(Last Updated: 29th December 2011)
Epson inkjet printers have a built in printhead that can allow you to use the printer almost indefinitely but invariably you find the printer declares itself requiring a service because it has filled its waste ink pads.
The waste ink pads in an inkjet printer are like a highly absorbent nappy /diaper which soak up the ink that your printer uses to keep its jets clear of clogs. In Epsons the need to waste ink is quite high because of the cold Piezo-electric process and inks used, especially Durabrite (pigment) inks. There's an argument that Epson does this deliberately to increase their ink sales but, whatever the reason, you can bet the waste ink will stop your printer working long before your printer has reached it's printheads life-end point.
Solving this problem is a two part approach.
Resetting the waste counter
Your first issue is how to reset your printers "service required" message. If you can't get this resolved there's no point going further.
The SSC Utility
In the past the solution was often found with a utility called "SSC" ( Search keywords: "ssclg utility epsone" ) but unfortunately development of this piece of software was abandoned back around 2006 or so and Epson has long since rewritten its printer firmware to disable much of its functionality.
"AdjProg" Service Utilities
These are the oft touted solutions being sold by various eBay sellers and are essentially the service program used by Epson technicians to handle more than just waste counter resets. They are usually model specific (ie: work with a small selection of printer models) and contain various attempts to protect the utility from use by end-users.
Many of the utilities are freely available if you spend the time required to research, or are provided with waste kits (either free or as an extra). Either way, if you can get the appropriate utility for your printer (and it works) you're fixed.
The "Pay-Per-Reset" (WICReset) Option
Availability of the "AdjProg" type of reset utility can be patchy and increasingly, newer printer models are unsupported for quite some time (if at all). The good news is that there is now a third party program that is being actively developed to provide Waste Ink Counter reset capabilities (on 64bit and Mac Operating Systems too!) but there is a catch in that the utility requires the purchase of a "key" in order to reset your printer once.
Cost of this "key" is minimal but if you're used to the AdjProg and SSC model, it can be a bit of a rude awakening. The flip side to this is, of course, that a new printer or even a simple visit to a registered Epson tech centre is considerably more expensive so it's worth putting moral outrage to one side, especially as new printer models are actively supported on a regular basis. It could be worse!
Installing the waste ink tankOk... so once you've figured out how to reset the waste ink counter you could just leave the printer right? WRONG! If you continue to use the printer without sorting out the waste ink you're going to find yourself with a printer surrounded by a growing puddle of ink. All fine if you're not worried about your carpets, etc... but I suspect you'd prefer to avoid this.
The solution is to redirect the waste ink flow to an external tank.
There are a number of possible ways to handle this and the choice of container is entirely up to you, however there are some important factors you need to take into account.
- The ink flowing from the printer must never go higher than the pad that sits underneath the printhead (roughly 3 or 4 cm's above the base of the printer). Ignoring this allows the ink to flow back into the pad, soiling the underneath of the printhead and promoting clogging.
- When using with a continuous ink system, be careful not to set the waste tank too low, especially if the system uses a spongeless cartridge. In some instances you can create a syphon effect that empties your ink into the tank. Definitely not good!
- The waste tube in the actual printer is limited in length so your external tank should use an extension to allow it to reach the tank rather than trying to pull the tube out of the printer. The reason for this is that any force used on the tube can disconnect it from the waste pump. If this happens the entire waste ink cleaning system becomes inoperative and repair is very, very difficult.
When I first wrote this article I was purchasing items rather than selling but obviously things changed as I've been selling waste ink tanks myself for a number of years now. Obviously my own kits take those rules seriously but along the way I've learned to incorporate a few additional key features that go a bit further...
- Low profile, wide-base containers are harder to knock over and spill than tall, thin-base bottles.
- Tubing needs to be securely attached and leak proof, not just pushed loosely through a container lid.
- Tubing/Fitting diameter is important to ensure the waste ink can flow successfully out of the pump and not cause back-pressure issues that soil the printhead or blow the tube off the pump. 3/32" inner diameter absolute minimum!
Granted I am biased so you should take this with a pinch of salt but it does seem that many of the waste ink collectors available on ebay (or elsewhere) are provided more as afterthoughts, made from spare part CIS kits rather than tailor made taking into account the issues or physics involved.
Many of the point raised above sound a little alarming and may put you off carrying out this modification. However in the end it's worth bearing this important pro-con balance in mind.
- When modified, an Epson printer like the PX720FWD can continue to be used for years and after many "service required" resets.
- By redirecting the waste ink to an external tank you also remove any need to change or clean the pads inside the printer.
- An official Epson service often costs as much as a new printer itself.
- Many of the Epson printers available today are a LOT simpler to modify or install a waste kit on, so things are considerably easier than the days of the D88, or R1800.
- Your printer may well be scrapped if you don't reset it so there's not a lot to lose.
- You will be able to continue using your preferred cartridges, CIS system, etc.. and not be forced to buy new consumables.
- You do run the risk of essentially breaking your printer beyond repair and of invalidating your printers warranty
Obviously I'm maintaining this and other guides on eBay so they should help but you can use these keywords to locate other related information and sources using your favourite search engine:
- protection counter reset
- SSC utility