Using Compatible cartridges
Compatible’ or remanufactured ink cartridges can be slower to work because they are made and packed differently. This is not a reflection on their quality and reputable ones such as Tonik cartridges are unconditionally guaranteed, so don’t be put off by any of this. We use them and recommend them as a good economic solution to everyday printing
For Epson and Canon models that use ink tanks, i.e. the print-head is built into the printer itself, it is a good idea to let the cartridge stand in an upright position for at least ten minutes before fitting it. This ensures that any air that might have become trapped in the nozzle can rise to the top. Ink is then ready to flow when the cartridge is fitted. Always remember to remove the foil or coloured strip as indicated on the cartridge before you fit it.
If you own an Epson printer that uses ‘chipped’ cartridges, take care not to touch the chip contacts with your fingers since this can damage or destroy the chip. If the printer refuses to accept the old ink cartridges, even though you know they have ink, or simply fails to operate after a cartridge change, disconnect the printer from the power supply. NB It is no good just switching it off since it is still powered and will ‘remember’ its settings. Take the plug out so it has no power whatsoever. After about 30 seconds you can reconnect and everything should work properly.
(NEVER shake an ink cartridge whatever you might have heard – it does absolutely nothing for the cartridge and since most cartridges use foam to hold the ink, it is not an indication of the contents. If you really want a reliable way to check the contents weigh a new full one and an empty one. Anything between these limits should be a good indication of the % of ink).
In the case of ink cartridges that have an integrated print head such as Lexmark and HP, the problem could simply be ink drying in the head itself. Where this appears to be the case, take a few layers of kitchen roll or old cloth and lay them in a suitable container, large enough to hold the cartridge safely in an upright position. Soak the tissue with very hot water without actually drowning it, then, stand the cartridge in the container with the metal head part resting on the moist tissue. Leave it in a warm place for at least ten minutes (sometimes an hour is needed) and eventually you should see the ink starting to stain the tissue. Always take care not to touch the metal contacts with bare fingers and dry them off with a soft tissue after you’ve done this procedure. These are delicate electronic devices and provided you treat them with care, they are extremely reliable. This will often get a stubborn cartridge to work.
Printer won’t print – old ink cartridge…
A common problem, particularly with inkjet printers that are seldom used, or are sited in hot or sunny environments. Printer ink is a compromise of properties – it has to stay fluid in the printer, yet dry quickly on paper. Ink does evaporate over time, so the new ink cartridge you fitted months ago could actually have dried out if the room is warm or the printer is exposed to heat from a radiator or sunlight.
The first thing to do is put your printer away from any source of heat such as a radiator – especially a shelf over the monitor screen, and never place a printer in direct sunlight. Even if you have to find a place far away from the computer, all you need is a longer connecting cable – it should work just as well as it did when it was on the desk. Having found a suitably cool spot, and supposing the printer still refuses to print, there are some useful tricks to help get it going again. First determine the type of printer.
If your model uses ink tanks such as Epson or Canon printers often do, you can obtain cleaning cartridges that contain a mild solvent to loosen any dried ink. These are fitted in place of the ink cartridges and it's worth trying to run the 'cleaning' cycle just to see if it works. If not, simply leave the cleaning cartridges in for a few hours or even overnight, so they can do their work. They usually do!
If your model has an ink cartridge with a built-in print head such as Hewlett Packard or Lexmark, take a few layers of kitchen roll or old cloth and lay them in a suitable container, large enough to hold the cartridge safely in an upright position. Soak the tissue with very hot water without actually drowning it, then, stand the cartridge in the container with the metal head part resting on the moist tissue. Leave it in a warm place for at least ten minutes (sometimes an hour is needed) and eventually you should see the ink starting to stain the tissue. Always take care not to touch the metal contacts with bare fingers and dry them off with a soft tissue after you’ve done this procedure. These are delicate electronic devices and provided you treat them with care, they are extremely reliable.
Printer says ‘Empty’ but I know there’s ink in my cartridge
There is generally no clever device installed for measuring the ink in a cartridge. When you install a new ink cartridge, the printer starts to count the number of pages printed. After a pre-determined number of pages, the software will indicate that the ink has run out, and in some cases will even stop the printer from working. Matters are made even worse with integral 'tri-colour' cartridges if you use one colour predominantly because it means you have to discard the remaining colours within the cartridge.
The way around this will depend on the printer. For Epson ‘chipped’ cartridges there is a device called a ‘Chip Resetter’ that re-programs the chip in the ink cartridge to fool the printer into accepting it as a new one. With others, the solution is usually to remove the cartridge and replace it as if it was new. However, be warned that printers such as Canon and HP use thermal technology for printing so running without ink can damage the print head beyond repair and replacements are expensive. This does not occur with Epson models since they use ‘piezo’ technology and run relatively cool even without ink. However Epson print heads are not replaceable and purging an empty print head can sometimes be awkward so it’s worthwhile ensuring that you always have ink, even if it means sacrificing a partly used ink cartridge.
Another point to consider is that some manufacturers, particularly those who make cartridges with integral print-head, allegedly date code their cartridges to stop working after a certain time although I'm not sure how this would work. How can an ink cartridge detect the date? Personally I have never encountered this and I'm inclined to dismiss it but I would welcome any information to positively confirm or refute the claim.
Another thing that often helps...
Where the print-head parks when the printer is not in use there is a pad directly underneath, that protects the print-head. Ink collects here over a period of time and congeals. This can seriously affect print quality and even block the head, thus preventing it printing. To access this you might have to use the procedure that places the heads in a position to change the ink cartridges, or if this fails, try to physically move the print-head out of the way. If you do try this, try not to force it since that could damage the printer, and make sure the printer is turned off.
You can use a cotton bud, preferably one with an extra long stick or something that will allow you to reach in and clean the pad. In order to release the congealed ink, you can use a special cleaning fluid that is available from some retailers or just use a solution of 50/50 methylated spirit or surgical spirit in water, or failing that use window cleaning fluid. When this is done run the cleaning cycle for your printer and print a test page to see if it worked.
When all else fails, you should consult the manufacturer's website for support where you can also get new drivers, support and warranty information. Most of them are listed in the Links Directory elsewhere on this site.
About the price of ink...
Consumers are getting a raw deal when it comes to the ink used in printers, according to Which? magazine. With the top brand names costing more than vintage champagne, it is an unnecessary waste that people can ill afford, said the campaigning magazine. Unfortunately this price setting by the manufacturers also partly dictates even the price of non original consumable that are intended to save money.
THE COST OF INK (example)
Colour HP Cartridge costs about £29 - this works out at £1.70 per millilitre
1985 Dom Perignon costs 23p per millilitre
Tests on a crop of colour printers found that many gave premature warnings that the cartridges were running out of ink. Which? is also critical of the overall cost of printer ink. It says some cartridges cost over seven times more than vintage champagne per millilitre.
It recommends that people buy generic cartridges which are often half the price of branded products. (see TONIK website for compatibles etc)
The magazine also suggests that people squeeze every drop out of the ink they use, ignoring the premature warnings that the ink is low and continuing until they see a drop in quality of printing.
Most cartridges give people the option of continuing printing. But Which? found that Epson embeds a chip which stops the cartridge running when the ink runs low.
The company says that it employs the cut-off system to "protect customers from accidentally damaging their printer or producing sub-standard print quality". A Which? researcher who over-rode the system found that in one case he could print up to 38% more good quality pages, even though the chip stated that the cartridge was empty. The least amount of extra pages that could be printed was 17%.
The cost of ink has been the subject of an Office of Fair Trading investigation. It has accused manufacturers of a lack of transparency about the price of ink and called for an industry standard for measuring ink cartridge performance. So far there seems to have been little response.
Despite the suggestion that users should get every drop of ink from their cartridges, just a word of warning. The moment you see a drop in quality you should immediately replace the cartridge. Never leave a printer without ink and certainly never run it for prolonged periods with an empty cartridge.
This is because printers such as HP, Canon and Lexmark use 'thermal' technology and by necessity the ink acts as a coolant within the print head. Therefore running without ink could allow overheating and damage a print head to render it useless - replacements are expensive.
In the case of Epson which uses different technology this danger is less pronounced and the most likely scenario is that ink residue will dry inside the print head and affect quality if the head is allowed to dry out. Of course there are cleaning cartridges available but far better to avoid the problem in the first place.
With a little common sense, you can have the best of both worlds - full use and economy on your ink together with a reliable printer.
Copyright Tonik 2009