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Refilling ink cartridges - hazardous to your printer
by Izzy Goodman

Inkjet cartridges are deliberately designed not to be refilled. Most contain a chip which measures the amount of ink remaining. When the cartridge is empty, the chip is set to empty. Simply putting more ink in the cartridge will not solve this. The chip also has to be reprogrammed to a full state. Newer chips are deliberately designed not to allow reprogramming, therefore this procedure often fails. I have seen numerous complaints on the net of people who bought refilled or remanufactured cartridges only to have the printer report that they were empty immediately upon insertion and refuse to print.

Epson has taken very strong steps to foil refillers. details here

How does the chip know when the cartridge is empty? On some printers there is a floating sensor inside the cartridge. As the ink empties, the sensor nears the bottom of the cartridge and eventually reports it to be out of ink (often when there is still 10-20% left). Once the chip is set to empty, it will not be reset by filling the cartridge with ink. Even though the sensor is once again floating, the chip still has to be reprogrammed. But what happens if the sensor becomes glued to the bottom of the cartridge by dried ink? Even refilling the cartridge and reprogramming the chip won't help because the sensor will report that it is empty. Some chips can not be reprogrammed at all, so once they report empty they will stay that way permanently. This includes all Epson printers manufactured after 2007.

But there are greater dangers than just having a cartridge report empty. Inkjet printers squirt ink through microscopic holes. If these holes get clogged, it can cause problems from poor print quality to complete printer failure. This damage is not covered under warranty. All ink has a tendency to coagulate when exposed to air. Otherwise it would never dry. For this reason, you should leave your printer on or at the very least print something every couple of days. It will send just enough ink to keep the heads from getting clogged. (This information was actually provided to someone by a Canon technician when her brand new Canon needed a second head replacement within three months and she had been using only genuine Canon ink.) Now think about an empty ink cartridge which sat around for a while before someone injected more ink. The remaining 10% of the ink in that cartridge has coagulated. Now it has been refilled. You are already losing 10% due to the coagulated ink which was there at the time of refill. But the problem is even more serious. If that old ink clot breaks free, it can clog and permanently damage your printer. Even if you refill the cartridge immediately, if you are using an ink bottle, there will be clots along the opening of the bottle. If one clot makes it to your printer head, you might lose you whole printer in a useless attempt to save a few bucks.

Some printers use a vacuum process to suck ink to the heads. If air enters the tiny tubes, the vacuum is broken. When refilling cartridges using hypodermic-type needles, it is common for air to enter the tanks.

Then there are other pitfalls. You have to keep four or six ink bottles around with 4 or six different hypodermic needles. It is virtually impossible to refill without dripping ink. And it is almost inevitable that at some point an ink bottle will be knocked over or break. Imagine the mess.

So why refill? It is a messy process. If you do it yourself, you can't avoid getting ink all over the place. If someone else does it for you, refilled cartridges still tend to leak, clot or bleed air into the printer. You don't save money. Places which refill typically charge about $10 a cartridge. You can buy a brand new compatible for $3. And you are risking your printer. Refilling is foolish on so many levels.

Note that refilling a single-use cartridge is not the same as doing so with a cartridge specifically designed for refilling and using special ink dispensers designed to eliminate air, leaks and spills.

We have solutions which gives you the best of both worlds - reusable cartridges without the mess or the risk. Take a look at our 2-piece cartridges with a separate ink tank contained within the main cartridge. When the tank is empty, you pop it out and pop in a new one. No mess. No leaks. Since you are completely replacing the tank, there is no clotted ink remaining to clog your heads. The ink tanks are 2.50 or less and hold more than double the ink of regular cartridges - 18 ml instead of 7*. Because you can get $2 back for the empty tank, you're paying less than 50 cents a cartridge! Click on the free ink link at the top for more details.

We also have ink cartridges which can be refilled from special ink bottles. See the refillable cartridge link on the left. Both the reusable and refillable cartridges have some advantages and which one to use is your personal decision.

Yahoo discussion on refilled cartridges

* see this article where researchers actually opened the cartridges and measured the amount of ink supplied.

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