The Big Printer Rip-Off

Years ago when monochrome ink-jet printers first appeared on the scene, the nozzles on their print heads were well known for getting clogged with dried ink if you didn’t use the printer for an extended period.

I bought an Epson printer which overcame this problem by building the nozzles into the cartridge. When you replaced the cartridge, you got a fresh set of nozzles, so they were less likely to get clogged. Another advantage of this was that if the nozzles did get clogged I could simply remove the cartridge and clean it with some isopropyl alcohol.

In fact I found that I was able to keep refilling the cartridges with cheaper ink and still get away with good quality prints.

I later switched to a colour printer – again an Epson. This time, there were 4 cartridges and they had reverted to having fixed print heads. What’s worse is that you cannot easily access the nozzles as they are firmly fixed under the print head carriage. Sure enough, the heads get clogged – more than they ever did with my old monochrome printer.

In the printer driver software there is a “head cleaning” utility. What they don’t tell you is that every time you use it, it consumes quite a lot of ink. I guess they use the base liquid of the ink as a solvent to clean away the dried ink. The problem is it doesn’t always work and you have to run this cleaning cycle a few times and by passing all that ink through the head, it can actually make the problem worse.

Of course Epson tell you not to use anything but Epson ink cartridges, but they are phenomenally expensive and to be honest their ink doesn’t seem to reduce the clogging problem. I have used replacement inks very successfully for years and as long as you remember to switch off the printer when you’re not using it (so that it parks the heads), or you use it at least once a day, the heads don’t seem to get clogged.

Thankfully for those of us who don’t print every day, there is a solution to the problem. You can buy special cleaning solutions with applicators that are designed to fit snugly in the cartridge receptacle and flush through the heads. It only requires a few millilitres per head, so a bottle can be used several times over.

These printers absorb excess ink in a pad under the print head. When the pad is deemed to be full, the printer will no longer print and it will require service from an Epson engineer (or you might even buy a new printer). In reality, the pad could easily take a lot more ink and in fact some people have even modified their printers to use a little bottle to catch even more ink. However, the printer still needs to be reset, but there several discs available containing software that will reset the printer. It’s well worth investing in the cleaning fluid and the reset software unless you want to end up paying through the nose for an engineer to fix it, or for a new printer.

I’m sure these manufacturers design their products to have a deliberately short life, and the consumables (inks) are definitely over-priced. Let’s put an end to this rip-off.

October 30, 2011 · Phil Rogers · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: General

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