Inkjet Refilling: End of an Era

Just before the turn of the millennium, I bought what turned out to be a never-sufficiently-to-be-damned HP 2000C inkjet printer that served as my introduction to refilling inkjet cartridges. A few years later, a Canon S630 printer joined the stable and worked fine for perhaps five years before succumbing to a printhead death. An Epson R380 that might have cost fifteen bucks after rebate took over, drank maybe a gallon of knockoff ink through a continuous ink supply system during the next thirteen years, and finally suffered progressive printhead failure during the last year.

Something recently changed in the inkjet market: Epson (among others) now touts their “Ecotank” printers featuring large internal reservoirs refilled by 70 ml bottles of color ink priced at perhaps 20¢/ml, obtained direct from Epson via Amazon. They proudly note you can save 90% off the cost of cartridges (“Kiss Expensive Cartridges Goodbye”), without mentioning how their previous extortionate cartridge business made that possible. Of course, Ecotank printers cost far more than cartridge-based printers, but that seems reasonable to me.

Because the ink bottles fit neatly into the printer through a push-to-flow valve interlock, I can finally retire this relic:

Inkjet refilling towel
Inkjet refilling towel

That’s maybe fifteen years of accumulated splotches.

I hope my refusal to buy their cartridges helped immanentize their eschaton, just a little.

Good riddance.

8 thoughts on “Inkjet Refilling: End of an Era

  1. I saw these and was minded of what you had done in the past. Please let us know if they are any good.

    1. Ditto – really curious how this works. First thought was “they’re taking away HP’s air supply. And that gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling”.

      Personally, I’ve given up on inkjets. I’m running a Brother DCP-L5500DN now, and so far it’s worked well. They have a Linux driver you can download for CUPS or you can just use Generic PCL with no problem. I haven’t had a scanner in decades, so that’s been kind of fun. SANE recognizes it.

    2. It’s the ET-3830 with a scanner on the top, mostly because all printers come with a scanner these days. Being a networked printer, though, it lives in the basement where the scanner won’t see much use; the feeder atop the fancier ET-3850 seemed irrelevant. It can print on photo paper with Good Enough results for me, but with only four ink colors the results aren’t up to ahem fussy artistic standards.

      The replaceable waste ink tank in the back comes with a chip (presumably) to prevent installation of a refurbished tank, but I hope the spare OEM tank I just bought will last until the internal non-replaceable diaper also fills up.

      So far, so good!

      1. I got Epson L15160. It’s called something similar in the US market but is the same unit as far as I can tell. It sports A3, wifi and wired net, adf on top, all in a compact enough case and costs some 1200-1300usd around here.
        Trouble aplenty though. ADF scans show streaks, presumably dust stuck on the sensor, but they do move around so I’m not sure. Cleaning didn’t help.
        ADF itself is far from fire and forget, it’ll regularly choke for no apparent reason. It mostly works but fails just short of being reliable.
        Glass scanner is marketed as 2400dpi but only offers 600 in generic Win driver and 1200 in Epson bloatware scanning tool.
        Those are minor issues though.
        From day one it produced missaligned prints, where each 1” printhead pass is offset a very noticable fraction of a millimetre from the next one. High quality print mode makes it less noticable but not quite right. Presumably head has a bit of deadlash but turning off bidirectional printing also doesn’t solve the issue so it could be a software issue.
        Scan to email functionality worked for a few months and then started throwing communication error even though a self test in smtp setup screen claims everything is peachy.
        Last thing it decided to pull was clogged printhead about year and a half in, while still 3/4 into the original ink and despite the unit being always plugged in and performing auto clean cycles. Regular cleaning does nothing, deep clean cycle wont run because “ink level is too low”. Refilling tanks that were below 1/4 full still yielded the same message. Clog only shows in draft mode !?! so we still use the damn thing but warranty is soon ending and I can’t wait to hear what the service center will say. It would have ended there long time ago if it didn’t weigh 25kg and wasn’t perched on top of a bookshelf.
        About the only thing that doesn’t suck are the ink bottles and their price. Photos that came out before the clog were also plenty good enough for our picture frames.
        Despite that, as you can probably guess, I’m not a happy customer

        1. Given that two of my three previous inkjets died from printhead problems, you tell me no good news at all! [grin]

          Your printer definitely sounds like a lemon. I wonder if all the mechanical problems started when it was dropped on its head during delivery and shook its innards loose. Admittedly, these days there’s no way to distinguish mechanical issues from deeply embedded firmware configuration issues, as printhead “alignment” seems to happen by timing the squirts rather than moving the orifices.

          I tried to find the nearest Epson “service center” and concluded it would be cheaper, even with a fancy Ecotank printer, to simply trash an out-of-warranty printer and start over again.

  2. I don’t see how dropping the thing would produce these issues, at least not while leaving the box mostly unaffected – we used it (the box) as a makeshift cofee table for a while so I know it’s not damaged.
    Last inkjet Canon MP 600 got clogged with cheap ink so I gave it a lukewarm foot soak, which didn’t do much for the clog. After a few pages printer decided head is dead and shut down. Installing a replacement I happend to salvage from another unit repeated the cycle – few pages then error – soon to be followed by a completly dead printer. Causation would be easy to imply, but I’m not entirely convinced failure is related to soaking.
    What really sucks is that scanner wouldn’t work once the print head went, even though the rest was still functional. A$$hole move on Canon part which also makes me wonder if the head wasn’t simply marked as bad by firmware

  3. I finally broke down, refilled all tanks to the top and ran a 6 minute deep cleaning cycle. It required checking three disclaimer screens and one hold-ok-for-six-seconds schtik. You’d think there is radioactive material in the ink from how many confirmations it requires. One of the screens implied it’s actually gonna flush the tubing and since the test page printed afterwards is defect free, I assume it didn’t actually clean the head but probably just bled the air from the tubes. It could be either though.
    It used almost 1/4 of each of CMY tanks and 1/8 of the black one, in round numbers around 20$ worth of ink.
    I didn’t check the waste diaper state before, but it now stands at around 15% used up and we only went through an initial ink batch supplied with the printer and what it used for cleaning. Since with this particular case they initially supply only 60% full bottles, it follows it’ll need a new diaper within 4-5 ink sets… so at some point I’m gonna have to chuck 40$ for what is effectively just paper towels and a counter chip.

    1. Whew! If they didn’t make the “pressure wash” cycle so hard to reach, through, folks would surely complain about profligate ink consumption.

      After 2100 pages in four months, most of which went onto twice- or thrice-used sheets of paper, the black ink tank is about half-full and the machinery is still working fine. The colors may not be up to photo-realistic artistic standards, but they’re good enough for our simple needs.

      So far, so good!

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