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Author Topic: Epson 7900 from the inside - out  (Read 371391 times)
Eric Gulbransen
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« on: January 26, 2012, 07:44:43 PM »
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I am new to posting here but not to reading here.  Hi everyone.  Thanks for unknowingly helping me in the past.

I have read about many experiences with the Epson 7900 - clogs, cleanings, power cleanings, utilities cleanings, Epson service experiences, total machine replacements, humidity, ambient room temperature regulation, and on and on.  My experience has been different than any I have read so far, so I offer it here.  Perhaps someone like me - a year ago, can learn from me - now.

I am not a professional printer or photographer.  I am just an enthusiast.  I have been printing with two Epson 4800s for a year now - one for PK, the other for MK.  I bought them both used after spending way to much money on printing my photos at a lab.  One machine had 1,800 prints on it, the other 20,000.  They both ran, and continue to run today, flawlessly.  In fact the 20k machine is printing panoramas behind me as I type this.  By the end of today it will have paid for itself nineteen times since I bought it.  I love both machines, never have problems.  Considering this great experience I have enjoyed while entering the printing world, I re-invested some of the money that the 4800s earned and bought a current model Epson 7900 with a good friend of mine.  We bought this 7900 used, off an active member of this very "Printers, Papers and Inks" forum on Luminous-Landscape.com.

When we first got this Epson 7900 it had a cluster of clogs in the yellow channel, and one clog in the PK channel.  I won't bore you with unnecessary details.  Familiar story - no amount of any and all possible cleaning cycles cleared either of them.  

That disaster amounted to strike 1 - on our Epson 7900 DIY clog clearing adventure..

After over a month of research, cleaning exercises, calls to Epson service (who have always been very polite, but not helpful considering clog clearing advice.  Instead they always say "we can send someone out if you like?"), we decided NOT to have an Epson serviceman come fix our machine.  Too many threads on this forum suggest these visits amount to no more than some guy blindly bolting new replacement parts onto your machine until finally hitting on a solution.  Money comes too hard to me to justify that kind of bleeding.  So considering this 7900 is not under warranty, me and my photo/printing genius buddy decided to, figuratively, dive into this Epson 7900 ourselves.  Here is what followed:

Clearing print head clogs on the Epson 7900 - Windex and paper towel method:

To revive the entombed Epson 4800s which I rescued from the forgotten retirement home of printers passed, I performed the "Windex on a paper towel under the head for a night" trick.  It worked like a charm, I've never had a problem with either machine since.  So naturally my first thought for this 7900 was "Go for the Windex".  Not so easy though, unlike the 4800, the 7900's head sits vertical.  I managed though, ultimately the technique works just the same.  The wet paper towel sucked ink from the head of the 7900 just the way it did on the 4800.  But it didn't solve the clogs.

Strike 2 - on the Epson 7900 DIY clog clearing adventure..


This failure lead to our next attempt -
Clearing print head clogs on the Epson 7900 - cleaning solution and refillable carts:

I did about a hundred searches online about clearing clogs on an Epson 7900.  I learned two amazing things.  First, anything you really need to know about an Epson 4800 is in a video on youtube.  Second, nothing you really need to know about an Epson 7900 is in a video on youtube.  Always instead these searches ended us up at home-grown printer maintenance websites looking like a sixteen year old developed them.  Still I called though, not many options out there for an Epson 7900 do-it-yourselfer.  "Cleaning solution" was always the best answer I got.  So we bought four refillable carts for the 7900, with the intent to run this cleaning fluid through the head-clogs on ONLY the channels we chose.  This worked so well I was shocked.  The printer accepted all the third party cleaning carts minus one - which is about on par with what this 7900 typically does with Epson's own OEM carts.  They gave me extra chips for the carts, just in case, which once swapped out on the one problem cart worked perfectly.  Now for the cleaning cycles..

It took ten pairs cleanings for the cleaning fluid to show up in a nozzle pattern check.  That seemed reasonable.  After five more pairs-cleanings we did a nozzle pattern print on glossy paper - which when held up to the light just right suggested that all the clogs in the YW channel were clear.  You couldn't see the color of the ink in the YW pattern, but you could see the sheen.  However from what we could tell the PK clog was still there.  So be it, one out of two aint bad.  We decided to put the ink carts back in and check our actual results.  Here's where things went sideways.

With the lines now fully charged with cleaning fluid, simply re-introducing ink into the line in pairs-cleanings was not effective.  Rather than watching the line turn yellow as ink approached the head, which is what we had planned on, the cleaning fluid-filled lines very effectively diluted the ink as it slowly entered the line.  This is an obvious result now that I think about it, but we did not see this coming.  Instead, theoretically, we could have done pairs cleanings until we went blind and the lines would still have traces of cleaning fluid in them.  

So just so you know - oh you reader of internet forum help threads - this method may sound great on paper, but it's gonna cost you in the end.  Instead of doing four million pairs cleanings to fully clear the lines of cleaning solution, we did two SS cleanings from the utility window.  That charged the line I'll tell you.  Bye bye cleaning solution.  But also good night to the rest of our ink...  Just one SS cleaning filled over 20% of the maintenance tank.

If you think that's a downer, wait till I tell you what happened when we ran a nozzle pattern check.  The PK channel was exactly the same.  The YW channel was worse.  

Strike 2.5 - on the Epson 7900 DIY nozzle clog clearing adventure...

Having failed for what effectively was now the third time, and at this point being psychologically prepared to push this Epson 7900 off a very high cliff with lots of huge rocks below, me and my genius buddy decided to roll up our sleeves and literally dive into the Epson 7900.  What follows is what we found.

Clearing print head clogs on the Epson 7900 - according to the Epson service manual:

So we got a copy of the Epson Service Manual - the very manual service men use in the field as they blindly throw parts at your printer.  I don't know, maybe you all have copies of this manual.  I found it fascinating.  If you would like a copy of it for yourself you can download it online - just google it.  

As it turns out the dampers should be replaced every year.  So my first question was "WTF is a damper?"  

In case you have this question too, here is an Epson 7900 damper:


Here is where your Epson 7900 dampers live - this clear plastic box which houses all the dampers is called by some (on ebay searches) - the "Selector Unit".  Others call it the "Damper Unit".   Epson calls it the "Damper Assembly".  It's Epson part # 1504216.  If you study the image you will see there are two dampers (orange and green pair / PK and MK pair) which are capped by a plastic housing which extends rearward, over a small black box with a tiny shaft exiting it's left side.  This is actually the switching station - where your Epson 7900 swaps from PK to MK ink.


If you follow the manual word for word, it suggests you should replace each of these dampers once a year.  Epson sells these dampers for just under $40.  Your Epson 7900 uses 5 of them.  Do the math yourself, 5 x $40 = $200.  But when you shop around you eventually find out you can completely replace the entire Damper Assembly - manufactured by Epson  - for about $250 full retail.  In order to replace each damper you really have to be careful.  The underside of this plastic Damper Assembly, which consists of lots of tiny veins and arteries where all the colored inks flow to your head, is covered ONLY by very wimpy aluminum foil.  Sneeze and you will tear it.  




We decided to replace it.  I shopped around ebay and found a local Epson parts supplier selling OEM units in factory sealed boxes for $230.  No brainer.    FYI, you can buy third part dampers for just under $20 - but why would you.  Just get the whole assembly and be done with it.  

Next up is the Epson 7900 wiper blade.  Everyone I spoke with told me to replace the wiper blade.  Apparently after each cleaning the wiper blade, in a series of passes, wipes the face(es) of your print head clean of any and all traces of excess splooge.  With all the talk of how delicate print heads are on this 7900, I consider this wiper blade to play a critical role in the life and maintenance of your printer.  I'm not sure what I expected this wiper blade to look like, perhaps some space-age self-cleaning bionic rubber blade from the 22 century?  Well it's not.  In fact I hate to disappoint you but it looks quite a lot like this:







So as it turns out the Epson 7900 Wiper Blade is about as big as the tip of your pinkey, and it's about as high tech as that bowl of Cheerios you ate this morning.  I guess that's good though.  Maybe it's not so expensive?  It's $16 bucks.  What keeps it clean is that white(ish) strip of nice soft cleaning pad - or so you think its soft, right?  It IS after all called the Wiper Blade Cleaner, and the Wiper Blade is made of soft rubber - so maybe it's felt you think.  It's not felt.  It may as well be made from concrete.  Go ahead bite it, you'll see.  Yet somehow, hard as it is, if you look closely this cleaning brick actually got warn out by the rubber wiper?  




Trust me that is no small accomplishment - something soft destroying something hard.  Our wiper blade did not come out of it's 900 prints unscathed though (yes that's all this 7900 has ever printed, so it's likely your 7900 is worse off than this one).  Upon close examination our wiper blade is torn, and has a bit of "listing to the right" problem.  This is likely one of our worst problems.  I can imagine clumps of dried ink building up wherever this wiper blade does not touch the head properly.

So how do you replace the wiper blade.  I could tell you but I won't.  Rather I will tell you that the next thing the Epson manual, and anyone you call and ask advice from, suggests is to replace the "Capping Station".  Here we go again right - WTF is the capping station?   Here is the capping station:



This capping station parks itself directly over each individual bank of the Epson 7900 printer head - to form a seal, so no ink dries up on the head.  So here-in lies a potential problem.  If your wiper blade is out to lunch it leaves gobs of dried ink on your head, which in turn affects the seal that the capping station can make on your head, which in turn causes more ink to dry up on your head.  Think of it like Dominos - one element of this chain fails and the whole printer goes to hell in a hand-basket.


Three images up you can also see another replaceable part on your Epson 7900 - the flushing box.  It's simple to follow what this does - just behind it are pipes leading to your maintenance tank.  It's the dump station for your cleaning cycles - where your head parks itself while spewing all your ink down the drain.  Each of these parts are special order items.  Wanna know why?   Because they all come included, and pre-assembled as part of this great family of cleaning system parts when you buy what most call the Epson 7900 "Pump and Cap Assembly".  Epson part # 1523796


So what all this seems to be amounting to are the replacement of two parts - the Damper Assembly and the Pump and Cap Assembly.  But we still need to flush out this existing head, which for sure would already have been replaced for just about what we paid for this entire Epson 7900 - if we went with an Epson Service technician coming out to fix this clog.  Instead we are hoping to avoid that.  I have reservations about our strategy for flushing this head.  I just don't think throwing it in the dishwasher is a good idea...


Tomorrow morning I am picking up both of these OEM parts, in factory sealed boxes, for a grand total of $320.  I promise to update this thread with our results.  
« Last Edit: January 28, 2012, 09:27:06 AM by Go394 » Logged

Tony Jay
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« Reply #1 on: January 26, 2012, 08:59:17 PM »
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Fascinating article.

Looking forward to the update.

Regards

Tony Jay
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jeverton
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« Reply #2 on: January 26, 2012, 09:07:00 PM »
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Can you please share where you found the replacement parts online and the amount of time involved with each of the procedures?

Looking forward to the next posting...

Jeff
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Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2012, 10:18:54 PM »
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Sure Jeff.  Sorry, my name is Eric by the way but Eric G. was taken.

The best contact that I have found for Epson parts so far is a guy named Justin, in San Francisco.  I first bought a Black Ink Conversion Kit from him a few months ago, for my 4800.  That's how we met.  His ebay profile is immaculate.  My experiences with him have been just the same.  Good guy.  Here is a link to his ebay store - http://stores.ebay.com/Ink-Fleet?_trksid=p4340.l2563

As far as time goes, I estimate it took us 1.5 hours to get the Epson 7900 to this state:


Mind you we had no idea what in the hell we were doing, or where we were going.  The service manual is surprisingly thorough, and very easy to follow.  At first we were surprised to find out it had no notes on how to remove the individual dampers from the Damper Assembly.  But now that I learned the replacement of the entire Damper Assembly is the choice procedure, it makes sense they don't go into individual damper removal detail.  The same rang true with the Pump and Cap Assembly - IE, no instructions on how to replace the cap all on it's own, or the flushing box.  Again, because these all come with the complete replacement unit.

I bet first run you could replace your Pump and Cap Assembly in two hours.  Next time far quicker.  Add an hour and you could replace the Damper Assembly as well, all in one DIY service.

FYI, once you remove the Damper Assembly the head is right there in the open.  Four more screws and that's changed too.  Be sure to use a magnetic tip screwdriver.  Makes life easier.  If you are going after your head you will need a long handle, thin shank phillips head.  Most of the rest of the printer all you need is a regular phillips head.  All the wires and plugs are impossible to confuse - they only fit one place each (every plug is different - thank you Epson).

As far as flushing the head, we haven't done it yet.  Still deciding on technique.  There are "pizo electronics" inside the 7900 print head.  Not something you want to submerge in cleaning fluid I don't think.  Dishwasher is out...   :-)
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« Reply #4 on: January 26, 2012, 10:23:50 PM »
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Fascinating, if not a bit unnerving.  I'm looking forward to your update. 

ken
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wtlloyd
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2012, 12:20:35 AM »
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This could be huge, and you well may end up famous if successful. This issue is probably the largest single thread generator on the Yahoo Epson Large format printer group forum.

I am very satisfied with my 4900 but have lusted for the next Epson size up through a 4000, 4800, and now 4900. Space for the printer and these unresolved cloggings ( the x900 series were supposed to be the ones with all the bugs finally ironed out, damnit!) have kept me away, but if reasonable expense in yearly maintenance can achieve reliability, I'm gonna be looking to buy...
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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2012, 02:45:45 AM »
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I wonder whether it has 5 wiper blades in total (10000 style) or one that does all (9000-9600 style) ?

Edit: two pictures of the HP Z3100 wipers in the capping station. It has a kind of Gillette double blade system per two channel head, 12 blades for six 2 channel heads. The pads + wipers + a lid is a kind of flexible drawer that moves under the head when the last is parked above the capping station. On both sides there is "felt" where the wipers transfer the scraped ink on. In the top left corner a small fixed wiper may be visible which takes off any ink/dirt that may be on the head carriage (also partly visible at the top left) so no dirt is transferred to the pinch wheels on the transport axle. This is a 5 year old Z3100, maybe four times cleaned over that period, still working without much issues.

met vriendelijke groeten, Ernst

Try: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Wide_Inkjet_Printers/
« Last Edit: February 04, 2012, 08:48:27 AM by Ernst Dinkla » Logged
Mark D Segal
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2012, 05:18:54 AM »
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Eric,

Considering all the time and expense you've put into this printer thus far, do you think it would have been more economic in the final analysis to buy a new one? A lot of what you pay for is ink when you buy a new machine. The machine itself often turns out to be not that expensive. OK, you took the route you did, so two further questions: (1) did the person you bought the printer from ever advise you that the machine was clogged-up (sounds as if it hadn't been used in a long time) and (2) do you live near enough an Epson authorized service center to let professionals refurbish it for you, or for that matter, what would Epson have charged to refurbish it? While your account is indeed fascinating and you have more tinkering courage than I could ever muster, it does raise some nagging questions about the genesis of this whole experience and whether there weren't more cost effective ways of dealing with it, taking into account of course that all the time you put into research, learning, acquisition etc. is money.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2012, 05:52:42 AM »
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Before anyone starts chewing on Eric you need to know the entire story.

It was my 7900 he purchased. For the 3 years I used it,it has run just about as good as one of these can run including the day it went out the door.
I even ran 3 prints the night before it was picked up. I really wish I had kept my 100 or so nozzle print outs as they show its history.
A very unfortunate dilemma for Eric. Not his fault and not mine. He is in Ca.and I am in Pa. He had a very good friend in the shipping business that could get it to Ca. for a resonable rate.
 So he purchased it.
He starts it up and right out of the get go it has these 2 colors that will not clean up. I was of little help only knowing the standard and service mode cleaning options.
Eric never once complained to me,asked me for anything or most important to me never accused me of selling him this machine that now has these clogs.
As a 25 year business owner I take great pride in the business and personal relationships I have built over the years. I did not get where I am today by taking advantage of anyone especially not Eric.
To see him have to deal with this is a very painful experience.
The only thing I can do at this stage is offer my support as he works on getting this thing back up to speed.
Eric,please contact me offline as I have a check here for you to help with your parts.




« Last Edit: January 27, 2012, 06:19:06 AM by Dan Berg » Logged

Mark D Segal
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« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2012, 06:32:31 AM »
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Hi Dan,

That is all most reassuring to Eric, no doubt, and for clarity, it was not my intention to "chew" on him. I think he did a valiant job and much more than I would have had the courage to do. My intent, for the benefit of others to perhaps avoid the pain of this kind of experience, is to wonder out loud about the merits of invoking the theory of comparative advantage in cases like this. I too have sold my used Epson professional printers in the past and like you made sure they were functioning perfectly before they went out the door. Fortunately in my case the customers were near enough at hand that I could help them set-up, produce test prints in their own operating environment, and make sure they were fine. From then onward, of course, it becomes their responsibility. It is good that you have written, offered Eric the support he needs and clarified an important aspect of this unfortunate situation. One wonders whether something went wrong in transport, which can happen to any kind of machinery.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2012, 08:03:19 AM »
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It was my 7900 he purchased. For the 3 years I used it,it has run just about as good as one of these can run including the day it went out the door.


Interesting to read that the dampers should be replaced after 1 year according the service manual. A kind of penalty on the normal warranty. Has it ever been serviced in the 3 years passed? With an extended warranty is there any preventative service done on a printer?

This is not about the second hand deal which seems to me a normal deal, it is more about what you get for your money if you buy the printer new with or without the extended warranty. The damper's predicted life sheds another light on the x900 woes that appear in more forums.


met vriendelijke groeten, Ernst

Try: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Wide_Inkjet_Printers/
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2012, 09:15:18 AM »
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I have a friend who just bought a brand new 7900 after his 3800 died. I'm going to send him a link to this thread just so he has an idea of what might happen down the road.

I just hope my 3800 doesn't die soon.

Eric (M., not G.)
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« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2012, 09:26:41 AM »
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Yea Ernst,

I still can't understand how they can go from the 10K series we used to use that never needed the waste tank or dampers or heads replaced after 10 years of daily use to having to replace parts in six months and constantly do head cleanings. It just doesn't make sense. They both had big pressurized carts and both were fast printers. They really screwed something up bad.

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Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2012, 10:43:39 AM »
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Wow Dan, thanks for the offer.  I think this is why I am poor, I won't accept your check.  This is not your fault or responsibility.  But thank you very much again for your offer.  I actually am excited about this 7900, Dan.  I know we'll get it printing again, and I know it's not going to cost me an arm and a leg.  Maybe just an arm.

In retrospect of course, if I had it to do again I would have waited for Epson to offer some ridiculous discount and bought one new instead.  I buy used stuff mostly, to save money.  All my camera gear is used.  My two 4800s are used.  My wife had a kid already when we met.  Whatever...

The way I see it I am no different than most of you, now.  I own an Epson 7900 with a little time on it and I have clogs.  Also like many of you, I am not under warranty anymore.  So looking forward, which is my preferred perspective, I've got a mountain between me and greener pastures but I am willing and able to climb it.  If sharing this journey me and my genius buddy have set out on helps someone else then that makes it all the more worth while.  I am well aware that posting a story like this leaves me vulnerable.  Truth is I really could have used something exactly like this thread, for myself, two months ago.  That's why I took the time to put this together and post it all here on Luminous Landscape, in case I am not alone in this sea of Epson 7900 maintenance questions.

What I have learned so far:

1 - If a reasonable number of cleanings do not clear your clog, five more cleanings won't clear it either.
2 - SS maintenance mode cleanings stand for "Super Sonic" - they purge a LOT of ink
3 - Don't waste your money on refillable carts for cleaning to run solution through your head.  Between them and the ink you waste re-charging your lines you're better off replacing parts.
4 - The wiper blade, of which there is only one, is a critical part which wears out (everything wears out) sooner than you'd expect.
5 - You can change the wiper blade without taking the entire machine apart.  Not the whole pump and cap assembly mind you, just the wiper blade.

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« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2012, 11:05:10 AM »
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Eric,

I think from your current perspective, looking forward is the right way to approach it, and the experience you are having could be valuable for others facing similar problems, so I would encourage you to keep us abreast of your discoveries as you proceed. Not many people are as "gutsy" as you are, so sharing the learning experience could be valuable. Best of luck with it.

Mark
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #15 on: January 27, 2012, 11:39:42 AM »
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I should have acknowledged your comment David, you are right that americaninkjetsystems site is super helpful.  Lots of good information on printer maintenance. 

I have to admit the thought/site of an Epson 7900 in so many pieces in front of you is a little worrisome.  But surprisingly the service manual is very easy to follow.  Good pictures, descriptions, warnings, and troubleshooting tips. 
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Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #16 on: January 27, 2012, 08:37:58 PM »
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Yes David, the capping station moves quite a bit.  If you look at your pump and cap assembly, the capping station lives in the big square empty space - when the head is over it.

We took the left side of the machine apart to get to the Damper Assembly - following the service manual to a "T".  They make you slide the head all the way to the left as the very first step.  FYI, the damper assembly sits on top of the head.  Real easy to access it when the left side of the machine is removed.

How did you get your head loose - so you could move it to the side?  Reason I ask is I have read people suggest pulling the printer's plug as the machine starts up.  This is unnecessary, you can release the head via the control panel.  It's all in the service manual
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« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2012, 12:02:50 AM »
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The capping station retracts back into the machine when the head is in motion.  I believe this is why you can't see it, but I can't be sure until ours is back together again to confirm.  At this point I can't remember which way let me access it so well - by pulling the plug to release the head, or by releasing it through the menu.  Keep in mind I didn't even know what a capping station was before we took our 7900 apart and I held ours in my hands.

Stay tuned, my next post will be fascinating.  Major breakthrough on clearing our clogged head tonight - pictures included.
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« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2012, 12:15:43 AM »
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It's worth noting that, apart from the service manual being proprietary IP belonging to Epson (its publication without their permission being a breach of copyright - it still amazes me how many photographers think this is OK - I'd love for them to send me free copies of their images to print...) it's also not designed for public release or consumption, so you can imagine that additional material is provided to those persons authorised to do the work and use the manuals that puts much of it into perspective.  You also don't know if you have most up to date version being pirated and placed on the net.

As per my previous comments on this subject, this is a note directed at those who put these things (from all vendors, of all sorts of products) on the web and not people who simply go Googling and come across them (such as Eric).

Eric's done an admirable job, but whereas he states 1 year for the dampers someone else states 2 years.  I'd suggest that recommendations are exactly that and usage patterns and other things come into it beyond what a restricted service manual might suggest.
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Ernst Dinkla
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« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2012, 03:37:54 AM »
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Are there 5 wiper blades in the 7900?  I'm still curious.


met vriendelijke groeten, Ernst
Try: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Wide_Inkjet_Printers/


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