HOWTO trick your printer into using ALL its ink

Discuss

37 Responses to “HOWTO trick your printer into using ALL its ink”

  1. Oren Beck says:

    To make printers affordable and reliable is easy. If you know and apply a few tech axioms we ignore at risk of failure

    1: Serial Number 1 of something may cost us millions to get made.

    2: Serial Number umpteen million has a NEGATIVE cost on some axes economically speaking. Paid out to us as selling our process tech. And selling OEM sub elements to others as diverse cash flows. Which, BtW has hugely disproportionate enviromental rewards.

    Explained as- if there’s only 1 part number print head and 4 ink tank sizes=CYMK the tonnage of waste saved is unreal.

    Compete perhaps on making printers with value multiplying features such as duplexing-both output and document feeders! Or finishing- Staple/binding in home affordables. Same thing with parts kit. At one time I had to carry 20+ unique laser/copier fuser roller kits as “Trunk Stock”

  2. keratacon says:

    Here’s the better solution:

    spend a little bit of extra money and get an office quality laserjet for black & white documents.

    consumer printers are ripoffs and scams, but for the office market the manufacturers actually compete on quality.

  3. Gilbert Wham says:

    #6: Printers hate everybody.

  4. Anonymous says:

    ——– READ THIS IMPORTANT FOR MC51 USERS——– THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!
    YOU JUST SAVED ME AND MY GRADE… I DIDNT HAVE ANY ELECTRONICS TAPE SO I COVERD THE SPOT WITH A CLEAR STrIP OF TAPE THAT I JUST THREW SOME BLACK PEN INK ON IT AND IT WORKED :D!!!!! thankyou!!

  5. James Holden says:

    This is fairly old news, but useful.

    The printer manufacturers claim that running a cartridge completely empty can damage the printer though.

    They’re probably right, but I’ll bet they err on the side of caution (and profit) with the empty threshold though.

  6. pegazzani says:

    I have a Brother MFC-3820CN. I cannot find a sensor for any of the ink cartridges. Can you tell me what they look like? Can I cover something on the cartridge itself? Thanks.

  7. Xedrik says:

    The printer manufacturers claim that running a cartridge completely empty can damage the printer though.

    A lot of printer manufacturers issue scary warnings about using remanufactured toner cartridges too, yet on the packaging of most OEM toners it says “made from new and remanufactured parts.”

    I service copiers and printers for a living, and the only real risk I can see in this behavior is on the printers that have separate drum and toner units, you could damage the drum by running the toner completely out. Toner works as a dry lubricant between the drum and drum cleaning blade, and without that the drum could become marred or scratched due to abrasion from a dry/sticky cleaning blade. Whatever money you may have saved by squeezing a few extra pages out of the toner cartridge, you may have just lost by damaging the drum unit, which is often much more expensive (and lasts longer) than the toner cartridge.

    On models with an “all in one” drum & toner cartridge, it doesn’t matter, ’cause you’ll be replacing the whole thing anyway.

  8. JohnBerry says:

    I had a similar problem (http://www.johnberry.org/2007/10/27/epon-update/)with my inexpensive Epson printer. A little visit to the Google and a side trip to ebay and for less than $10 I have been living in printer heaven.

  9. diluded000 says:

    My HP Color Laserjet 4500 has a menu option to override the low toner block on printing. It takes some virtual digging to find it, but it is indeed there.

    I repaired laser printers years ago, and suspect the potential damage they describe is from a worn cleaner blade on the drum internal to the toner cartridge, and not from an actual lack of toner. The blade is supposed to wipe the excess toner from the drum as it rotates, but if it becomes worn you can get a toner buildup on the drum, and sometimes this will make a mess outside the cartridge that needs to be cleaned. A bigger risk is the plastic gears in the cartridge wearing out and locking up and stripping out the driving gears inside the printer. But unless I start seeing big black streaks on the page, I am going to keep bypassing the toner empty message.

  10. James David says:

    As a Brother printer owner, I’m super grateful for this tip. I just learned that Brother opened up their printer drivers in March. Very glad about that, as a new Ubuntu user!

  11. Eduardo Padoan says:

    The best part is that you’ll be dispensing less ink into the environment when you trow away your used cartridge.

    About damaging the printer, I dunno, but must printers I see are quite disposable anyway.

    Man, I hate when to have to work with printers. And I think they hate me too.

  12. madsci says:

    I picked up a continuous inking system for my Epson RX580 for less than what a full set of cartridges would cost, and I’ve been very happy with it. I rarely print photos, but they still come out looking as good as the original inks, as far as I can tell. I’ve been using it for almost a year now, and none of the tanks are below 2/3 full. When I’m out of one, I’ll just refill it from the bottle.

    This is what inkjet printing should be. I would gladly pay 3x as much for a more sturdily build printer with built-in tanks and easily replaceable print heads that didn’t lie about supplies. Apparently there’s no market for such a beast, though.

    Hmm… now that would be an interesting open source hardware project – design a workhorse inkjet printer, and compete with the big guys on total cost of ownership rather than retail price. It’d probably be hard to do without running afoul of patents, though.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Is the difference between “ink” and “toner” really that opaque to so many people? Ink is a liquid. Toner is a powder. The kind of cartridges used for one are completely different from the kind used for the other, so a tip for extending the life of one won’t do any good for the other. Not knowing which your printer uses is about a stupid as not knowing whether your car runs on gasoline or diesel.

  14. Antinous says:

    When the printer doesn’t want to print any more because the ink is low, I’ve always pulled out the cartridge, whapped it on my desk and stuck it back in. Then it prints until the ink really runs out. It’s worked with two Epsons and three HPs.

  15. JoshuaZ says:

    I’m tempted to make a joke about this being declared illegal and connecting it to Cory’s story “Printcrime” but I can’t quite get a joke to work out of it.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure how a ink based printer can be hurt but toner based copiers can. It really depends on the type of copier. A Ricoh for example uses a two part system to get toner to the paper. If you run out of toner and trick the copier you will then ruin the developer.

    If the developer dies it could start falling into the machine causing a huge mess and destroying gears and the drum.

  17. Pyros says:

    Everyone knows by now the virtues of Open Source, so often have they been extolled. Unfortunately, we only conceive it as something appropriate for software. Why not conceive of Open Source hardware? Can some smart readers weigh in on the feasibility of an Open Source printer? Why can’t such a thing be possible?

  18. BubbleDragon says:

    Next up: printer drivers that start actually making the text print faded when they randomly decide there is no ink.

  19. WA says:

    @Xedrik(2): I believe Brother tends to use a separated design for their laser printers; I know they did when I bought my HL-5150, and that it was lauded for saving costs by making the toner cheaper. This should probably be kept in mind when using this modification. If there is a significant risk of damage, I can understand the reasoning behind preventing users from using the mostly-exhausted cartridges: given the choice, most users would probably insist on running the printer until it actually became damaged, on the assumption that there always must be some toner left, and then complain about the damage. There also may be other reasons why erring on the side of wasting some toner might be a good idea. However, we don’t know, and due to the way announcements and documentation on such things can be affected by non-technical concerns like marketing and public relations, it would be extremely difficult for Brother to actually explain the matter in a believable way.

    It’s unfortunate that the assumption in these sorts of discussions is always that the manufacturer is purposefully making the device inferior in order to increase profits; it’s even more unfortunate that this appears to have actually been the case so many times as to make such an assumption depressingly accurate.

  20. mdhatter says:

    I used to have a brother color printer in my office.

    I wanted to take a bat to it on more than one occasion. Very Office Space.

    Eventually we replaced a it with a different brand. There was much rejoicing.

  21. WA says:

    As another note, quality of printing can be very important to some people, and can also be a legitimate marketing and technical concern. If there needs to be some toner left in the cartridge to ensure a certain level of reliability, consistency, and quality in the printing, then erring on the side of wasting some toner is probably a good idea, and many people on the fixyourownprinter site seem to report that the Brother trick does end up reducing print quality. It’s been my experience that there are quite a few users who will select the most economical quality options, ignore all warnings about toner level, and then complain that the printer prints poorly.

    Then again, with most people on the site also reporting a 30-50% increase in the number of pages printed without a decrease in quality, I expect that Brother is erring rather too far on the side of wasting toner, even if one takes into account that most people experimenting with this are probably not terribly demanding about quality.

  22. EH says:

    The printer manufacturers claim that running a cartridge completely empty can damage the printer though.

    This seems to be a quibble due to the nature of cartridges costing almost as much as a printer. That is, if it only costs $20-100 more than the cartridge replacement price to replace the printer due to overusing $60 worth of ink, then the benefit might outweigh the cost of a chance of damage.

  23. Wolfrick says:

    How about an open-source laser printer that prints by burning the top surface of the paper with the laser, instead of transferring toner?
    Imagine the subtle shades possible! The results could be gorgeous for art, and quite high-contrast and crisp for regular printing.
    A rotating mirror and a laser, along with a standard paper-handling system would be about all you’d need. A “laser burning printer” could be tiny.
    And the kicker: You’d NEVER RUN OUT OF TONER.
    Okay kids, put your thinking caps on and get buys inventing this for us :D

  24. pauldrye says:

    I have an HP ColorJet 1600, and it actually *is* cheaper to buy a new printer than buy the cartridges. It’s not even particularly close: about $250 for the printer and $320 for the three colour carts and a black.

    For that matter, I bought the one I’m currently using for just $150 at a door-crasher special. Guess what I’ll be doing again when it’s time to replace the toner?

  25. DragonVPM says:

    So, here’s a thought. If the various toner cartridges etc… can fail the way folks claim, why not put in less toner so they run out before they cause other problems in the printer?

    Given how many pages that people are reporting printing after “hacking” their cartridges, the whole “Oh noes, cartridge can fail and destroy your printer!!!1!” sounds more like a convenient cover that’s told to folks who have inquired about it before. They tell most people “sorry, you’re out of toner” and the few who point out that they aren’t are then told “well it’s so that bad things don’t happen when the cartridge falls apart”

    (kind of how Bugatti designed the Veyron so that, at top speed, it runs out of gas in 12 minutes because the tires would melt after 15)

  26. bardfinn says:

    The company I work for signed a lease on three workhorse laser printers, service calls included.

    I am so very glad of that. They break down about once a week, necessitating a service call.

    The /huge/ black&white / scanner model in the mailroom that is also our fax machine needs to be powercycled every day – or the builtin webserver for retrieving faxes and scans crashes the Java applet it drops into web browsers that does nothing more than /report toner and paper levels/.

    I’m absolutely certain the /service/ would have been an incredible cost to us, and I do not know how these people are making money.

  27. Joe MommaSan says:

    My company uses Dell W5300 workgroup laser printers. They start displaying a “Toner low” message on the LCD a good couple of months before print quality actually begins to suffer. (and that’s at workgroup levels of printing) If you change cartridges when you first start seeing the message, you’re throwing away a substantial amount of toner.

    I tell our users not to call me for a replacement cartridge until their printed copies start coming out faded. When you consider that Dell’s standard-capacity cartridge for that model runs almost two hundred bucks, they’re far too expensive to waste by replacing them before it’s really necessary.

    Another interesting thing about this printer is that Dell apparently does everything they can to prevent third-party cartridges from working. One of our printers died and needed a warranty replacement of the system board. The new board had updated firmware. After installing the new board, trying to use a third-party cartridge gave a “Incompatible toner cartridge” error message – the third-party cartridges had worked fine before the board replacement.

  28. zuzu says:

    I picked up a continuous inking system for my Epson RX580 for less than what a full set of cartridges would cost, and I’ve been very happy with it. … This is what inkjet printing should be. I would gladly pay 3x as much for a more sturdily build printer with built-in tanks and easily replaceable print heads that didn’t lie about supplies. Apparently there’s no market for such a beast, though. … Hmm… now that would be an interesting open source hardware project – design a workhorse inkjet printer, and compete with the big guys on total cost of ownership rather than retail price. It’d probably be hard to do without running afoul of patents, though.

    I’ve been saying this for years (since continuous ink systems were first produced). Patents don’t matter if you host the data and retail store in favorable jurisdictions.

    Seriously, you Makers, get on this! Mass customization, FTW!

    Everyone knows by now the virtues of Open Source, so often have they been extolled. Unfortunately, we only conceive it as something appropriate for software. Why not conceive of Open Source hardware? Can some smart readers weigh in on the feasibility of an Open Source printer? Why can’t such a thing be possible?

    There is an open source hardware movement, in parallel with the DIY / Make magazine et. al. movement. It’s just nowhere near as large as the open-source software movement, and perhaps hasn’t even achieved critical mass for cohesion / distribution of information. Check out Far McKon’s speech (MP3) on Community Fabrication; he currently organizes The Hacktory in Philadelphia. His speech touches on how pathetically organized the Maker culture / 3D printing is compared to Free Software.

    As a Brother printer owner, I’m super grateful for this tip. I just learned that Brother opened up their printer drivers in March. Very glad about that, as a new Ubuntu user!

    Yeah, that’s theoretically a great thing about Brother. Same goes for their scanners having SANE drivers. In practice, I haven’t found this as good as it seems; at least insofar as getting Brother’s drivers to work with TWAIN-SANE on OSX (rather than using their proprietary OSX drivers). It’s been a few years since I last tried though, so perhaps this has improved.

  29. treetop says:

    In ’03, I was given a deal: three months later, I get a check in the mail for 150% of the price I paid at the store for the printer. Printer came with a single black ink cartridge. Found the OEM cartridge set online for a third of the manufacturers price.
    Final result: the printer was still free. Including the OEM cartridge pack.

    Where’s the business survivability in that?

  30. dainel says:

    Inkjet inks costs up to US$8k/gallon (about $2k/litre). I’ve just bought CIS system. The ink is US$27 per 1 litre bottles. This should be enough for thousands of pages. This is good, but I believe it can go down much further below US$10/L. There’s just not enough competition to drive down prices right now. After all, it’s mostly just water + glycerol + pigments/dye.

    A properly designed inkjet printer should have something like a CIS built in. Huge tanks for each colour (100 to 200mL each), refilled from bottles of standard inks that can be used across different brands and printer models. It will also have a new colour, a clear/colourless colour, just the water + glycerol without the pigment/dye; to be used by the printer for printhead cleaning, and to top up the other colours as they evaporate if the printer is not used for a long time. This solves the other big problem with inkjets.

    Printers may be 2 or 3 times more expensive than they are now, but I can live with that if inks don’t cost US$8k/gallon. Printer manufactures will concentrate on making better printers, not devising new ways to prevent their customers getting ink from anyone but themselves, and then overcharging them for the ink. The inks will be “open sourced”.

    Laser printers are not much better. How much does it cost when you factor in toners, drums, developers, transfer belts, etc? About US$0.10 to US$0.20 per page. We can get service contracts for photocopiers (that also functions as A3 printers) for less than US$0.01 per page (B/W). This includes everything – toners, drums, all consumables, as well as any parts that are damaged through normal use. There are no service charges, and their technicians comes to our office/shop to repair the machines.

    Even 1 cent is too high, when we consider that toners is just little granules of pigment + plastic. The fuser melts the plastic and “fuses” it to the paper. It should be much much cheaper when we have big bottles of generic toner that we can use in any photocopier/printer. And what’s the business with waste toner? Unused toner should not be dumped. It should be recovered by the printer and uused for the next page.

    The reason ink and toner is so expensive, and so much is wasted unnecessarily, is because the machine manufacturers have no incentive to make efficient machines that do not waste consumables like ink and toner. They sell those consumables. If they make efficient machines that saves on ink/toner, or can work with cheap generics, they will cut into their own profits. Who would do that?

    What we have here is a case of market failure. Given that the industry is unable to sort this out for themselves, I propose that the government step in and separate the manufacture of printers from the consumables. Printer makers should be made to spin off the parts of their business making consumables, and divest all interests in them. This removes the incentive to deliberately make inefficient, wasteful products, that pollutes the environment unnecessarily, and hurts their customers.

    Consumables like ink and toner cartridges should not be protected by patents, as IP laws have been abused to keep out competitors.

  31. airship says:

    My HP Inkjet began complaining about low ink not 60 days into very light use. I just keep ignoring the warnings, and I’m still printing nice solid blacks. It’s been well over six months. I do keep a sealed replacement right next to the printer for use when my printouts lighted up, though. I mean, I will REALLY run out eventually, right? :)

  32. retchdog says:

    @15: Does the printer actually come with full supply in the color cartridges? Our cheap HP inkjet comes with a full black tank, but only ~1/3-full color inks.

  33. Anonymous says:

    I think it’s time to open-source hardware design in the way that bicycle parts or PC components can be swapped around. A modern inkjet printer could be recreated around standard off-the shelf parts like stepper motors, Arduino controllers, and a big sexy lasercut wooden frame. Users could order a pile of parts, or pick them out a la carte from different online suppliers or hackers, just as long as they interfaced correctly with the rest of the machine (i.e. gear pitches, voltages, etc.) When one part fails or a better technology comes along, the part in question can be swapped without trashing the whole machine.

    The only tricky part is engineering an open-source print head. This is the only really serious tech in the whole setup, but I’m sure a smart entrepreneur could go to China and get it made. Really only needs to be a small chip with an ink hose at one end, a few leads with a standardized socket, and a way to attach it. The ink itself would probably need to be up to certain standards, to flow correctly through the magical pores in the print head.

  34. Pyros says:

    Forget about the American Gulag for now, the wars, the injustice etc. etc. Just forget all the other tyrannies and oppressions that really hurt us. I think the high cost of ink may be a much more workable touchstone. With whom does this not resonate? Of all the lesser tyrannies this one has to be the worst. I can envision angry mobs. Let’s go! Let’s call MITs Gershon-whatever and print ourselves a damn printer.

  35. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been using an hp 2605 in a business setting for 4 months now after the original “replace cartridge” warning. Used the software override, and it’s still printing fine. Considering we used to change cartridges every 3 months, I think we may have doubled our output per cartridge.

  36. ornith says:

    I wish this worked on my HP inkjet; it always seems to run into printing quality issues when the ink is still half full even according to its sensors. Maybe because I only use it rarely. It’s still cheaper to buy new cartridges for mine than replace it, probably because it’s an all-in-one scanner/copier. Also makes an excellent cat bed.

Leave a Reply