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…

8 thoughts on “Epson R380 Printhead Clog: Teardown Failure

  1. I eventually intentionally picked up a carefully-chosen older printer from the local Freecycle group, JUST because it had easily accessible, replacable printheads (and had open source driver support*). Sure, the ink and supplies cost more for it, and it may not have the fabulous colour rendering of a more recent unit, but if I want really good full-tone prints, I’ll either use the dye sub or have the local photo shop do them, and I use the inkjet rarely enough that the heads are ALWAYS clogged. Usually, I just pop out the printheads, wipe them down with a damp lint-free rag, and it’s good to go.

    * I have NO IDEA why printer manufacturers make a big secret of their communication protocol. If I can write drivers for it, I’ll keep using it, and buying their expensive ink and supplies. If they discontinue support and won’t document their super secret protocol, I could either attempt to reverse engineer it or snarf another free printer from Freecycle. I’ve done enough of the former, the latter is my current default.

  2. Apparently, I somehow created a wordpress account recently without realizing it. Now I can’t comment like I used to without logging in (which required a password reset, as I have no idea what I might have used on whatever-site-is-actually-apparently-wordpress and have no record of it either). And since it’s a “new” login, you have to moderate the comment, yay!

    1. created a wordpress account recently without realizing it

      Perhaps an OpenID account that, somehow, WordPress has gotten wind of and won’t get go? Or, more likely, you did it on a site with a unique domain name that’s overlaid on the mumble.wordpress.com sub-domain, just like this one.

      Dunno. We’re supposed to use unique IDs and passwords, but it gets really tiring after a while. If I ever lose the data in Firefox’s stored logins database, I’ll be in a world of hurt… and losing the database in my PDA would be even worse!

  3. I disassembled several of those last year to salvage motors and other interesting debris from. They’re definitely manufactured for disposal and not repair. There were multiple points where I had to use heavy gague snippers to fracture plastic pieces to free up parts of the mechanism. Also, watch out when messing around the waste ink tank because it is really messy when the lid is off and you turn the whole thing on its side to get to another bit.

    1. manufactured for disposal and not repair

      Which tells you everything you need to know about the economics. I [delete] all over their [censored].

      I fitted an external waste ink tank that I’ve emptied twice so far. In round numbers, that’s 250 ml of ink down the drain and, at $1.8/ml, I’ve long since paid off the printer and continuous ink system, just in waste ink…

  4. Hello, I successfully dissassembled my R380 with the help of a technical PDF I found on the internet at http://www.marksdata.com/R260,R265,R270,R360,R380,R390.pdf. It gave detailed instructions on how to completely tear down the printer. I simply used the steps necessary to only remove the print head. In a nut shell, remove the side and top covers (this gives you access to the two locking tabs on the back behind the print head assembly that lock the cartridge sense electronics in place), remove the flat cable covers (as you mentioned) on both the inside and outside of the print head assembly, disconnect the flat cable attached to the cartridge electronics (because it prevents the cartridge electronics from being lifed up and out of the print head assembly if the cable is left attached), remove the cartridge sense electronics (you have to slide the entire print head assembly to the right to push on a lock tab thru a hole in the back, then slide it to the left to gain access to the lock tab on the back thru an access hole on the back of the printer), and then remove those three screws that you mentioned that you can barely see thru the small slots for the back two (but now they are completely accessable because the cartridge electronis assembly is out of the way). There are two flat cables under the print head that will need to be disconnected. Then you have the print head out of the printer. From what I’ve read, there may be a way to remove the cartridge electronics (the part in the back of the print head assembly with the cartridge identifying colors on it) without removing the top and side covers, but I did not do that. Hope this helps someone out there. Regards!

    1. Then you have the print head out of the printer.

      Just like that! [grin]

      Thanks for the synopsis and the repair manual; it’ll be much easier the next time; I’m sure there will be a next time, alas.

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