Uncovering the biggest scam in modern history … printer cartridges.

I’d never really paid much attention to printing or print materials till early this year, never had a need to print much out. Since starting out with the plotter I get some requests, a lot of which I have to turn down for labels and printed contour cut stickers, which is really annoying. The entry level for UV / solvent based printers is still rather high, a basic printer will set you back anything from £3k to around £5k depending if you just require a solvent printer or one with a contour cutting head. The latest and greatest roland cutter/printer could set you back as much as £24-28k. Maybe I’m understating what these machines are capable of ie. the above machine will print photo quality 6ft+ wide and has an incorporated cutting head for printing and cutting stickers options include take up rollers on the front of the machine etc. absolutely amazing machines but way out of my price range.

Saving my pennies till I can afford a decent solvent printer cutter combo. (Yes im aware there are some workarounds, but the longevity of inkjet printing and water proofing / UV protecting the stickers is rather and involved process something I could mitigate all together with a better printer, unfortunately the solvent inks are far to aggressive to attempt modifying an existing inkjet.)

I had a few old inkjet printers knocking about so thought I’d attempt restoring them to working order whilst having a play around with inks and refilling the old cartridges. Simple, obviously I just put more ink in the cartridges and place them back in the printer and continue to print putting some old hardware to good use.

Well that’s how I thought it worked. NOPE.

Just as I would have liked to attended the initial design meeting for the scart lead connector, so I could gouge out the eyeballs of the chief engineer with a hot soldering iron. I would have loved to have been in attendance when engineers thought it’d be a good idea to guestimate the longevity of an ink cartridge and completely halt the printer from working unless replaced with a brand spanking new one.

The cartridges / printer essentially count how many prints the cartridges have performed and once a pre-designated number is reached the printer simply refuses to print. Even if your cartridge is overflowing with ink.

I think most people instantly presume there’s a level sensor inside the cartridge. Well there isn’t. What a load of rubbish eh? Same goes for most brands HP, Cannon and Epson plus probably many many more. Why the hell someone hasn’t open-sourced this technology is beyond me, all it would take is one honest model with the ability to refill upgrade and build whatever size you required, etc.

Anyway I was the proud owner of an old Epson CX3650M printer, I still am, only slightly less proud. Solution? Well I tried a few random applications to zero the print counts on the cartridges with no success. I could clear the overall print value, the waste inkpad values but nothing much else. More searching ensued and I have found a device sold on ebay for <£10 to reset the print cartridges. I’ve got it on order and am currently waiting for it to arrive. To make things slightly worse the cannon printer I have as a backup has started doing exactly the same EXPLETIVE! thing.

I’m still yet to start looking for a solution for the cannon printer but hopefully the hardware device I’ve ordered will do the job with the epson cartridges.

Honestly its times like these it really shows how detrimental and wasteful  greed, profit / sales motivated market can be to society. This is something ill be looking in to in the future if I get time, I’ve found some good research online and always fancied my hand at a little reverse engineering.

Will update you lot when the ‘OEM printer cartridge re-setter’ arrives.


UPDATE 20/12/2017 – I’m please to let you know that the cartridge reset tool arrived in the post this afternoon, I took it straight home, disregarded all instructions as per usual and whipped out my cartridge (as you do) the device comes with two small adapters to allow you to hold the device in position for various different cartridge types, these just snap in to place on the device, then all you need to do is hold the cartridge on to the pins for a few seconds, a light flashes red then once the process is complete the led colour changes to green. I replaced the cartridge, powered up the printer and what do you know every cartridge now reads 100%, just to be sure I ran a quick print and all appears to be good. Depending on how long this printer lasts me I’ll keep you lot updated with its progress. Nice to end on a good note eh.

NB. My model is the CX3650 and I had to use the following options …

So just to round up, as I know the thread on reddit gained a little traction on /r/opensource

Full thread : Click here

My thoughts, after being enlightened, educated, flamed, and sometimes even agreed with, I now understand that the process for making the print heads requires a huge initial investment as its such specialised equipment. (Email me if I’m wrong) The print heads are produced by lasering tiny holes through the print head material to which a microscopic coil is attached when the coil is heated a tiny droplet of ink is ejected from the print head. Interesting stuff. Most modern printers now come with disposable print heads to ensure quality prints and consistent print quality, some say its because the manufacturers want to maintain their quality levels across the prints, some say its because the consumers don’t want to service the print heads, all are completely valid, BUT, there’s a big BUT, I still feel this decision should be left to the consumer. A special ‘print quality assurance mode’ that is guaranteed quality every print, but there should also be a ‘manual maintenance mode’ or at least a range of consumer grade printers that for hobbists and tech savvy individuals that don’t like feeling they’re being mothered, certain aspects designed in the consumers favour, that allows them to refill, clean and take pride in their device, it would only take one manufacturer to start to tip the balance.

Another cool tip I learned is if you have a blocked print head an ultrasonic cleaner may be what you’re looking for, but don’t take my word for it, or some random guy on reddits word either, make sure you do the correct research.

One final note the device said to reset before the cartridge hit 15%, well this one had 1500 prints registered and was at 0% and it worked fine. I presume this is targeted more at users whose cartridges have a combined print head and ink reservoir to insure the user refills the cartridge before the print head runs dry.

Anyway I feel less wound up than I did yesterday over the whole matter.

Peace all.

(PS. I don’t do advertising on my page yet, but I think he deserves a mention, the sellers page I bought the device from is here. Great product, fast delivery, responded quickly to a question regarding shipping and also sells similar devices specifically for epson printers. Will post a few photos of the device later.)

The application I used to zero the prints on the printer is called SSC Service Utility and is available to download from here.