Sunday, March 14, 2010

What a paradox of technology… On the one hand, think about how empowering a printer is! It’s a pretty amazing thing to have on one’s desk… On the other hand, I’m sure nearly everyone has some kind of printer story… Maybe it's because I'm in a house full of cats, but there’s just so many things that can go wrong with them, and usually when we need them the most...


or even...

Okay okay, enough examples!

But I think that above all else, the worst thing about inkjet printers has got to be their cartridges.

Can I tell you my printer story?

A few years ago, a friend of a friend of mine came into contact with something of a local legend known as "Free Printer Guy". While this moniker may seem odd, it actually made complete sense to my friend because shortly after meeting this kind stranger, he was promptly given a free (new in box!) inkjet printer. I know, right? Anyways, when my friend, still amazed, asked the "FPG" how he was able to give away brand new office electronics in such a cavalier manner, he was - at length - let in on the secret origin of the FPG...

As it turns out, the FPG was once a normal computer user like you or I, until one fateful day... You see, FPG had been in the market for a new inkjet printer, and after doing some online research, had found a likely candidate at a local Best-Future-Staples-Depot... He bought it, and everything was just fine until the day came that he needed some new ink cartridges. Upon returning to the store, FPG made a shocking discovery; the ink cartridges were more expensive than the original printer (which included two cartridges). FPG went on to explain to my friend that it was simply cheaper (and somehow easier!?) for him to buy a new printer whenever he ran out of ink, and just give away the unneeded printer.

True story!

It really illustrates the kind of needless waste so (sadly) often associated with printers and even computers in general. Also, yes I am aware that it looks like I was, in fact, the FPG, but sadly I cannot take the credit... He's still out there someplace (and Lexmark is, inexplicably, still in business) so there you go... I guess there is some kind of moral here... It's either don't shop at future-best-staples-depot, (that should be a given) or, don't be like FPG. One of those is probably the moral.

Anyways! Today we're going to look at one way to circumvent the evils of Big Ink and their cartridges and liberate your inkjet printer once and for all!

I've heard anecdotes about some of the early versions of ink cartridge security - how they could often be circumvented by covering the chips with electrical tape - but unfortunately since then, ink cartridge security measures have become increasingly complex (and cartridges increasingly expensive!). Cartridge-refillers answered back with the introduction of "chip resetters," which tricked desktop printers into accepting re-filled cartridges. This cat-and-mouse game has continued and while it's still very possible to bypass cartridge security, the design of today's ink cartridges has made home refilling impractical for many people. The result? Basically everyone is paying way too much for printer ink. For real! I don't often use graphs, but get a load of this one!


Time for something radically different. Time for a CISS!

What is a CISS? Well, CISS stands for "Continual Ink Supply System" and it allows a conventional inkjet printer to draw from large (easily refillable) reservoirs of generic ink, rather than expensive, and wasteful proprietary ink cartridges. Best of all, it only requires some minor modifications to your printer, and many models are compatible!

What are the advantages of a CISS you ask?

Good question! Well first off, it's the cheapest way to print at home bar none. Second, the print quality is pretty much identical to what you'd get from a cartridge. Additionally, you can use bulk generic ink! I paid around twenty bucks and haven't put a dent in my bulk ink supply. And lastly, CISS are also easily one of the most efficient and least wasteful ways to print. While those who print super high quality photos professionally may want to stick to their own methods, a student who needs to print large numbers of essays will find a CISS invaluable.

I've modded a couple printers with CISS now, and thought I'd include some photos of my own printer setup and explain how the installation goes.

1. Above is a picture of my printer, an Epson Workforce 500. As with most printers, the main modification is generally the removal of any cap or lid over the ink cartridge jumper (seen below).

Once the cover is removed, the replacement cartridge head can be installed.

2. Next, a small tube-guide is added to the side of the printer.

The tubes are then run from the cartridge head through the guide.

3. Finally, the tubing is run through another small guide and connected to the reservoir tanks to the side of the printer.

Below: a shot of the reservoirs.

4. Print! Print it all! Muahahaha!

However, like Gremlins, there are some rules to owning a magical CIS-enabled printer... namely: don't let the ink levels drop below the half-way point of their respective tanks, otherwise you'll lose pressure and the system will need to be re-installed (a real pain!). Sure, they do have their quirks at times, but overall, the small hiccups are small price for an effectively endless supply of incredibly affordable (and easy to refill) printer ink.


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posted by Marcus at 7:45 PM | 1 comments
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