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Author Topic: Epson 4900 Again - to replace or not  (Read 3187 times)
MDVolle
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« on: April 13, 2013, 12:53:05 AM »
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I have an Epson 4900 and love the print quality that I got with it but after about 20 months and 200 Sq ft of output - LK and LLK heads stopped working. Repair shop says they diagnosed a bad head - Epson won't even answer e-mails and the repair would be $1,600 total. Once I received the "declined repair" unit back, NONE of the colors print at all.

I have studied all of the various responses and solutions - including buying the service manual and the service software.

If I continue to play with this one, I will need to purchase more ink, possibly the cleaning cartridges and spend a lot of time to maybe get lucky and restore the printer.

Adorama offers a refurb from Epson for $1,100. This is less than a set of inks -

Has anyone tried this? Does it come with the same "half load" cartridges for start up?

This is a "personal" printer and hardly saw any significant use (in my opinion, under 200 sq ft of output should be just a warm up for a professional product).

It has been a most discouraging experience.

I generally print images from 4x5 and 6cm x 12cm film scanned in or stitched images from a D700. I liked having a 15-16" wide by roll printing format -

Thanks
Mark

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alain
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« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2013, 05:54:41 AM »
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Think about the epson 3880.

It has no roll paper holder, but you can cut roll paper and print up to about 90cm length.  (Not to do every day, but on a light schedule...)
 
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2013, 08:12:40 AM »
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I'd like to learn more about your case, because several factors deserve further discovery in terms of product performance and service response that could be generally useful to the community.

Let's start with your print production. An average of 10 sq.ft. per month is too little usage for this printer unless you were very careful to make sure you used it at a fairly even pace of no more than three days or so apart from each printing session, assuming the printer is being used in a humidity range upward of 35%. Inadequate usage is generally understood by now to be a substantial cause of problems. But that's not the whole story, because usually one should be able to "nurse" the machine back to normal, suggesting other things could be happening at the same time.

One of the most important of these is the steps you took to clean the printer once you discovered clogs. What is the exact sequence of measures you used to try to unblock the printer? I ask because it is also known by now that some procedures can actually worsen the problem rather than resolve it, but the manual is not very good at delving into all of this.

I'd like to turn to the service issue. I don't know where you live, which Epson service center looks after you and who are the repair people you spoke with. But several pointers. I live in Canada, and we are covered ultimately by Epson America. A 4900 is a professional printer and based on our experience here, having bought one, you should be entitled to Epson Pro-Graphics support. I have been using Epson professional printers for the past 13 years and NEVER EVER has Epson America failed to respond to an email in a timely manner or to discuss issues with me over the phone. The service experience has been fine, and I have had substantial issues over the years. If you are not getting this kind of service from them, it would be good to understand why not. Technical advice and support have been available regardless of warranty status. Warranty status becomes important once repair or replacement comes into the picture.

Now, who are the repair people you dealt with, are they an Epson referred service provider, and what procedures and evidence did they adduce to conclude that your printhead is "bad". Sure it's bad if it's not printing certain channels, but what did they say about why it could not be brought back to normal? As you got the printer back with none of the colours printing, did you raise with them that the printer came back worse than how you sent it? What kind of packaging and transport was used in both directions? Was the printer properly prepared for transport following Epson's instructions both ways? If not, there may be more to discuss with the service providers. Sometimes these kind of companies need to be pressed very hard; don't fear doing so.

If the upshot really is that the printhead cannot clear with the usual methods discussed in the manual, if I were you, unless I had a lot time and money to waste, I would NOT try methods of restoring it that haven't been thoroughly validated and I would not buy a refurbished printer. You don't say what warranty conditions are offered on the refurb you are looking at, whether it qualifies for an extended warranty, and you have no way of knowing how good and thorough the refurb is. [I've had negative experience with three successive printers (all-in-one machines for office work) refurbished by Epson. I was under the last month of my warranty, so the problem got solved when they finally agreed to send me a new printer rather than yet another refurb. It works just fine and that ended the matter.]

If it comes to the point that you should buy another printer, think hard about whether you should stick with the X900 series or buy something such as a 3880 which is much less demanding in terms of usage and maintenance, yet makes gorgeous prints. True, there is no roll holder, but unless you produce a lot of panoramas you don't need it.

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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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MDVolle
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« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2013, 05:00:33 PM »
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Mark,
Having owned several "consumer" wide photo printers and been down the whole continuous ink supply kit route and most other approaches in trying to have a "professional result" on a budget, I did expect that my usage level would be very low for a printer like this. I try to print something at least every few days and usually manage to do that. It would be easy to up the flow to keep the printer happy.

A few early minor clogs got me on the phone with Epson support and the worst clog cleared with  two powerful cleans and a wait overnight. I discovered for myself that the powerful cleans were a mixed bag and often led to complications.

When the LK and LLK started having trouble, they went from fine to zero nozzles working in a matter of a single 5x15 print.

I tried the normal clean and waited a day. I did a single power clean and waited a day.

I did three back-to-back powerful cleans (Epson recommended procedure for severe clogs) and waited a day - nothing changed.

I called Epson and told then this was what I had done - Epson immediately said heads and take it to a service center.

The local service center is approved by Epson (Epson gave me their name) and was close enough that I drove the printer there  myself - no packing - just head parked and capped.

The service center concluded that the head was the problem and got a price from Epson (at which point they were shocked).

Given that my printer was "pronounced dead" - $1,600 estimate - I took it home anyway and tried printing - found none of the heads worked.

Now that I was in the category of "confirmed dead" - the engineer in me went a little crazy. Service Manual in hand, I removed the entire ink system and began inspecting.

Tubes - not full, but clean and airtight
Tanks- not full, but no sign of solids
Head channels - slight clogging when flushing gently with water but cleared in seconds to full smooth streams from all the channels.
Ink Cartridges - very low - but they were when I sent it in for service.

Reassembled and running again, after doing an initial charge on the left bank, I have six channels that came up running with only a single nozzle or two to clear. I don't have enough ink left to run an initial charge on the right (home) bank.

Its a gamble - I think that if I order a set of inks, I will have my printer back.

A set of inks is still more than a refurb which probably comes with a set of half filled tanks to charge it with. I am planning to call about what is included and the warranty for the refurbs on Monday.

I generally print test prints of panos and other thing as strips of 5" x 16" paper from the roll. Finished prints are usually 15.5" buy 31-85" (I may be a little stuck on stitching).

Because this is my relaxation at night, usually printing something small most nights isn't an issue.

Printing really long images, the smaller printers would run out of an ink color before finishing - never want to go back to small tanks.

I love the image quality when this is working right... I can easily increase my throughput without wasting anything if that makes these 4900's happier.

I didn't expect this model to be this temperamental - it was supposed to have addressed all of the clogging and sitting issues
but I can live with that now that its a known issue.

From the information on this site, I believe that I probably just had a clog or air bubble from changing cartridges and should have attempted some of the alternative suggestions for restoring the heads -

My inclination (in spite of the diagnosis of a bad head) is that this is still OK if I buy ink and charge the home side. There were no explanations as to how the service center determined the head was bad and there are no indications from the printer itself that it isn't working correctly.

Thanks for responding and working on this - the collective insight on the site has already been invaluable.

Mark V.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2013, 05:19:31 PM »
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Hi Mark,

OK, all this detail begins to shed light that things may not be so hopeless after all. I think the advice you got about back to back power cleaning was not a good idea. Epson itself had previously recommended to me that I should run a print or two after a power clean before attempting another one, otherwise the power-cleaning itself could cause complications - air bubbles, head dry-out or whatever. I have followed this advice in the past and it has served me well. I should add that with my 4900 things never reached the stage to need this - yet. But my throughput on average is at least three times what yours has been - not to say this is necessarily determinative but perhaps a factor. It is an investment and a risk buying a few extra ink tanks to validate whether using them for cleaning would restore the whole printer. If it works, probably the best possible outcome. If it doesn't, and you replace the printer, you can seal-up those cartridges with masking tape and keep them for use with a new printer. The unused cartridges that would come with the new printer are good for at least a couple of years. So the risk is not as much as it may sound at first blush, provided you intend to remain with a 4900 one way or another. I agree with you that in respect of clogging these printers have turned out to be more temperamental than we may have initially been given to expect.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Mike Guilbault
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« Reply #5 on: April 14, 2013, 06:52:42 PM »
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Mark (DS)... you mention seal the full cartridges with masking tape. Not wanting to steal the thread, but just a quick question if I may.  I'm in the process of switching empty for full cartridges on both my 4900 and 9900.  It seems like the old cartridges just keep printing and it's been a couple weeks now since I first started swapping cartridges for cleaning clogs.  I realize this could cause problems, reinserting the newer cartridges after they've been opened - so does sealing them with masking tape really help with this? 
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #6 on: April 14, 2013, 07:12:31 PM »
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Hi Mike - short answer - I don't know. I do it "just in case". I think these cartridges are self-sealing, but I take the extra precaution to try preventing air from entering. I've had no problem moving between new and partially used cartridges.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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davidh202
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« Reply #7 on: April 14, 2013, 09:00:08 PM »
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Mike and Mark,
there is an inner seal (valve) in the carts that is opened by a needle built into each one of the ink bays, which allows the flow of ink from the carts to ink lines as the carts are inserted.
There is no harm in taping the carts, but it is really not necessary and might in fact leave harmful adhesive residue  on the seal. The small amount of air that may enter the lines when switching is not harmful, and is usually taken care of by the dampers...
 The biggest problem is damaging the seal (valve) in the cart by improper insertion, or frequent  removal and reinsertion into the machine , (as some people advocate to shake the carts).
This is the bad thing, and Epson warns not to do this! Once the seal is damaged it will allow air to be sucked into ink lines along with the ink when the carts are  pressurized and the machine is drawing ink to print. This excess air will then cause drop outs, need unnecessary cleanings, and ultimately possible head damage!!!
I have learned that carts indicating 1% level have a greater chance of not re-pressurizing properly when put back after a "needs cleaning, put a new cart in to do it,and then you can replace the old cart" message from the machine.
  I almost always have my drop outs after a PK/MK switch or after a reinsertion of an 1% cart after a mandatory clean notice. I discard the old cart at that point put the new one back in, turn the machine off, then on again, to re-pressurize the carts and do a pairs clean on the offending channel to get ink flowing as fast as possible to the head. I then run a nozzle check to make sure all's well.
Printing with drop outs on 1% carts is downright dangerous and I have said many times now that IMHO it is penny wise and pound foolish to try and squeeze any more ink out of those carts and risk ruining your head!!!
  
David
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #8 on: April 14, 2013, 09:07:14 PM »
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David, when those carts say 1%, there is more than 1% left - in fact quite a bit more. And when the cartridge finally returns an "Empty" message, it isn't. Epson does this to prevent exactly the kind of horror scenarios you describe. The risk of wrecking the air seal is probably a bit more realistic if one is not careful. I don't see how putting some masking tape over the hole can incur any risk whatsoever, but I agree it is probably more "feel good" than useful. As I said, never had a problem with cartridge switching, and I always let them run to so-called "Empty", unless a cleaning cycle is needed and it refuses to cooperate.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #9 on: April 14, 2013, 10:45:50 PM »
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.
  I almost always have my drop outs after a PK/MK switch

David, any idea as to why this happens?

It happened to me.  After going through 'H' amd $$$s to clear it, I am now paranoid on ever doing a switch again.

John
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John
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« Reply #10 on: April 15, 2013, 10:35:38 AM »
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John,
 I beleive this happens because the non used black channel develops  more of an "air bubble" in the   pump in the damper assembly that does the switch, and due to reverse flow in the head from capillary action  when you switch, to get past the bubble in the line. It also may be as simple as not enough pressure
in the line to get past the bubble. That is why I always turn the machine off and boot up again when this happens because the re-pressurization seems to get the ink flowing better again. A drop out is usually due to air in the line and shows up as a missing or mostly missing channel, and that is what the dampers are supposed to deal with,as opposed to a clog which shows up as one, or a few missing nozzles which a cleaning is supposed to remedie. I also have a strong feeling that the machines do an small clean cycle upon booting up, as indicated by all the head movement when tunring the machines on, but i'm not posative on that one??
 Recurrant same missing nozzles on nozzle checks, is an indication of damage. If the missing nozzles move around on checks, it is an indication of clogs, or drop outs due to air. Reboot let the machine sit for a while, and the do a nozzle check.

As many have said now, regular printing is the surest way to keep these pro machins happy!!!
David
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John Parry
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« Reply #11 on: April 15, 2013, 11:35:00 AM »
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David, when those carts say 1%, there is more than 1% left - in fact quite a bit more. And when the cartridge finally returns an "Empty" message, it isn't. Epson does this to prevent exactly the kind of horror scenarios you describe. The risk of wrecking the air seal is probably a bit more realistic if one is not careful. I don't see how putting some masking tape over the hole can incur any risk whatsoever, but I agree it is probably more "feel good" than useful. As I said, never had a problem with cartridge switching, and I always let them run to so-called "Empty", unless a cleaning cycle is needed and it refuses to cooperate.


Hi Mark,

Don't mean to hijack the thread, but where are you seeing the percentage of ink available? I only get a warning that says "Ink Low - You may continue printing, or click the [How to] button to change the ink cartridge now"...

Thanks,
John
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #12 on: April 15, 2013, 12:31:00 PM »
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John, it may depend on the driver version. In previous drivers on other Epson printers I did get these 5% and 1% notices. On the most recent 4900 driver for Mac this indeed does not happen. What happens is what you say, only augmented by further information in the on-printer Menu where you can see ink status per colour reported as a number of stars ranging from zero to ten indicating roughly the percentage of ink remaining. I don't bother with any of this. I just use them till they come-up as empty, which in reality they are not - that's the important point. Epson leaves ink in them to protect the printhead from damage.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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John Parry
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« Reply #13 on: April 15, 2013, 12:44:32 PM »
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Thanks Mark, so you're saying I should see a warning that says the cartridge is empty - and then make the decision to replace? So far I have continued printing when I received the ink low warning - but only far enough until my fear of damaging the printer takes over, and haven't seen an "empty" warning.
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #14 on: April 15, 2013, 01:07:43 PM »
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Not quite. Once it says the cartridge is empty, you have no choice; you must replace it or the printer won't print. Till that point, you need not worry. "Fly on empty" as they say, because *empty* ain't empty. I have never ever damaged a print head doing this, and the Epson manual says you can carry on printing till replacement is essential.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2013, 02:01:25 PM »
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I have never ever damaged a print head doing this, and the Epson manual says you can carry on printing till replacement is essential.

It doesn't happen often but with one print on my old 9880 printer, the ink literally ran out mid-print and the printer stopped. I replaced the ink cart, the printer when through the line charge and then continued printing...I looked real hard but could not see where the printer stopped and restarted. So, yes, run the carts all the way empty before replacing.

The only issue that comes up is when an ink cart is so low that a head cleaning can not be done. A couple of times, I've replaced the near empty cart with a fresh one. After the nozzle checked out ok, I replaced the full cart with the near empty cart and continued printing with it until it reported as empty–usually within a few prints.
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« Reply #16 on: April 15, 2013, 04:06:52 PM »
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I've done the same as Mark and Jeff on both the 4900 and 9900 and couldn't detect where one left off and the other started. Pretty amazing actually. Although "good to the last drop" may not be totally accurate, it's close enough for me!
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« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2013, 06:51:17 PM »
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I've done the same as Mark and Jeff on both the 4900 and 9900 and couldn't detect where one left off and the other started. Pretty amazing actually. Although "good to the last drop" may not be totally accurate, it's close enough for me!

I run mine dry as well (I put tape over opened full cartridges too).  If there is any ink left, it's not much.  BTW when I had a 4800 there was a lot of chatter about the ink left in empty cartridges, I opened a few empties and found 35-50 mL of ink.  I weighed the same cartridge when full and then when empty. I also measured the density of the ink which allowed me to determine that the cartridge had delivered 220 mL as specified, even though ink remained.

Tom
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John Parry
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« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2013, 08:12:59 PM »
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Thanks all, I now have the confidence to print until the very last drop!

 I've had my printer since Dec 2011 and have been printing sporadically with it. Still have several of the initial printer cartridges installed if that's any indication how much I've had a chance to print. I'm also recording weights of all cartridges (full and empty) to try and figure actual ink amounts remaining (following the same path as Tom mentioned I believe).

I'm knocking on wood here as I've even gone as far as three months between print jobs.

I do absolutely love the prints this machine produces.

John
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2013, 08:18:09 PM »
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Yes indeed, despite all the bitching we may do about baby-sitting the machine, humidity levels etc., etc., the bottom line is that with the right papers it produces wonderfully detailed prints showing gorgeous colour, very good grayscale neutrality and really smooth tonal transitions.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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