Cleaning Epson print heads

Harrison

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Does anyone know a way to clean Epson print heads?

Unlike HP and other printers the print head isn't part of the cartridge, but rather the printer itself, so it isn't replaced with each cartridge replacement.

I've got an Epson Photo EX A3 printer I've been using for many years and until recently it has worked perfectly.

I've always used genuine Epson ink to avoid clogging, fading and to get the best print quality. However when I got married I had to print our Order of Service, totalling 70 copies, and about 1400 pages printed in total!

As you can imagine that is a lot of ink, and I ran out of the genuine cartridges I had, and because of time limits the only ones I could get to finish the printing were third party cheap ones. They seemed to work OK at the time and got the job done. However since then I have had issues getting the printer to print, and have needed to keep cleaning the printheads every few copies because of gaps and lines in the printing. So I won't be using third party ink again any time soon.

However, now I'm not getting anything from the black cartridges. The colour is printing correctly, but I'm not getting anything at all from the black cartridge. I just replaced it with a new Epson cartridge but still nothing. Any ideas?
 

Harrison

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Do you have something against Epsons?

New A3 Epsons cost close to £400 so I want to get this working if I can, rather than spend a lot of money I might not need to.

I've found a guide on how to unclog Epson Print heads here, so I will try that when I get time.
 

Tajmaster

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I used to have an Epson 830u and had special ehad cleaning cartridges that I put in and then used the Epson maintainence util to clean the heads while they were in, this usually unclogged any crap out of the head. Im not sure if they do them for your model but you could try an ink cartridge shop and ask if they do them :)
 

Merlin

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A few drops of car anti-freeze works wonders if you put some into an old cartridge, put it in the printer and leave it overnight. Make a hole in the top of an old black cartridge and put about 10 to 15 drops in to dampen the sponge inside. It will gradually percolate through the print heads and soften the dried ink.

This works on Epson and older Canon printers as the ink is water based; do NOT try this with an HP printer as the ink is pigment based.
 

Harrison

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I used to have an Epson 830u and had special ehad cleaning cartridges that I put in and then used the Epson maintainence util to clean the heads while they were in, this usually unclogged any crap out of the head. Im not sure if they do them for your model but you could try an ink cartridge shop and ask if they do them :)

I've been using the Maintenance utilities (SSC Service Utility) and that hasn't had any effect, even using the powerful cleaning option. And the Epson cleaning cartridges are quite expansive, and might not do much as I'm not getting any ink through to the paper.

It seems quite straight forward to dismantle the printer and get to the print head, so I think I will give that a go.
 

Merlin

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It seems quite straight forward to dismantle the printer and get to the print head, so I think I will give that a go.

Famous last words, usually followed by *ping!* and "Where did that little tiny spring go? D'oh!!"
 

Harrison

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Yes, I've learnt that lesson the hard way in the past :LOL: Worst was taking apart a top of the range personal stereo years ago because the mechanism had completely jammed. Put it all back together and then found a bit left over that was needed to make the auto reverse work, but the spring it connected to was missing. Oops.

These days I now make sure I have a completely clean desk and lay everything out as I take it apart, and put screws in a pot.
 

Merlin

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If it's an involved job like a laptop strip down, I use small ziplock bags to put the screws and small parts in and write on each one where they came from. A notepad to write down important bits, like where wires and headers attach is vital as well.

Unless you do something like this, you are heading for disaster...
 

Harrison

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Or take photos of everything connected as you go, so you can reference it when putting it all back together.
 

Harrison

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I've now disassembled the printer. Taken the print head out and completely cleaned it with Toluene using a syringe as described in the guide I found. It head was completely grudged up with ink so was the obvious cause. After breaking that all down with the Toluene I managed to get it to force out through the ink jets so it will looked good.

Reassembly went fine and didn't take as long as dismantling, so about 10 minutes total. Epsons seems pretty well designed for maintenance with just 2-4 screws to remove the whole casing and get at everything.

On powering it back up it went through the usual cycles and looked good. A test print shows liquid still in the jets, so a couple of head cleaning operations and now the colour is coming out completely and correctly printing. However, I'm still not getting any black ink at all from the printer. Its strange because I did get alcohol through the black jets when cleaning so it seemed to be cleared. Not sure what the problem could be now.
 

Harrison

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I think I now know the problem. The little spike/pin that the ink cartridge goes down onto, which breaks the cartridge seal and forms the sealed vacuum between the cart and the print head seems to be broken. It is still there but is cracked and wobbly so probably isn't forming a proper seal and so the ink can't be drawn out of the cartridge.

So that explains why no black ink was getting through. I am going to try and glue it and see if that helps, but I think its time to invest in a decent newer A3 design printer. Maybe an R2400 or R2880 if I can find one at a good price as they will be great for A3+ SLR photo printing, plus some other A3 illustration output.

It has been amazing that for how old the Epson Photo EX is, it was still producing print quality that was better than most on the market even today. Even the newer replacements were not as good. The 2100 and 1290 for example.

I might also consider an Epson SP1400 or R1900. Anyone own any of these? And could recommend one?

The Canon A3 printers also look quite good and have cheaper ink costs, but don't have the 8 individual ink tanks, so will never be as good for A3_ photo output for sale or exhibition.
 

Merlin

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I have an HP Deckjet 1220c which is a good A3 printer and the benefit over Epson is that the print heads are in the cartridges. The quality is good even for an ageing printer and I would be surprised if HP didn't do an updated version of this printer.
 

imnogeek

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I have an HP Deckjet 1220c which is a good A3 printer and the benefit over Epson is that the print heads are in the cartridges. The quality is good even for an ageing printer and I would be surprised if HP didn't do an updated version of this printer.
The down side to that is the inks cost more :(

Canon do a range of printers that have ink tanks like the Epson, but canon also make the print head a replaceable part too so you get the best of both worlds.
 

Harrison

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Hmm.. that is interesting about Canon offering print head as a replacement part. Do you know if that is true of all Canon printers?

I've been looking at the different models and Canon A3 printers seem to be at 2 extreme ends of the market. Low end budget A3+ printers less than £200, and studio A3+ printers at over £500. Nothing in the middle around the £400 I was prepared to pay.

In reviews I'm also not sure the cheaper Canon PIXMA iX4000 or iX5000 A3 printers are good enough for what I need, although the price is good. They don't have the photo black cartridge found in their A4 models, and so need to make the black by mixing the colours (which uses up the colours more also) and I've read in reviews that this does effect the print quality in dark areas of photos, making them less sharp and muddy. Whereas Epson and HP printers don't have this issue.

So, at the moment I'm being drawn away from Canon A3's, unless anyone has recommendations for other models which do include dedicated black ink tanks for photo printing, and not just used for text.

As for HP. I do like HP printers, but the ink costs are too high for large print jobs, and I only ever buy genuine ink and not cheap third party ink because it is a false economy. It doesn't do the printer any good, and the results are not as good and don't have the same vibrant colour quality or dye formula to protect against colour fade. It's also important to have fairly accurate colours for print work too when I need to print out concept work for design projects.

So at the moment it is back to Epson again I think, but not sure which model to go for. Will have to read more reviews.

My dream printer would be the Epson R2880, but I don't think I can currently justify the £560 price tag at the moment, and I would also be tempted with that model to invest in an external continuous ink system and ink waste tank. It is something to dream for at some point in the future though as it is the best for a digital darkroom setup.

If I could find the older model though, the R2400, at a good price it would be tempting though.

Failing that the R1900 or SP1400 are the current 2 I'm considering.
 

imnogeek

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I use the IP8500 which is a professional A4 printer with 8 Cartridges, Black, Cyan, Photo Cyan, Magenta, photo magenta, Yellow, Green, Red IIRC, and yes you can get a printhead for it, it clips in.

Canon PIXMA Pro9000 A3+ Professional Photo Printer seems to be similar in spec.
 

Harrison

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I did read a review of that one in my travels and it looked good, although the review did say its results were behind the Epson R2880. I will have to look more into that model. Thanks for the info.

Do you know what type of ink it uses? Pigment or Dye?

And can it print to gloss and matte papers? I noticed a restriction of some in reading that some printers only support matte paper.
 

Harrison

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After reading many reviews for a new A3+ Pro Photo printer I drew up a short list of:

Epson R2880
Epson R1900
HP B9180
HP B8850
Canon Pixma Pro 9500 MK2

Choosing between these 5 printers for a final one to buy has been a very hard decision.

The Canon ink prices are the cheapest, and it produces the best B/W images out of any of these printers, but its colour profiles are not as good and in all the reveiws I read its results were not quite as good. So the Canon was struck from the list. Plus it was over £60 more than the closest other on my list.

Next was the Epson R1900. For a price much lower than the others, it seemed to be producing some great results in all of the reviews, and for the print quality it was being highly recommended. However ink usage and ink cost is higher than any other printer here because it doesn't hold the matte and gloss black cartridges in the printer at the same time, so they need changing for different media, which wastes a lot of ink. However this print is also unique in using a special gloss cartridge that addes a glossy finishing coat to all prints. Great if you want a gloss finish, but not so great if you want matte. Also this gloss cartridge is said to run out very fast by all reviews and users, pushing up the running costs a lot.

That left:

Epson R2880
HP B9180
HP B8850

Out of these 3 I couldn't make my mind up between the Epson R2880 and the HP B9180.

Both were producing level results in most tests, with the HP slightly ahead in some and the Epson in others, so print results were not an issue to choose either.

For the Epson R2880, the final decision came down to running costs. Each ink cartridge is only 11ml, so runs out fast if printing at large format sizes. The printer also likes to run a lot of print cycles wasting ink, and also tests its own print head and cleans it when needed, using up more ink. It also again doesn't hold the matte and photo blacks at the same time so needs swapping. I've also read loads of owners saying the ink costs are really high and the printer is constantly jamming up.

That leaves the 2 HP A3+ printers.

The more expensive HP B9180 is a very nice printer and in all the reviews it was managing to produce some of the best results out of any printer, even the R2880. The Canon still slightly beat it for B/W, but nothing else.

I therefore decided the B9180 was the printer to buy. It uses larger 27ml cartridges, and holds both the matte and photo blacks at the same time, meaning no swapping when changing paper types. It also uses 4 replaceable print heads, similar to Canon. This printer also has a unique closed loop calibration system that allows it to calibrate itself by testing the density of ink on a test print and adjusting itself based on a factory set profile. Quite an impressive feature, but it only needs to be done when a print head is changes, so when first setup is about the only time as HP say they should also last the life of the printer.

That raises the question of the cheaper HP B8850. On close inspection the specs between the 2 HP printers looks very similar, and in reviews they were claiming that print results are near to identical. I eventually found one review that examined the real differences between these 2 HP printers, and it turned out the HP B8850 is just a cut down version of the more expensive B9180. It doesn't have the ethernet port, so cannot be connected directly to a network (but you could still share it from a PC/server/rooter etc) so that isn't an issue. Also gone is the LCD status display, but that would only really be of use on a network setup where a PC wasn't monitoring the printer. So no issue there either. So what else is different? The straight path media tray of the B8850 only supports up to 7mm media, whereas the B9180 supports up to 15mm. And finally the B8850 doesn't have the same advanced calibration system, but does still have a similar simpler one, plus it gets calibrated before shipping at the factory anyway.

However, both printers use the same identical set of inks and print heads, so produce identical results. And they use the same Photoshop plugin with media profiles for accurate colour results.

So differences between the 2 are just, network connection, LCD status display, slightly thinner media support and a calibration system that isn't quite as accurate. However that also means the printer won't waste as much ink calibrating itself.

So on reflection the B8850 is the one I'm going to buy.

My only problem is finding one. A few places online are selling them for under £400, but all are out of stock. If anyone spots an HP B8850 for less than £400 inc VAT please let me know.

At least now I know the printer I'm buying, once I find someone with it in stock.

Next I have to decide on the new Digital SLR I'm going to buy. It's got to be a Nikon or Canon, but not sure which models yet...
 

StrontiumDog

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Just to make everyone aware, the HP B8850 is a discontinued model so it's going to be one heck of a hunt lol
 
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