Thursday, December 10, 2015

Replacement Ink

Last year I bought a very nice photo printer, the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 because I wanted to be able to print professional quality photos at home.  Sometimes when I've had photos printed somewhere else, the coloring has been off or the brightness not to my liking.

Overall, I have been very happy with this printer. The quality of the photos is outstanding and I am able to make prints that are 19"x13".  The biggest problem with the printer, however, is the cost of ink.  The 3880 uses 9 ink cartridges, each of which cost between $54 and $60. While each cartridge lasts a while (holding 80 ml of ink), spending $500 to replace the entire set gets very expensive.  I would ask the kids "Do you really need to print this photo?"


I bought another less expensive color printer (Canon MG7520) for the kids to use or for when I don't need as high quality photos.   That solved one problem, but not high cost of ink when I actually do want to print.

There are generic printer cartridges for a lot of printers, but I couldn't find any for the 3880.  Well, I found some for $25 each, but when I attempted to add them to the cart, they were always out of stock.    But while I couldn't get individual generic cartridges, I find a few systems that allowed you to replace the OEM cartridges with generic refillable cartridges.  Some of those systems were quite expensive and required you to keep the printer lid open (which requires a little more modifications to the printer).  I managed to find a system made by Ink Owl on Amazon that was less expensive and

I bought a set of generic cartridges for $100 and a set of replacement ink for $228.  Each bottle of ink contained 250 ml, more than three times an OEM cartridge.  This makes the price of 80 ml of ink (a full OEM cartridge) ~$8.  If you spread out the cartridge cost over the 1st 3 fillings, it comes to $11 for the first three refills per color and $8 thereafter.  This is a huge savings.

Of course this is only a good deal if the ink looks good and doesn't cause printer issues.  Additionally, using this system isn't quite as convenient as popping in a cartridge.  Fortunately, most of the steps are only required the first time you install the generic cartridge.  After that, you only need to refill the ink.

Each OEM Epson cartridge has a computer chip which is required for it to operate.  This tells the printer when the ink is empty, and probably other things as well.  In order for the replacement cartridges to work, you need to remove the chip from a non-empty OEM cartridge and place it in the replacement cartridge.

Remove the chip from the replacement cartridge.  You can pry the plastic part in front of the chip with a screwdriver.  This exposes an area where the OEM chip will go.   The replacement chip will sit on top of the OEM chip and communicate with the printer.

Remove the OEM chip from the original cartridge.  I was able to pop it off easily with a utility knife approaching from the outside.

Place the OEM cartridge in the replacement cartridge and put the replacement chip back.

After you add the working OEM chip, you fill the cartridge with ink and then purge any excess air.

Add the correct ink using the syringe and needle (provided).

Purge the excess air by using the tool provided which attaches to the syringe.  You will need to remove the orange air plug and then puncture the plastic coating over the grey circle opening. Push the tool all the way in and draw out with the syringe.  At first air will come out.  When you get a stream of ink, you are complete.

You are then ready to insert the cartridges and run some ink cleaning and tests.  The manufacturer recommended starting with one cartridge.  I did that and all was well, so I replaced another two.

I had a problem with my fourth cartridge.  Everything seemed to go well with replacement Cyan cartridge until I put it in the printer.  The printer said that it was missing a cartridge.  After resetting a chips a few times, I finally called the manufacturer who promptly put in an order for a free replacement cartridge.  This confirmed what I had read about their excellent customer service.

As I was preparing to replace a different cartridge I realized that I had made a mistake.  I had used the replacement Light Cyan cartridge instead of the Cyan one.  Now I had a Light Cyan cartridge full of Cyan ink.  I was able to expel the ink, but I used some water through it to clean it.  I called back the manufacturer and told them what happened and I ordered a $10 replacement for the Light Cyan.  

I might have gotten away with having a little Cyan in the Light Cyan cartridge, but for $10 I really don't want to have some nozzle clog because I don't adequately dry the cartridge of the water.   I also could have lied when I called back and just said that I had meant to say Light Cyan to get a free cartridge, but it is only $10.  I'm not saying that my integrity doesn't have a price, but it isn't $10.  Well, not today anyway.  

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