Magnetic ink character recognition (MICR)

Magnetic ink character recognition (MICR) is a specified character set that is defined in American National Standard Institute (ANSI) booklet X9.27. For over thirty years, MICR has been the common document language used by the commercial banking industry for interbank exchange of money data.

The most common use of MICR is for printing negotiable documents. The characters are uniquely shaped according to ANSI standards and can be read by various readers and sorters throughout the world to direct the documents to their proper financial institutions.

Before the availability of MICR printers, companies that printed negotiable documents used forms that were pre-printed with MICR characters by a commercial check-printing company. Commercial companies print the MICR characters with magnetic ink.

To enable a printing system to print MICR, the MICR Feature must be installed and the printer operator must install the MICR configured CCD into the correct engine. Refer to InfoPrint 4100 Models with the InfoPrint Controller Operator Console: Operator's Guide for instructions on changing the customer changeable developer (CCD).

  1. In duplex mode on InfoPrint 4100 Models HD3/4, HD5/6, and TD3/4, MICR toner can be used in Printer 1 only.
  2. In dual simplex mode, MICR toner can be used in both printers.
  3. The supported paper weight is 75 to 90 gsm (20 to 24 lb). Paper checks are to be 24 lb across the web and in the web direction or 20 lb in the web direction only. (This is the banking industry standard for check stock.)
  4. Tractorless paper is not supported with MICR.
  5. MICR forms must be processed into a post processing device to allow sufficient cooling for the toner and paper.

Using the InfoPrint 4100 to print MICR documents

InfoPrint Solutions Company has long been associated with the negotiable document industry in the form of designing encoders and readers/sorters, and has an understanding of the importance of MICR print quality.

The InfoPrint 4100 printers use a specially designed magnetic toner that can print MICR characters with a quality that meets ANSI standards and can withstand the many passes through readers and sorters.

With the Advanced Function Printing (AFP) software interface that is available with all InfoPrint system printers, the InfoPrint 4100 can be used to print an entire negotiable document; bypassing commercial check-printing companies and the necessity for pre-printed forms.

The most common use of MICR is for check printing. Specifications of standards requirements for check printing are in the ANSI booklets X9.27 and X9.13.

Figure 20. Front of check
Figure 21. Back of check
  1. There must not be any printing in the area that is the clear band area of the front of the check.
  2. It is recommended that MICR character printing be done with the MICR character line printed in the scan direction only.
  3. The internal stacker cannot be used when printing with MICR toner and a postprocessing device must be used instead. This allows for better cooling. When printing with MICR toner, the printer runs hotter than with non-MICR toners.
  4. A special MICR toner is used in the printer, which contains iron particles. The print does not look as black as with non-MICR toners. This should not be considered a problem, because it is a characteristic of MICR toner.

Setting up the printer for printing with MICR toner

The following procedure describes how to set required values when printing with MICR toner. These values must be set on the printer where the MICR toner is installed.

Access the printer settings from the Main touchscreen panel of the Enhanced Operator panel.
  1. Select Printer Definition -> Print Quality to display the Print Quality panel.
  2. Select the following values:
  3. Select Printer Definition -> Printer -> Advanced -> Font Smoothing to display the Printer - Advanced panel.

    Set the following values:

MICR fonts

In addition to the normal fonts supplied with the printer, three standard fonts are available to print MICR characters: E13B, E13B*, and CMC7.

The E13B font is used in the United States and the CMC7 font is used in certain countries in Europe. The Hollow E13B* font is identical in size to the E13B font, but will not be read correctly by MICR reader-sorter equipment. This font can be used for application development while the security of the E13B font is maintained.

Test documents that contain Hollow E13B* font will exhibit the same registration characteristics as the E13B font, but the documents will not be negotiable.

AFP MICR fonts for InfoPrint 4100 printers are available for downloading at

MICR format requirements

The MICR line has an established format that can cause rejects if the format conventions are not followed. The MICR line is composed of four fields. The fields are, from right to left:

The following figure shows the MICR line field positions for a 152 mm (6 in.) check.

Figure 22. MICR line field positions
Amount field, Positions 1-12

The amount field is fixed by convention as follows:

On-us field, positions 14-31

The arrangement of characters and symbols in the on-us field is determined by the bank the checks are drawn on. These characters must be reproduced exactly as the bank has specified. Consultation with the bank is highly recommended.

Transit field, positions 33-43

The transit field identifies the institution upon which the check is drawn. The field is fixed by convention as follows:

External process control field, position 44 (optional)

This field is used only for items that are not required to be returned to the issuing institution. The character to use is controlled by the ANSI committee on banking standards.

Auxiliary on-us field, positions 45-65 (optional)

The arrangement of characters and symbols in the auxiliary on-us field is determined by the bank the checks are drawn on. The field usually contains the check serial number bracketed by on-us symbols. This field can be used only for checks longer than 152 mm (6 in.). The content of this field can begin in position 49.

MICR quality control

If used correctly, the InfoPrint 4100 will produce quality MICR documents. To produce quality MICR documents consistently, you must monitor both the application program and the printer output to be sure both are within banking specifications. You must assume responsibility for the quality of the documents released into the banking system. The banking system must assume the responsibility of having adequate, properly maintained reader systems.

A special MICR toner is used in the printer, which contains iron particles. The print does not look as black as with non-MICR toners. This should not be considered a problem, because it is a characteristic of MICR toner.

The strength of signal that is generated in the MICR readers by MICR characters is a function of the magnetic strength and size of the iron particles, the amount of iron particles in the toner, the amount of toner placed on the paper (pile height), and the relative shape of the printed characters. Most readers read the relative length of the vertical edges/transitions of the characters. Increasing the amount of iron on the page will produce stronger signals at the magnetic character reader. Too little MICR toner on the page will produce a low signal and increase the reject rate. Too much MICR toner will produce pile height that is too high and can contaminate the check reading equipment.

The operator can adjust the MICR signal strength by adjusting the contrast setting. Changing the contrast settings will vary the amount of toner on the paper. When the signal strength is too low, a higher contrast setting can be selected. When the signal is too high a lower contrast setting can be selected.

A MICR verifier/analyzer device (which should be made available by the customer for operator and Customer Support Specialist use) is required to achieve the best signal strength. Correct character position can be assured using an overlay or Glarden Gauge. InfoPrint Solutions Company requires that these devices meet ANSI Standard X9.27-1995 or higher, for Magnetic Ink Character Printing (MICR). An operator must vary the contrast setting until good MICR signals are obtained. Experience has shown that a check average of 110 - 140% of the standard, for all characters on the page, is usually the best signal strength to obtain. However, the standard lower and upper limits for each character are 50% and 200% respectively. Since there is a variety of check stock papers and since paper characteristics can effect signal strength, the contrast setting may need to be readjusted for each check stock paper the customer uses. InfoPrint printers can store these parameters for a large number of forms in snapshots.

Quality control tools

To correctly evaluate the quality of MICR printing on the InfoPrint 4100, you will need the following tools:

MICR quality and format verification

The MICR quality check verifies registration, clear band, voids, and signal strength. The format check verifies that the correct MICR information is being printed on its specified position on the document. To verify the quality and format requires a periodic sampling of the printed sheets.

Sampling frequency

The frequency of checking MICR print quality is based on how many prints the user is willing to reprint should a problem be detected. Greatest attention should be paid at the beginning of a MICR job. The schedule below can serve as a guide for MICR printing applications. With experience, the user of the InfoPrint 4100 will discover the best verification frequency.

Time Action
Start of job MICR quality check and format check
Every 2 hours MICR quality check
Change of forms MICR quality check
Vertical registration

The InfoPrint 4100 places characters in the same place from page to page within the specifications of MICR printing. The MICR layout gauge measures registration and character placement. The MICR document is inserted into the gauge, and the right-hand edge is aligned with the right side of the gauge. The printer prints approximately three pages per each revolution of the imaging drum. Therefore three consecutive pages should be examined to verify that the characters are aligned vertically and centered within the boxes.

Vertical registration can be adjusted on the touchscreen.

Horizontal registration

In the US, ensure correct horizontal registration by examining character box 33. This box should contain the transit symbol. Ideal placement is for the right edge of the transit symbol to line up with the right side of character box 33. The right side of the transit symbol can be no more than half of a character box left or right of the right side of the box.

Horizontal registration can be adjusted on the touchscreen.

Clear band area

The clear band area is the bottom 15.875 mm (0.625 in.) of a MICR document. This area can contain only MICR characters. The application program must not contain any instruction to print in this area. Because the InfoPrint 4100 printers use magnetic toner, borders and signatures that stray into the clear band area can cause rejects. To avoid such rejects, it is recommended that the clear band area be 19 mm (0.75 in.).

The printer prints three 8.5" x 11" pages per each revolution of the imaging drum. Therefore, a defect in the drum will appear at every three images. Three consecutive pages should be checked for extraneous toner using a mask or the layout gauge to examine the clear band on each page. Extraneous toner larger than 0.076 x 0.076 mm (0.003 x 0.003 in.) should not be in the clear band area. If extraneous toner can be seen at a normal reading distance, the documents should not be put into circulation.


Voids are the opposite of extraneous toner. Voids or malformed characters cause distortion in the magnetic signals read by a reader/sorter to determine what a character is. Characters must not contain a void larger than 0.203 x 0.203 mm (0.008 x 0.008 in.). Check three consecutive pages for voids. A void is acceptable if it is barely discernible at normal reading distance; however, numerous voids indicate that these documents should not be put into circulation.