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Archive for March 17th, 2012

Epson R380 Printhead Clog: Teardown Failure

So the Epson R380’s magenta printhead has clogged and cleaning it doesn’t have any effect. I figured I’d pop the printhead out, rinse off the crud, and see if that improved the situation. Turns out, you can’t get there from here…

The first step is removing the printer side panels, which involves sliding a steel strip into the not-really-vent slots along the side to release the catches as described there. This picture shows what’s going on inside:

R380 side panel locking tab release

R380 side panel locking tab release

You must hit that slot in the catch with the strip, so the strip must be no wider than 15 mm = 5/8 inch and tapering the end would certainly help. After I removed the panels, I broke those latch tabs off; the panel has locating tabs that align the edges, so the latch tabs just keep you out.

In any rational printer, accessing the printhead for cleaning would be trivially easy. Epson has a different attitude: KEEP OUT!

My original idea was to release the rod upon which the ink tank carrier slides, then pull the whole thing out, but it turns out the rod is also a shaft that transmits rotary motion from one side of the printer to the other, plus a mechanism to raise and lower the printhead over the cleaning station (and, perhaps, the DVD carrier that I’ve never used). A vast assortment of gears, clips, encoder wheels, and doodads affixed to each end convinced me not to go that route right now.

The left side includes an impossibly delicate rotary encoder disk blocking the end of the shaft:

R380 left side mechanism

R380 left side mechanism

Prying the spring out of the shaft notch allows it to slide to the right until another spring clip slams up against the inside of the frame on the right side. That clip may be pry-able, but it’s carefully arranged so as to be maximally inconvenient to reach.

R380 right side interior

R380 right side interior

The ring holding the gear in place must be removable, somehow or another, even without an obvious hole or tab:

R380 right side mechanism

R380 right side mechanism

With that encoder wheel blocking the left end of the rod, I gave up.

Then I tried to dismantle enough of the ink tank carrier to release the printhead. The first step removed the tank carrier’s two side panels, both of which use pull-out clips to prevent them from sliding. A view of the removed panels shows the tabs:

R380 Ink Tank Carrier side panels latches

R380 Ink Tank Carrier side panels latches

The outside panel requires jamming a small screwdriver behind that tab at an awkward angle, then the panel slides downward:

R380 Ink Tank Carrier - right side cover

R380 Ink Tank Carrier - right side cover

You can release the inside panel with a fingernail near the top of the (unmarked, but obvious) tab outlined in white on the far right side, then slide upward:

R380 Ink Tank carrier - interior

R380 Ink Tank carrier - interior

The magenta circles mark three screws that secure the printhead plate to the carrier, but it won’t do you any good. The two rear screws require a narrow-shaft Philips #1 driver and you cannot get the screws out through the holes; I managed to get them back in place, but don’t loosen them until you figure out how to remove the assembly holding the electrical contacts for the ink tanks.

That assembly, marked by the six color panels, slides vertically into the rear wall of the carrier and seems to have a latch on the rear wall of the tank carrier. Of course, you can’t access the latch without dismantling the damn printer.

So I put everything back together again and the printer works no worse than it did before. I’m considering connecting a syringe with length of tubing to the magenta inlet port, then forcing a toxic mix of water, alcohol, and detergent through the printhead:

R380 printhead ink inlets

R380 printhead ink inlets

Given that the printer cost something like $15 after rebate, it’s pretty much fully depreciated by now…

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