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Keep It Flowing

Continuous Inking Systems is both a system and a company name. The company doesn't sell its products directly to end users, but instead though OEM manufacturers and distributors. They have a page on their web site that list the various companies who distribute their product.

This system is one which allows a broad range of Epson inkjet printer users to purchase and utilize ink in bulk, rather than being tied to the high cost of individual ink cartridges. The system works with a number of the newer chipped as well as earlier unchipped models.

I bought mine from Inkjetmall.com for use with the Piezography system, though colour inks may be used just as easily. Some months of cursing the high cost of Piezo inks lead me to consider installing a CIS, but once I did I've had no regrets. The investment in a CIS is not small, (about $150 for non-chipped printers, and $250 for a chipped one), but long-term the savings in ink can considerable for anyone doing volume printing.

Installation

At first the installation process appears intimidating. But, if you take it slowly it goes quite smoothly.  There are just two major steps involved; priming and loading the cartridge, and installing the inks and then the carts and tube carrier into the printer.

Priming involves sucking the air out of each of the ink containers and associated feed tubes. This is done with a few strokes of a provided hand pump. When the air has been evacuated you crimp the tube with a supplied clamp and then remove the pump. Then you place the end of the crimped tube into the appropriate ink bottle and seal it. Release the clamp, and due to the vacuum in the cartridge chamber the ink now flows from the bottle into the cartridge. Voila.

Once all six cartridges have been primed and loaded this way it's time to tackle the printer. The hardest part is removing the blue top lever and black plastic shell over each cartridge holder. I found the best tool for this to be a pair of needle-nosed wire cutters. It just takes seconds to do.

Loading the carts and then attaching the tube carrier with its Velcro holder is simple, and within minutes you'll be up and running.

There are a couple of small foam wedges to be installed that fool the printer into thinking that fresh carts have been loaded, and then two rubber bumpers to hold the lid open slightly so that the printer's lid doesn't interfere with the feed tubes. (I simply removed the lid on my Epson 1200. It makes paper loading simpler). In all, it shouldn't take more than 30-45 minutes for the whole process. The instructions that come with the CIS are quite good, and if you take it slowly, one step at a time, you should have little problem.

Masked — Toronto, 2002
Leica M7 with Tri-Elmar @ 50mm. Fuji Sensia 200

Operation

Once installed operation is pretty much business as usual, except that you'll never have to change carts again, and inks can be bought in anything from 4oz to 1 gallon bottles, naturally at a huge cost saving. Of course these are not Epson inks, and as such you need to be aware that things like print longevity, colour saturation, head clogging and so forth may be issues. If you're using the CIS with the Piezography system then print longevity is a given due to use the use of pigment-based inks, and colour related issues don't count. But clogging does.

Head Clogging

It's hard to generalize about clogging from one person's experience with just one company's inks. I've had some problems with Piezography inks and the CIS system, but I attribute this mostly to the fact that these are pigment-based inks, and not to the CIS itself. If you prime and install the CIS properly it should not be a factor in clogging.

But, since we're on the subject of clogging, here are some suggestions for when it happens to you. It used to be recommended that one turn off the printer between printing sessions. But I am now told by experts that current Epson printers automatically cap the print head after only a couple minutes of inactivity, unlike the old ones that had to be turned off for that to happen. When the printer is on, it also will do occasional mini-cleaning cycles and head checks on its own. I also suggest running a test pattern every time you start printing. Head clogs can range from minor to serious, and it's a waste of paper and ink to print for a while without realizing that one of the heads isn't doing its job properly.

If you do have a head clog, run the cleaning cycle 2-3 times in a row, running a nozzle-check pattern between cleanings. If after the third cleaning cycle the head is still clogged, stop. More cycles will damage the head eventually and won't eliminate the clog.

Try the following. Take a piece of paper towel and tear it into a long strip. Fold it double. Soak it in Windex

Hold down the ink-load button so that the head assembly moves to the left, to the loading position. Now unplug the printer from power. This allows you to move the head by hand.  Lay the Windex-soaked strip of paper towel down in the channel that the head passes over. (Set the paper thickness lever to the UP position. This makes it easier to get the heads over the paper towel). Now lower the heads onto the towel in the channel and move the head back and forth so that it rubs against the paper towel a few times.  

Leave the printer sit for a few hours with the heads sitting against the wet towel. Then, remove paper towel and manually move the heads back to the right-hand position. Plug the printer back in.

Run a nozzle-check. Run a cleaning cycle as well. If this technique hasn't worked try it again, letting the head rest against the Windex-soaked paper towel overnight. If this fails, it's time for new heads or a new printer.

Windex is a North American brand window cleaning product. You can also other mild ammonia-based solvents, or isopropyl alcohol.

Conclusion

The CIS an elegantly designed and well made product that does exactly what it sets out to do. Not inexpensive, but for anyone doing high volume printing the savings in ink will quickly make up for the cost.

Highly recommended.

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Concepts: Inkjet printer, Ink, Printing, Ink cartridge, Printer, Computer printers, Printing press, Paper towel

Entities: Toronto, Leica, Michael Reichmann, Epson, Piezography inks, Tri-Elmar

Tags: paper towel, inks, head clog, clogging, tube carrier, feed tubes, pigment-based inks, high cost, Epson, cleaning cycle, print longevity, Epson inkjet printer, carts, earlier unchipped models, individual ink cartridges, Windex-soaked paper towel, appropriate ink bottle, printing, Continuous Inking Systems, mild ammonia-based solvents, needle-nosed wire cutters, paper thickness lever, cycle 2-3 times, black plastic shell, current epson printers, colour related issues, small foam wedges, huge cost saving, occasional mini-cleaning cycles, colour inks, American brand window, wet towel, head checks, head rest, head assembly, print head, ink containers, paper loading, new printer, cartridge chamber