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ATPM 15.05
May 2009


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by Mark Tennent,

Hedging and Ditching

Darn it and @$%&£! Why didn’t we stop when it was “nearly there”? Sigh!

Now, instead of an inkjet printer that used to work fine until a page needed cyan, we have a plastic box which blinks once when plugged in and then plays dead. Worse still, we nearly got cyan to print properly, and it was only the “one more try” that did it.

After reading various suggestions on the Net to unblock Canon inkjet heads, we took it out and soaked it in a little vinegar-based window cleaner. It seemed to work, too; cyan printed far better than it had for months, but there were still discernible lines running through blue solids. Which is more than can be said for our multi-coloured stained fingers.

At this point, we hedged our bets and investigated buying a new print head compared with a new printer. The replacement part will be over £70 plus another £30 for incredibly expensive pieces of foam, while a new Canon Pixma 4600 is around £80. It seemed a good time to try one more thing we read online: dismantling the print head altogether by removing two screws and levering up a little ceramic plate. We (the Royal We that is) tried this but chickened-out when the plate wouldn’t lift up. We/I reassembled the print head, ink cartridges popped into place, and the printer powered up.

The carriage slid along, but then nothing: no lights, no noise, nothing. The fuse hadn’t blown, and the power cable was securely in place. Nothing obvious had broken or got flooded, but on reconnecting the power, one lamp blinked then stayed off. And that’s the current (or lack of) situation.

Luckily we have old Grumble Guts, a 15-year old Apple LaserWriter 8500 who sits in the corner gathering dust most of the time. Spare parts are as rare as rocking horse dung, and toner cartridges cost as much as a banker’s pension, but it’s a network printer that we can control via telnet and that Apple still supports with drivers.

Meanwhile, yet another inkjet printer seems destined for ditching because of some piddling fault that is more expensive to fix than buying a new machine.


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Reader Comments (2)

Tom Wyrick · May 4, 2009 - 10:33 EST #1
Yeah (sigh) ... get used to it. As an HP sales rep. once told someone I knew, "HP isn't in the business of selling printers. We're in the business of selling ink and toner! The printers are just expensive ink-delivery mechanisms."

I suspect many of the inkjet printers on the market are actually sold at a small LOSS, simply because their supplies are expensive enough that they know they'll make the money back with just one ink cartridge purchase.

By the same token, I've often suspected that some manufacturers maximize their profits by designing the printers to fail just outside of a basic 1 year warranty. Most people "stock up" on supplies, buying several color and several black cartridges for a given printer. When it fails, they usually throw away unused supplies when they discover they don't fit any of the currently produced replacement models of printers. (Even if they try to give them to someone else who can use them - they're faced with an "expiration date" on the ink too.)

Any time this happens, and said customer buys another printer from the same manufacturer - they just accelerated that manufacturer's sales. (Think how long they'd go without making another ink purchase if their printer kept working, and they actually waited to use up all those spare cartridges they bought.)
Dave Thompson · May 5, 2009 - 09:23 EST #2
I nurture a similar suspicion -- that consumer printers (in particular) are sold at or below cost as efficient ink-delivery systems intended solely to serve the purveyors of said ink with significant profits on supplies. For that reason I bought one of the small Brother laser printers which operates on the network (my network) and appears to be plenty reliable. Both of my printers are still working well after about four years of service (and only a couple of toner cartridges).

I despise ink-jet printers, although if you must have color they're the only (affordable) game in town. I don't really want many photo-prints and send those of to be processed on "real" photographic paper rather than that slick stuff that sells for 5x what it's worth.

My oh my the cynic in me is running hard this morning. :)

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