbols have a pre-determined prefix and suffix that serve as codes for these machines-there's no way Leonardo DiCaprio's character could decipher this as MICR printing follows a lot of strict conditions such as the positioning of the printed lines in relation to the Clear Band Area of the check.

MICR printing involves a special formulation ink called the MICR toner, and these can be printed using a laser printer or printed on a printing press or w/ impact machines. The MICR toner is magnetically charged so that the reader-sorter machines can recognize them through each character's unique shape. And since it is a machine that optically recognizes these characters, it become important then to have an even or consistent print quality, correct placement of characters on the designated printing area to ensure readability.

MICR Toner
You can use your regular desktop laser printer in MICR printing as long as you use MICR toner. MICR toners are specially formulated magnetic inks that are not the type that you usually use with your printers. These may be readable to the human eye but what the reader-sorter machines are looking for are the magnetic signal or the electronic "fingerprints." Trying to pass a check in a bank with invalid MICR codes will have them rejected at the clearing center, may cause you a lot of delays, or worse, the bank teller may suspect a modern Frank Abagnale, Jr. who is totally clueless about Magnetic Ink Character Recognition.

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