How’s the Love Affair with Your Printer Going?

My Beloved Canon MP560 - I Love the Printer; Hate Canon's Policies

Anybody else, besides me, ever notice how much printer ink costs these days?  Know why?  Does the name Gillette, ring a bell?

When I was just a kid, early TV in America was dominated by the advertising of Gillette razors – it seemed as if every month, they had some new kind of razor that they were advertising – and the amazing thing was that these razors were in fact quite reasonably priced!  In fact, they were almost free!

How could a company that heavily advertised almost give away its products?  Simply because they were almost the sole producer of the blades that were necessary in order for those ‘almost free’ razors to function – and those blades were anything but free!  The only real competitor to Gillette  in those days was Schick, and they played the game with as much, if not more, gusto than did Gillette.  It was well into the 60s before I ever saw a new competitor enter the market, when Personna introduced a good, generic blade in America – but that was about the same time that the electric razor was emerging, and it soon would almost make blade shaving a thing of the past.

This is why excellent printers today can be bought very cheaply – the printer manufacturer knows you’ll need ink to make that printer work, and they have done everything in their power to make it difficult for you to get that ink from anyone but them.  They are playing the same game that made Gillette such a cash rich corporation.

I know about this primarily because I spent many years making sure my business spent as little as possible on things like ink for the many printers we were using.  Our strategy was to pick out a really good printer and to buy a large number of them at one time – and we always got a very nice price because the printer manufacturers wanted you to buy THEIR printer, so that later, you’d buy THEIR ink.  But, we didn’t do that – we taught our staff how to refill the ink cartridges on those printers, and we saved HUGE amounts of $$$.

Initially, this was a very easy thing to do – but as the printer companies realized what was happening, they took steps to make it increasingly difficult to refill those ink cartridges.  Currently, ink cartridges usually come with ‘smart chips’ attached that make it impossible to use any ‘compatible’ cartridge made by another company, in place of a cartridge made by the original printer manufacturer.  But what it does not do is to make it impossible for you to refill that same cartridge, again, and again, and again.  I’ll tell you why – and then I’ll tell you how.

Many people think that refilling an ink cartridge is illegal, but actually, the opposite is true.  The printer manufacturing industry has brought many law suits to the courts on the question of whether it is legal to refill an ink cartridge, or not – in the U.S., they have few victories to show for their efforts (I can’t speak for any other country.).  The courts have, over and over, asserted the established precedent that a company that manufacturers a device that requires a consumable product to function properly, cannot force an owner of that device to purchase the consumable solely from them.  This would be tantamount to General Motors requiring you, as a new buyer of one of their cars, to buy your gasoline from them as well.  Additionally, The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act states that the warranty of a printer cannot be voided if the owner decides to use a non OEM ink in a refilled cartridge.  Case closed.

Refilling Really is as Easy as it Looks

OK, so now you know you are allowed to refill your ink cartridges, but how do you do it?  Well, here is a neat little tutorial explaining the process , which is known as the German “Durchstich” refill method – now this process is for an inkjet printer, which I’m quite sure is currently the most common printer in use worldwide.  My own personal printer is a Canon MP560 inkjet, which is a wonderful machine, and I love it.  Frankly, I know nothing about any other kinds of printers, and if you have some other kind, you’ll need to do a bit of research to see if refilling is possible.  But if you have an inkjet printer, the above process will work well.  And if you’d like to see how a refill is done in real time, check out this video.

Now, lest you exit this post today with a sense that drfugawe is a thief and a crook, let me share with you just a few more facts about your printer that perhaps you did not know.  Are you aware that when your printer tells you that your ***** ink cartridge is empty, and that it will no longer continue to print until you replace it, that there is actually 25-35% of your ink still in there?  Yes indeedy.  An ink cartridge has two sides, one is an ink reservoir (that side will be empty), and the other side is a sponge which holds the ink until it is drawn into your printer during the print process.  If your printer were to suck every bit of available ink out of the cartridge, damage could be done to the printer’s delicate printhead – so long before all your ink has been used up, your printer protects itself by shutting down until you get a new cartridge.  Cute huh?

There’s only one way that I know of where you can have an opportunity of using that surplus ink -that has cost you $15 / $20 / $25- and that is if you refill that same cartridge with new ink.  Otherwise, you are only throwing away even more money in a process that is already cost prohibitive.

There’s one more little thing that you need to know about your printer – few people have  actually experienced ‘a waste tank failure’, but if/when you do, I guarantee you’ll never forget it!  Your printer is an amazing piece of technology, but one of its weaknesses is that each time you ask it to print, it wastes a blast of ink to get itself ready to print, and after it has printed, it has to clean off the printhead, which it does with a tiny squeegee,  so that no leftover ink is left to dry and clog the works – result: far more ink is wasted in these necessary procedures than is actually used for printing itself.  And where does all that ‘waste’ ink go?  It collects at the bottom of your printer until there’s so much that your printer gives you a Waste Tank Full message.  If you think I’m kidding, you must watch this video.

What this all means is that not only is the ink we are all using prohibitively expensive, but we’re actually not even getting to use the majority of it for the purpose for which we bought it.  Don’t know about you, but to me this translates to a corporate giant who is not only playing cruel tricks on its customers, but it’s also stealing from them.  I think refilling is a right I’m entitled to.

Here’s my bottom line:  one- it is my legal right to refill the ink cartridges I have already purchased; two- I shall do that using the best method developed to date, which is the “Durchstich” method noted above; and I shall save hundreds of dollars each year in the process.  If you are interested in doing the same, I would advise you spending some time learning as much as you have time for, before actually trying a refill.  Take it slow and easy.

Have I told you everything?  Not even close – so do your homework – Here are a few more resources that would be helpful.

Best website I’ve ever found for help with refilling:  http://www.nifty-stuff.com/forum/

Good sources for high quality inks in bulk (do not use cheap Chinese inks – they may ruin your printer):
http://shop.ebay.com/kbay2002/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1&_from=&_ipg=25
http://home.eol.ca/~mikling/Inks.html

And of course, I’d be happy to help if you get stuck – just leave a comment, or email me.  Now, have fun and save lots of money.
###
top photo courtesy of http://www.trustedreviews.com/printers/
bottom photo courtesy of http://www.nifty-stuff.com/

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About drfugawe

I'm a guy with enough time to do as I please, and that my resources allow. The problem(s) are: I have 100s of interests; I have a short attention span; I have instant expectations; I'm lazy; and I'm broke. But I'm OK with all that, 'cause otherwise I'd be so busy, I'd be dead in a year.
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11 Responses to How’s the Love Affair with Your Printer Going?

  1. I take a different view. Oh dear. I’ve killed two printers in the past with refilled cartridges. So i’m afraid we have given up. Our strategy is to print less, print on economy setting wherever possible, send pdfs of documents rather than printed copies, email photos or upload them to sharing sites and so on. I often scan and archive forms and receipts and stuff like that too, rather than print copies off. Depends on how essential I consider the document to be.

    By printing as minimally as possible, you not only reduce your costs but save trees, reduce the amount of toxic inks entering the environment and the food chain. See recent reports on inks in recycled cardboard used for food packaging under scrutiny and so on……

    • drfugawe says:

      I applaud all you are doing. I too actually have only need to do a few occasional printed items, mostly recipes to use in the kitchen – San does more because she is secretary for two organizations in town. But we have never printed photos, even though the machine does a superb job at such – however, photos and colored docs are much better done by the professionals – and cheaper too.

      I guess I’m just one of those who is bothered about the silly games that printer manufacturers play with us, and it makes me feel a little better to play back – This makes us both even, in my mind.

  2. Tupper says:

    Hey Doc- I’ve got a Dell Photo 926. I totally agree that ink is a major rip-off, but for the amount of printing I do I only replace the cartridges a couple times of year, probably 50-75 bucks, which is still too much $. I have refilled in the past with other printers, but haven’t researched the viability on this one.

    The other reason is sheer laziness-when my cartridges get low, I get a message and a link right to Dell, where I can order. It’s too easy…..

    As for the smart chips, my printer at work has 4 cartridges-a couple of weeks ago the black kicked, so I went to the computer guy who gave me a new one. I put it in and it wouldn’t work-I’m like what gives? So I go talk to another techie and she says look at the expiration date-I call it up on my desktop-the cartridge, even though it was brand new, had expired 3 days earlier. It’s probably been in the building for a couple of years. So much for rotating your stock. $ down the toilet.

  3. Frances Quinn says:

    Hi Dr., Thanks for all the info. I had a Canon (run of the mill came with the computer). Used a lot of ink but had to replace the printer head. Took a long time to find one on line but find one I did. Changed it myself, don’t ask me how and it worked for about another year and the died. Judt died. No messages, nothing. I now have an HP, not the top of the home line but I like it a lot. The ink doesn’t seem to be as expensive as the Canon’s and there is a selection of how many pages you can print. I never, repeat, never change the cartridge until the ink starts to get very light then I go for it. I intend researching HP cartridges to see if I can refill them myself. Thanks for all the info, again. Happy spring.

    • drfugawe says:

      “… I never, repeat, never change the cartridge until the ink starts to get very light then I go for it.”
      Yeah you can do that with HP, but not with Canon (they have different kinds of printheads).

      Good luck with your quest.

  4. Mariana says:

    Wow drfugawe; sounds like you know your printer stuff inside out. Would you believe I didn’t even know the brand of ours. I just glanced over and see that its a Canon. Don’t ask me about the model. Infact, don’t ask me a thing about the damn printer. I think it’s a girl. A moody one at that. Sometimes she’ll co-operate and sometimes she jacks up. That’s when I call the males in our house to try and reason with her. Usually it works. I’ll show your post to them. Perhaps they’ll learn something about refilling ink, but I’m totally computer and printer challenged. Give me a whisk or a spatula though, and I’m ready to race.

  5. JAD says:

    The thing is, I realize the date on this blog, but aftermarket ink is so Inexpensive that it doesn’t pay to refill and get all that mess everywhere. I too have an MP560 which I find to be the best Multi-function printer I have ever owned, actually the best printer of any kind I have owned. The only problem I have with it is THAT SQUEEGEE that causes the 6c10 error all the time. I have figured out how to get past it, but its a PITB. Alcohol on a piece of foam rubber and saturate the ink blotters and rubber squeegees until cleared. I don’t get why mine gets soaked in black ink so quickly, but it does. I have found turning off the printer when not in use helps. but does not eliminate the problem.

    • drfugawe says:

      Hi JAD – as you say, time changes all things. I too now buy my ink in recycled carts from Monoprice. But there was a time when all the printer makers started putting chips on the carts when I determined I’d beat them at the game – so I started buying up old ‘non-chip’ Canons on eBay and learning how to fix them. That worked well for awhile until the tech was moving ahead too fast, and it became better to get one of the chipped models and fill the carts myself. And then one day I noticed that it had become cheaper to buy the refurb carts than to refill yourself. Time changes everything.

      What I learned during my period of printer fascination was how relatively easy it was to switch out parts between printers – and it sounds like you already know your way around the 560 – so, if I was you, I’d pick up one or two ‘spares’ of 560s from eBay and insure that you can keep your baby going for another 10+ years or so – doesn’t matter if they are non-working, you only want parts – besides, most people will choose to sell their machine when they can’t get rid of an error screen, no matter how minor the error is!. Do you have the Canon repair manual for the 560(not the user manual)? That’s very helpful – if you don’t, let me know and I’ll check to see if I still have one handy.

      Thanks JAD for stopping by – and good luck in keeping your baby alive and kickin’.

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