Raw Deal On Printer Ink

from the price-gouging dept

Having just had a story about the various printer companies spreading FUD about how so many ink cartridges out there are counterfeit and may damage your printer, I thought this next article was interesting. One of the "warnings" the printer companies kept saying was that these counterfeit cartridges often came only half full. That does sound like a ripoff, until you realize that the printer companies themselves are effectively doing the same thing by having their printers tell you they're empty when there's still quite a bit of ink left. In one test, they found that an ink cartridge was still 38% full when the printer said it was empty. That's 38% of a tiny cartridge that (as the article points out): "costs more than vintage champagne". They also point out that the Epson printers (such as the one I use) are the worst - because they won't let you print if the printer says it's empty - so most people are simply throwing away nearly half of the ink they bought for insanely high prices. In tests the magazine ran the least amount of remaining ink was 17%. Meanwhile, the Lexmark case (where they sued another company for figuring out a way to allow non-Lexmark cartridges to work in their printers) continues to move forward with the EFF filing a brief against Lexmark. The anger over these printer company tactics and the FUD they're spreading suggests that a more formal investigation is coming. I wouldn't be surprised if the FTC gets involved at some point to investigate these practices. Already, in the UK the Office of Fair Trading is looking into the issue.

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  1. identicon
    Jake, 20 Mar 2007 @ 9:07am

    Re: Epson c84 that won't print

    I've been using C84's for years to run t-shirt transfers, and I can tell you right now that the real problem you were having had nothing to do with your print heads.

    There's a sponge inside your printer, along the right-hand side. It's the area where the print head goes when you do a head cleaning. It's the area where the printer basically spews ink out liberally (in addition to a little dip/rub action) in order to clean the heads. This sponge has about a 6 month "life-span" as far as I can tell -- and shorter if you have a house with dogs that shed.

    (a) the sponge gets filled with ink on its own eventually, through repeated use and head cleanings.

    (b) The sponge is a magnet for any dirt, dust, or hair you might have floating around your home or office.

    Once this sponge gets dirty enough, doing a head cleaning will actually make your print quality *worse* and the printer effectively becomes useless for anything other than casual home use (and can even become entirely useless with enough use or time). Most people I've known in the business of small-scale t-shirt transfer production just buy a new $70 Epson every 6 months. It's part of the assumed operational costs.

    As far as I can tell, there's no way to open up the printer to get at the inner-most workings, but I still managed to find a better solution:

    (1) Get yourself a paper towel (dry).
    (2) Make a Word document or image that has a thin column of "content" down the right side of the page.
    (3) Set your printer to the highest print quality.
    (4) Send the test page to the printer, open the top, and get ready with your paper towel.

    .. and now the fun part!

    (5) while the print head is busy on the left side of the printer, printing away a single column of nothing-ness, you have to get in and towel off that sponge as much as possible.

    I usually find that I have a good 30 seconds at the highest print quality. Make sure you use high, otherwise the print head will make frequent returns to the right side of the printer and screw up your attempts to towel off the sponge. Canned Air might be a nice addition to the party as well. Air, sponge, air, sponge. Get as much ink, dirt, and hair out of that sponge as possible. I'm guessing that since you've done so many cleanings and stuff that youmight need two or three paper towels to finish the job.

    Run a head cleaning and enjoy the full potential and glory of your C84 (they're actually very capable of very high print quality, even being so cheap, so long as you're willing to do the stupid sponge trick every few weeks).

    Finally: Cover your printer whenever you're not using it (overnight, weekends, whichever). I use a pillow case. :)

    Now, as for your current ink cartridges: Sorry. Unless you can pick up one of those gizmos mentioned above -- the kind that resets the chip on the cartridge (and I don't have one myself) -- there's nothing you can do except throw out a perfectly good ink cartridge and buy new ones. :(

    Welcome to Epson's world.

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