Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Replaced my i950 with a i960

Last week I mentioned that my canon i950 had gone on the fritz and was cross-contaminating ink cartridges. After some additional testing and troubleshooting, I decided the only reasonable explanation left was an internal crack in the print head. Looking on ebay, print heads were going for $50 + shipping. That would hopefully fix the problem, but there was a chance that the problem might be somewhere else in the printer and that the $50 was wasted. After contemplating upgrading to a 13x19 printer but deciding I can't afford it just yet, I started thinking about what to get for an inexpensive printer until I can justify a more expensive one.

I looked into some of the newer canon iPixma printers, but the 6 color models were still over $200. Then, someone posted a suggestion on a message board that factory refurbished printers can be had quite cheap, and they come with new ink cartridges and a factory sealed print head.

I did some digging around on various sites trying to find a good deal on a refurbished i950 or i960. The best deal turned up on, where a reputable dealer was selling an i960 for $85 ($70 + $15 S&H). I thought about it for a few days. In the end, I figured I normally pay about $50 (shipped) for a set of ink cartridges, so this left the effective price for a new printer at $35. Cheaper than the print head, it guarantees that any other hidden problem is eliminated, and gives me a 90 day warranty. It seemed like a no brainer, so I ordered it.

The printer arrived Monday, so I set it up. I had some trouble at first. All the cartridges except Cyan primed and printed right away. I remember when I bought my original i950 I had the same problem with either the Cyan or Magenta not printing at all. In that case, not even a deep cleaning fixed it, so I ended up having to exchange it. I was afraid that was the case again, but after 3 normal cleaning cycles it was almost printing fine...the 4th cleaning cycle was the charm. The next problem was in running the print head alignment kept failing on the second page, but switching to a manual alignment worked flawlessly.

So now I have a nice new working printer, plus it gives me a few upgrades. Hi Speed USB (not that it makes much difference to performance), a port to print direct from camera (doubt I 'll use it), and a holder for 4x6 photo paper (might use it). In addition, I haven't read through the book yet, but it looks like there is a door on the back for feeding in thicker stock....that's a feature that might come in handy.

So, I'm happy for now. I can get back to printing photos. here to read more!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Canon i950 Problems

A few weeks ago, when I was working on some matting for the enlargements I printed from the Holland Tulip Festival, I noticed that on one of the photos there were some black lines running through the yellow sections at a regular interval. At the time, I figured the paper was probably bowed up somehow or another, and the paper had made contact with the print head and smeared some ink. I set the photo aside, intending to reprint it, but forgot about it.

Earlier this week, I went to print out some documentation from a web site, but when the paper came out of the printer, the colors were all screwed up. I assumed I was experiencing a clogged nozzle, and that one of the colors was not spraying out properly. I ran a nozzle check, and imagine my surprise when I see the grid for the yellow ink is very much black. So I open the lid to the printer, pull out the yellow cartridge, and this is what I see:

Not realizing what was going on, I immediately thought that the cartridge contained the wrong color ink when I bought it. In a panic, thoughts started going through my mind....did Canon make a mistake? I'd like to think not, so is there a better explanation? Was this possibly counterfeit ink, and if so, was the rest of my ink counterfeit? Are all the enlargement I printed up recently done with substandard ink?

I immediately ran to the message boards and posted about my problem. Within no time, another user was able to calm my fears about counterfeit ink with a much better explanation: ink had leaked from one cartridge to another. But how did this happen?

Some explanations included an internal crack in the print head, a dirty purge pad, and a defective cartridge. One way or another, something was causing black ink to wick up into the yellow cartridge.

I immediately got to work, disassembling parts of my printer, taking out the purge pad and sponge, cleaning it, and then wiping down some of the other parts of the printer that might be causing the contamination. I used compressed air to spray clean the print heads. Finally, I replaced the contaminated (and nearly full) yellow cartridge with a brand new one. I ran a few tests and all seemed fine.

This morning I woke up and immediately ran a nozzle check on my printer. I was glad to see that the yellow grid looked fine, but I quickly noticed another problem: the black ink had now taken on a yellow tint. The direction of leakage had now reversed. Upset that I now had a different cartridge contaminated, I quickly ran a cleaning cycle and then ran another nozzle check. This time it came out fine...the contamination was only in the print hadn't yet reached the cartridge. That's good, but I now have another problem...everything else was cleaned, so where is my problem now? Is it a bad black cartridge, or is there perhaps an internal crack in the print head causing a leak between black and yellow?

Now I'm trying to figure out what to do. How much money do I want to waste on this printer trying to fix it. I can get a print head off eBay for $50, but is it worth it, or do I want to invest that money into a new printer? I've been wanting something that can print wider format. The Canon i9900 would be nice. It's under $500, and it does 13x19. On the other hand, I would like to also be able to print panoramas, and unfortunately the Canon drivers do not seem geared towards printing arbitrary length prints from roll paper. Its also worth considering switching to something that is pigment based. Some of the Epsons run for about $500, are pigment based, do 13x19, and print from a roll. However, there is the brand new Epson 2400 printer which uses a new and (from what I hear) much better set of pigment inks. On the down side, this printer sells for about $850. What to do...

In the mean time, this all happens at a bad time for me. I'm right between paying for 2 vacations, and in the last month all kinds of things have gone wrong (car accident, home air conditioner, car air conditioner, swimming pool, cat got injured and needed to go to the vet, and now my printer.

In addition, I'm trying to get prints ready to sell at the art fairs in the coming months, but that's going to be tough to do with a printer on the fritz. So now, before any cartridges become contaminated, I'm trying to get together and print out as many of my photos as I can. So far today, I've managed to get 5 photos processed and printed out 2 copies of each. I've got enough paper left on hand to get about 5 or 6 more photos done, so that's what I'm going to try and get done this weekend. here to read more!