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Author Topic: Epson 7900 from the inside - out  (Read 310194 times)
Bill Ellzey
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« Reply #1000 on: December 20, 2012, 02:13:51 PM »
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Anybody have a copy of 7900sm.pdf that you could send me?  bill@billellzey.com
Someone has pulled if from the web.
Thanks much,
Bill
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Lessbones
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« Reply #1001 on: December 20, 2012, 05:40:09 PM »
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Anybody have a copy of 7900sm.pdf that you could send me?  bill@billellzey.com
Someone has pulled if from the web.
Thanks much,
Bill

If it's the service manual you are looking for, it's quite easy to find by simply googling "epson 7900 service manual"
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JeffW
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« Reply #1002 on: December 20, 2012, 06:44:21 PM »
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So back to QTR, does it give you the ability to fire individual jets? If so, it would be great to concentrate on just firing those jets that are plugged and hopefully wasting less ink.
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« Reply #1003 on: December 20, 2012, 10:57:53 PM »
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So back to QTR, does it give you the ability to fire individual jets? If so, it would be great to concentrate on just firing those jets that are plugged and hopefully wasting less ink.
Qtr allows you to fire individual channels but not individual nozzles.
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Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #1004 on: December 21, 2012, 12:25:38 AM »
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I apologize for the silence.  Christmas has me bonkers.  Chris I love you for sending us this paper on print head technology.  I am up to my ears in it right now.  What a gem. 

Anyone need specific help email me directly.

Anyone looking into DIY X900 printhead soaking routines consider this textual dissection of your printhead:

1 - outer most element = cage protecting your printhead face from paper strikes
2 - next level = printhead face - thin foil-like sheet with holes for each nozzle
2 - next level = channel pair module - each module has two channels.  Each module draws ink from two chambers just below it, one for each color.  (each module has layers of micro mechanical intricacy going on inside it, which I will get into later)
3 - next level = ink path chambers/tunnels (how ink gets to channel pair modules)
4 - next level = ink intake ports (where ink enters chambers/tunnels)
5 - next level = ink line receiver plate (removable plastic nipple plate which connects ink lines to intake ports)
6 - next level = ink lines

I made all these names up, to protect the innocent.  They are appropriate. 

Everything about these X900 printheads is standard technology, barring the channel pair modules.  I have yet to dissect a terminally clogged printhead with Santa's Elves tugging at my cape.  But don't think I haven't been dreaming about it.  One key discovery happened at level 5.  The ink line receiver plates are removable.  The removal of these plates creates greater/easier access to the undersea world of your channel pair modules.  Before you remove these plates you can only get about 3/4 of an inch from the ink behind the modules, and that has to be through the nipple fittings of the receiver plate.  Once this plate is removed though, you are far closer.  Why does this matter?  Now you can soak the vital clog-prone parts without jeopardizing the liquid sensitive electronics portions of the head. 

The Piezoelectric elements of the head need current in order to fire (flex).  That's what the thin, wide, ribbon connectors carry to the head - current.  And lots of it.  Think of all the nozzles there are in there (math help please..).  All of these tiny lines of current come from the ribbon cable, connect to the head at what could be referred to as a junction box connector.  Bad name, I get it, but stay with me here.  All of this junction box connector is un-sealed, right out in the open so you can jam the ribbon cable into it, then it all dives into plastic land inside the top wall of the head framework.  Somewhere inside this wall, still at least an inch from level 3, the junction box now sends hundreds of tiny power lines to all the different channel pair modules.  Also somewhere inside this wall all these lines turn from being open to outside air, to being encased in a clear silicone-like substance.  I will upload images when I have more time but for now just understand that all electronics from the junction box all the way to the channel pair modules, is waterproof.  That is enough information for me to understand that you can safely soak more than just the very face of your printhead while attempting to clear a deadly clog.

Up until recently I had visions of adapting hoses to the level 5 ink line receiver plates, in order to massage fluid past dried clogs to loosen them up.  One concern here is an unknown pressure tolerance that the piezoelectrics can endure.  For sure some pressure, because the printer itself sucks ink through the printhead face during some cleanings, but I don't know how much - which is scary.  But now that I understand the level 5 ink line receiver plate comes off, and the electrics are waterproof (inkproof actually), I have abandoned my plan to force fluid anywhere.  Simple soaking is my intent.  At least the first go around.

Sorry if this is hard to follow, pet names and all.  You should try it under a microscope..

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Blue moon
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« Reply #1005 on: December 23, 2012, 05:50:43 AM »
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Hi Eric,

Looks like you've been having some fun with the printhead.  Thanks for posting the pics!  I'm attaching a document that should help understanding the inner workings of what you're seeing.  Also, here is a link for you which should be a good read if you're curious.  http://doc.utwente.nl/58366/1/thesis_Wijshoff.pdf  Granted, they are a little dated...  Smiley

All the best,

Chris
Hi Chris
Thanks for info on printer head.....huge research going on about making the head more efficient...
When the nozzles were doubled in the x900 series....it appears that the piezo unit itself had to be made much more flexible to deliver power for printing....this extra flexibility meant that the materials used became much thinner and i suppose more brittle and prone to damage faster...
Also what i found interesting in the thesis was the ability of the printhead to suck back air bubbles into the head when there is an accumulation of excess ink or stale ink "pooling " on the head surface at the nozzles...where is our wiper blade system and why does it not prevent "pooling" ?
I have removed air successfully by power cleaning....i have seen the air bubbles in the cleaning solution after the power clean...but not for individual nozzles..(that is if it is air in the individual nozzles )
What i was surprised at was there was no mention  in the thesis of the ink waste disposal method and how effective this method is in preventing stale ink or air bubbles getting back into the head itself..
It just seems that all the research is going into the head itself and very little thought is going into the problem of disposing of waste ink intelligently ..
Dirt was also mentioned as a reason for nozzle blocking ...possibly good hygiene habits is the only way to keep the dirt problem at bay and i guess check and replace dampers too..
Eric ..you mentioned pumping pressure worries...in another world i know that putting water into a house (i am involved in a rural water scheme project ) at greater that 3 bar pressure is looking for trouble....i seem to remember that the pressure used to flush out your piezo head was 5 bar which sounds strong..
Possibly a pressure somewhat similar to the pressure Epson use to move ink through the head would be the max to go for....is that information  out there ? Anyway you are going the " soak "route
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kdphotography
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« Reply #1006 on: December 23, 2012, 11:45:16 PM »
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I thought these articles from Jon Cone are helpful tips on printer maintenance:  http://www.inkjetmall.com/wordpress/category/maintenance/
...notably on humidity, infrequent printer use, and head strikes.

I haven't had any problems with my 9900, but I also use my 9900 very regularly and humidity levels are kept fairly constant in studio...

ken
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Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #1007 on: December 27, 2012, 12:32:28 PM »
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Here comes the New Year - here comes new X900 printhead discoveries..

HUMIDITY:  I mentioned a few weeks ago that since the rainy season began we have been seeing fewer clogs.  Much fewer clogs.  I hoped we were out of the woods, at least for winter.  I was wrong.  The clogs came back pretty regular again.  It got colder, I turned up the heat, the heat dried out the air, the clogs came back.  This is not my news.  My news (part of my news) is I recorded what changed, when, and why.  Epson suggests keeping your X900 in an environment with 40-60% relative humidity.  I bought a gauge and have monitored the regularity of clogging during the varying states of the environment around our 7900.  40-60% humidity does not work for me, it seems I need more humidity.  When my gauge reads 80% our 7900 is virtually clog-free.  A few of you have emailed me with details about your X900 clogging results in your own varying environments, the most successful stories also being in the neighborhood of 80%.  The problem one user had with keeping his studio (room in house) this humid was he got mold - then the humidifier got excommunicated to a dusty corner in the garage.  Once back to a more human-friendly environment, he was again back to clogging.  I've read about humidifiers but not tried one.  Apparently they take a lot of work to run - sometimes needing to be filled with water (one gallon) four times in one day.  For me this is not possible.  But all this new relative humidity data and how it specifically relates to our 7900 clogging, did get me to thinking (re-thinking actually) about an old idea I had months ago to enclose our 7900 in it's own micro-environment.  So I broke out my old high school graduation present, a Singer Sewing Machine (no comment), and fabricated a prototype cover out of some 6ml poly I had left over from a staining job.  I took two cookie sheets, filled them with water and set them on the floor inside the cover/under the printer.  I put two gauges on top of the machine - one inside the cover in the micro-climate, the other outside the cover.  The two gauges are only six inches apart.  So far (two days) I see @12% difference in humidity from inside the cover to outside the cover.  When the room is 65%, the machine is 80%.  So the idea has potential.  It's a pretty sloppy prototype too - doesn't reach the floor in the back in some areas.  I am confident this idea can produce better results.








« Last Edit: December 27, 2012, 12:33:59 PM by Eric Gulbransen » Logged

kdphotography
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« Reply #1008 on: December 27, 2012, 02:07:06 PM »
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Hi Eric,

Nice handiwork!   Grin

Be aware that hygrometers can be "inaccurate" with regard to actual measurements, but as you've found, the key point here is to just find a level on the gauge at which your printer is "happy"---so although actual humidity may only be 55% and your gauge reads 80%----it really doesn't matter as long as you've found that happy printer humidity level to maintain.

Carmel humidity levels are constant, and only turning on the heat (which I don't) dries out the air.  I've got an extra humidifier if you'd like to give it a try; it's a lot less work than you think.

ken
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Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #1009 on: December 27, 2012, 03:24:32 PM »
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Discovery number 2:

About mid-way through this journey I sent our Epson Stylus Pro 7900 printhead to Canada, after me and my genius buddy decided we could do no more to help clear it on our own.  Once in Canada our head was subject to both an ultrasonic cleaning, and also a flushing.  When we got the head back into our 7900, all it produced were fatal error messages.  Our goose (printhead) was cooked.

In the many months since experiencing this disaster, I have done a lot more learning - thanks in great part to other (more intelligent/better educated/and vastly more experienced) users right here on Luminous Landscape.  I have also done a lot more thinking.  And, finally, I have done quite a lot of poking around INSIDE the very printheads which we have all grown to enjoy a love (beautiful prints) hate (ink-time-money-printer-destroying-clogs) relationship with.  While I do still have hope that we can find a cure for X900 clogs, for quite some time now I have quietly hidden my greatest fear - that terminal clogs are not clogs at all.  After all, the wonderful world of Piezoelectrics is not only amazingly tiny, but it is also amazingly fragile.  For sure with all of the aggressive Power Cleanings we are forced to resort to in order to combat the most tenacious clogs; the sucking, the smearing, the pressures of ink being forced through the printhead's internals - it is quite possible that we all walk a fine line between helping our printheads with cleanings, and hurting our printheads with cleanings.  So for quite some time my greatest fear has been a discovery that terminal clogs are actually damaged Piezoelectrics, rather than simply clogs.  

Since this very point is such a vital element of our journey, late last night I finally gathered the courage to act on finding our answer.  I performed an autopsy on our "Oh Canada" X900 Printhead.  Remember, before we shipped it to Canada it simply had un-clearable clogs.  It returned with "terminal errors".  While this is a tragedy, it is also an opportunity.  If the piezoelectrics in this Oh Canada head are damaged, well then here would be our answer - damaged piezos = fatal errors, dropouts = clogs.    Anyone else curious what I found?

It WAS too much fluid pressure that killed our Oh Canada head.  I feel confident in this assessment due to the fact that both channel pairs show damage exactly at the source of where the pressurized fluid would have entered from - which is the same place where ink enters from.  Take a look for yourself.  

The following images line up/stack:

1 - healthy piezoelectric printhead (minus it's missing face, plus some microscopic garbage here and there)



2 - Partial workings of an Epson Stylus Pro 7900 printhead identified







2 - Damaged "Oh Canada" printhead










« Last Edit: December 27, 2012, 03:39:28 PM by Eric Gulbransen » Logged

Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #1010 on: December 27, 2012, 08:27:36 PM »
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Thanks for this tip Ken, I have little experience or knowledge about hygrometers (especially spelling).  How people can sell a product with such inaccurate tolerances/performance baffles me.  My world is so much simpler - you build it nice you get paid.  You build it crooked you don't. 

...by the way it's hygrometers I'm referring to here.


Hi Eric,

Nice handiwork!   Grin

Be aware that hygrometers can be "inaccurate" with regard to actual measurements, but as you've found, the key point here is to just find a level on the gauge at which your printer is "happy"---so although actual humidity may only be 55% and your gauge reads 80%----it really doesn't matter as long as you've found that happy printer humidity level to maintain.

Carmel humidity levels are constant, and only turning on the heat (which I don't) dries out the air.  I've got an extra humidifier if you'd like to give it a try; it's a lot less work than you think.

ken
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Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #1011 on: December 28, 2012, 01:31:28 AM »
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I call my buddy Steve a genius.  If you were at dinner tonight you would too.  I dumped all the new found data I could on him tonight.  Nothing intimidated him.  In fact each new piece I shared only drew him closer to better understanding the hidden science behind these X900 printheads.  Turns out as complex as these things are, they're also pretty simple.  I can't say we know exactly how every element of them work, but I can say we are getting pretty dam close.  I will explain this all in time, in a language I am comfortable with - images.  But this will take some work.  For now I'd like to share our most recent discovery - the third dimension of piezoelectric nozzle boards.

Up until this point (or point of view) one major unsolved mystery has been tracking the path of ink through the face of the piezo nozzle board.  As you can see from my previous posts, ink has a bit of traveling to do in order to get to the actual piezo nozzles just under each hole in the face of the printhead.  The reality behind these nozzles is actually very different than any illustrations that I have seen.  These "nozzles" are not actually nozzles at all.  Instead they are more like chambers.  Each chamber is surrounded by it's walls, which flex when electrically charged.  When these walls flex, the ink that is between them gets forced down (or across actually - since our heads sit sideways on the printer) the path of least resistance.  In the case of these X900 printheads, that path is out the face of the printhead and on to your print.  For sure the ink won't travel back into the head instead, because of the pressure backing up the ink in the supply lines - and throughout all the chambers (and tunnels) in the piezoboard. 

Hold on there I just used a new word.  Two in fact - chambers and tunnels.  Like I said "up until this point - of view - one major mystery has been tracking the path of ink through the face of the piezo nozzle board."  I shot video of ink entering a piezoboard and filling all the chambers.  It makes no sense though, I can't track it.  Somehow the chambers just get filled.  Remember there is only one ink supply port per channel - it is pretty small relative to the size of the channel board that it supplies with ink.  The bottom of a channel board is solid, no ink enters or exits out the bottom.  The top of a channel board sits smack up against the thin sheet metal printhead face.  No ink flows between the sheet metal face and the channel board - if it did the different inks in each channel pair would flow together.  So it is confirmed then, the only way for ink to travel from the supply port, to the nozzles, is THROUGH the channel board.

...feel like blowing your mind right now?  Imagine this - a channel board measures only about 1/32", or .8000mm thin.  That's pretty lean actually, yet somehow it is perforated not only vertically (seen in various pics I have recently uploaded here), but also in fact horizontally - on multiple levels (only seen in pics I will share now) - in what is a fascinating complex three dimensional maze of impressive intricacy. 


Here is a side-view pic of a channel UNIT.  This is NOT a pic of the channel board.  A channel unit measures about 3/16", or just under 5mm.




Here is the channel board, which sits at the very top of the channel unit.




I tried to remove the channel board from the channel unit but no dice, it's glued on pretty good and the board is fragile as you can imagine.  So I broke a piece of the channel board off to examine more than just the top.  Here we can see the bottom as well.











While these images are cool I learned nothing from them, other than we are dealing with some tiny stuff here.

...and then it happened.  I took multiple frame grabs from some video I had shot and put them together to reveal what to me is a gateway to understanding the paths (or tunnels) that carry ink through and to our piezoelectric nozzles.  This is by far the most revealing image yet.  Those square holes you can see in the side-face of the channel board are actually ink passages.  These are the paths, or tunnels, which lead ink to nozzle chambers.





Today I learned that "fatal error messages" report broken piezoelectric boards.  Your head is truly dead.  I also learned that "clogs" are most likely actually that  - simply clogs.  Tonight however I learned that "nozzle" clogs may not actually be limited to just nozzle clogs at all.  Could be clogs are anywhere inside the intricate maze that makes up piezoelectric nozzle boards.  Perhaps a clog in a specific tunnel, or a chamber, could end up starving the nozzle that chamber supplies.  I don't know yet.  ...But I will I promise you.















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Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #1012 on: December 28, 2012, 05:17:08 PM »
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I've got two more hours in me then it's back to planet earth.  

I dove deeper this morning in my quest to understand inkflow through these piezoboards.  I clamped a glass slide on top of a channel, hooked a syringe filled with Cyan ink to it's nipple, and filled the channel.  In my best representation, of my latest understanding, of how ink fills our X900 printheads - I need to report here it is both simpler and more complex than I thought last night.  Not that such a thing is even possible, but whatever.  I'm doing my best to reverse engineer these intricate machines in an effort to make my father proud, "Before you can fix it you need to understand it"

The following are a series of video frame grabs taken as the channel filled:


























So the channel long, deep hull-like groove that exists inside each channel is indeed a reservoir.  The reservoir fills first.  From here ink does definitely travel THROUGH these intricate piezoboards, but it also travels beneath certain levels of them, deeper in the reservoirs.  "Certain levels" of them you might ask?  Yes I know, it's sickening how complex these piezoboards are - they actually do have different levels.  Think of piezoboards like very wide three story buildings built on concrete slabs (ink never goes below the first floor), and capped with a thick sheet metal roof, with holes in them called "nozzle openings" (ink never goes above the roof, unless it's through a nozzle opening).  Starting to make sense yet?  Some of the areas of these buildings (piezoboards) are wide open, floor to ceiling.  These areas are the ink reservoirs.  They are contained within the dimensions of the piezoboard itself.  I can't tell yet what goes on on the first two floors of the piezoboard.  So far they seem made up of honeycomb-like tunnels.  I can however tell what goes on on the top floor.  This is where the nozzles fill, and this is where the nozzles fire.  At this point my confidence is growing surer by the minute that our struggles happen on this top floor.  This makes the most sense, being that this top floor is the one so vulnerably close to the open air - through the nozzle openings in the sheet metal roof just above.  For sure this floor is also vulnerable to half-dried sludge being forced back down into the nozzle openings in the tin face of the printhead, by our dirty rotten wiper blades...


Finally, after my having said all this, and you having read all this, here is your reward - THIS IS AN UN-CLEARABLE CLOG:




« Last Edit: December 28, 2012, 06:02:45 PM by Eric Gulbransen » Logged

Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #1013 on: December 28, 2012, 06:01:20 PM »
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The top level of the piezoboards do indeed house the nozzles.  Just keep in mind what I said previously - they don't at all look like nozzles.  This is a piezoboard, top level, series of (clogged) nozzle chambers.  



Best I can tell ink enters these top level chambers (which DO have micro-membrane floors in them that seem flexible/vulnerable), from the reservoir side.  Ink then travels past what could be a one-way valve (looks like a speed bump) then sits, pressurized, and hopefully fluid, awaiting it's firing out into the great new world of dried up ink on photo paper.  




So the problem is obvious once you look at your head through a stereo microscope for two weeks, take hours of video, think about it forever, write about it for days, receive great feedback on LuLa, and have a genius buddy.  Our HDR ink is drying inbetween the chamber walls, on the top floor of the piezoboard.  Once dry in the chambers ( I know because I've dug it out with the tip of a razor knife) this ink takes on a semi-hard, rubber like consistency which for sure is what keeps the chamber walls (piezo nozzles) from flexing (firing), which is what keeps ink from exiting the nozzle opening in the tin printhead face, which is ultimately what results in drop outs, clogs, broken nozzle patterns, banding, and ultimately impotency.  


Last image I swear - here is the placement of the nozzle openings as they sit over the nozzle chambers.  There is exactly one nozzle for every one chamber, and here is exactly where each one sits.





Next step - fix it

« Last Edit: December 28, 2012, 06:06:22 PM by Eric Gulbransen » Logged

BrianWJH
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« Reply #1014 on: December 28, 2012, 06:12:32 PM »
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Hi Eric,

Been following your forensic analysis with interest even thought I don't have a 7900 and I have to say I admire your adventure and tenacity. Your last image of the un-clearable clog looks like a concentration of pigment particles gone hard. Is it possible that too many concurrent power cleanings 'bake the pigment' into a cement like blockage using the heat generated in the process?

Good luck in your quest.

Brian.
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Eric Gulbransen
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« Reply #1015 on: December 29, 2012, 01:18:50 AM »
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Good question Brian.  Heat generated by the friction of multiple powerclean-firings, accelerating the drying of ink stuck inside the head is something we've talked about before.  It's like the potential solution to clogs could be causing more clogs, you are exactly right.  And then there is frying your head all together with powercleanings, which I think sfblue did.  It's definitely food for thought but either way they got here, once your head has an unclearable clog you're pretty well SOL  ...which is why this thread. 

So far I have limited my exploration to just the printheads.  I feel I understand them well enough now to know how they work, and why they don't anymore once clogged.  You are exactly right, now it's time to explore the world of drying inks.  I wish I were a chemist.  While I knew nothing about piezoelectrics six months ago, at least I am inherently mechanical.  Chemistry though, that's a world I need someone else's education to understand.  I did buy a compound microscope, and inks are my next target.  I plan to look at them wet, look at them dry, heat them up and look at them, and then ultimately I plan to try to loosen them up again. 

As for the clogs in the head pictured above, I soaked that head in distilled water - nothing happened.  I soaked it in rubbing alcohol - nothing happened.  I soaked it in Acetone - plenty happened.  The ink, ever so slowly, did loosen up, and did shrink away into tiny passable particles again.  This is very good news.  The flip side of this good news is Acetone is a lot more aggressive than I am comfortable with using just yet.  I need to explore it's affect on all the different materials in these X900 printheads.  Some plastics melt under the influence of Acetone.  Others aren't affected.  But it's not just plastics I am concerned with - there are many other semi-soft materials in these heads.  There is glue that sticks the channel pairs to the printhead framework.  There is a clear plastic silicone-like substance that insulates all the piezo wires.  There is the piezo board itself, made out of I have no idea what.  And then there is the glue used to stick the tin roof onto the piezoboards.  I need to be confident that none of these materials will be compromised due to soaking in whatever chemical we decide to use.  So there is plenty of work yet to do. 

Any chemists in the house willing to lend some thought..?
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« Reply #1016 on: December 29, 2012, 02:24:57 AM »
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Not a chemist, but, as far ar i know, the difference from watrebased head to ecosolvent head is the nipple. At least for the older generation heads you can buy a waterbased head, replace the nipple and you have a ecosolvent head. More, since epson heads are used for both water and solvent inks, i think is possible that epson don't have 2 distinct production lines, one for water and one for solvent (yes dx7 heads are also used for solvent printers). The problem here is that i understand that solvents and water don't mix well together, they precipitate.
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« Reply #1017 on: December 29, 2012, 02:36:06 AM »
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I am not a chemist either. I remember reading somewhere that ammonia or household ammonia could be used to clean the head.
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« Reply #1018 on: December 29, 2012, 09:48:26 AM »
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Eric and all who have contributed,

I spent the better part of Christmas reading from page one of this thread, glued to the computer screen anticipating every twist and turn. I admire your staying power to determine the cause and solution! Awesome!!! What brought me to this place was my desire to purchase a 4900. I wanted to know as much about them as possible as I will be dipping my toes into the printing pool for the first time. I got to tell you that the water looks pretty cold from reading all of the issues with clogged print heads! I'm a masochist, so that is probably not going to stop me, however I will be mindful of how important maintenance is to the longevity of these printheads, thanks to you and all who have contributed there time and stories.

The one way valve (speed bump) would preclude you from drawing cleaning fluid backwards through the printhead? Or maybe I'm not completely following along with the path of ink flow.

Once again thank you for the education,

Steve
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« Reply #1019 on: December 29, 2012, 10:13:24 AM »
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What brought me to this place was my desire to purchase a 4900.

Steve

The practical fact of the matter is that unless you use the printer every few days, you can expect it to require cleaning - a little or a lot depending, before using it after it has been unused for more than a few days. My experience confirms what Epson said about them (somewhere, sometime, don't ask me for specifics) from the get-go: these are production machines, and my experience confirms this. If you plan to have gaps between printing sessions exceeding more than several days and you don't need a roll-holder and you want the highest quality, most maintenance-free printing experience achievable with an Epson professional series printer, do yourself a favour and buy a 3880. If you will be printing at least every three days, the 4900 is a fabulous performer.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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