Continuous Ink Project


This ancient by internet standards, circa 2002, but its a great read.  [Eddie], frustrated by the high cost of ink cartridges set out to build a continuous inking system. This would mean that the cartridges would be filled from larger, cheaper reservoirs of ink continually. Along the way he transitioned from simple tubes with some putty to more complicated systems. Eventually he had to hack the chips that told the printers the cartridge was in need of replacement.  While the systems he’s using may be difficult to find now, the execution should work on other models. Completely unrelated to the project itself, is that [Billy Mays] as the site favicon? We suspect it is [Eddie] himself.

[via hacknmod]

32 thoughts on “Continuous Ink Project

  1. I thought one of the reasons for replaceable cartridges was that the printheads wore out (or got gummed up or something)…for this reason, i’m not sure how well this would work with modern low cost printers.

    1. inkjets boil ink with a resistor under a small orifice, producing a droplet that falls onto the paper. the resistors in a properly made printhead are unlikely to fail unless the ink selected causes ‘gunk’ to build up around or on the orifice. select tge right ink, and they’ll be fine for a very long time.

  2. @tashwold
    Epson printers do not have the print head in the cartridge like HP cartridges. So this is not an issue. Also epson printers print heads last pretty much the life of the printer.

  3. No, you don’t need to replace a thermal printhead that frequently. Yes, they do wear out, but not as quickly as you may think.

    I worked for years with Encad printers which used the Lexmark printheads, we regularly ran 2-3 liters of ink through a printhead before it needed replacing. Contrast that with the 35 milliliters they ship with and you can see that you can go through a lot of printheads.

    When we switched to HP we also regularly ran 2-3 liters of ink before degradation began to set in.

    The best thing for cleaning a dirty printhead I ever used was Simple Green. That stuff is simply amazing. Squirt a bit onto a paper towel and gently blot to remove dried on crud.

  4. The quickest way to kill an Epson print head is – IME – to let the cartridge run dry.

    I ‘resurrected’ a C86, added an “ink bag” modification to replace the rather full waste ink pad, and refilled the carts, only to blow the magenta head when the tank ran dry half-way through.

    That was seriously annoying. I tried all sorts of things from dunking it in hot water, to the same with isopropyl alcohol, 50/50 alcohol/water, running printhead cleaner (the FixYourOwnPrinter “epson printhead cleaner” which fixed it the first time) through it, and finally pumping low-pressure air through it (which killed the head completely).

    I eventually scrapped the C86 for parts. Got a fairly nice stepper motor out of it…

  5. I don’t know how well people are aware of this outside of southeast asia, but this hack is commonplace here, on all printer models- and by this I mean, there are shops that specialize in selling, adding, fixing, or upgrading cheap printers with cheap ink reservoirs that look very similar to this. I think the going price on a canon mp140 with an external ink tank is somewhere around 70-100 bucks USD

  6. >Very cool. So is this guy the pioneer for modern systems?

    No I didn’t pioneer this.
    CIS existed in 2002 but they were extremely expensive. At today’s prices I would not have gone to the trouble of making my own.

  7. @LukeS

    Epson print heads last only until your warranty runs out, then it is time to get a new printer as the printhead costs more than the printer itself. At least it is my story with 3 Epson printers. After the 3rd one I switched to Canon and lovin’ it.

  8. Look on eBay. You can buy full kits to do this for 50 bucks including the ink. Unless you like having multi colored fingers, I would stay away from the muck and hastle of even doing this. Good hack for the time though as these systems were not available at the time.

  9. @tashwold
    Like many of the people already said, it depends on the printer. Some have the print head build into the cartridge (HP I believe does this), and some in the printer. The main reason why ink is so expensive is because that is how the companies make money. They sell the printers at a loss–a loss leader, just like most console developers. They make the money back from the ink cartridges, which explains why they are usually against cheap cartridge replacements and CIS systems, just like how the console companies are against games piracy.

  10. im glad to see a pro like eddie getting some attention here, he has some inspireing ideas on his site’s, i modded an old epson c40 with a continus ink flow after seeing his work, and it worked great for years untill i forgot to refill the black bottle and ran dry, it never worked right after that:(

    he wrote a great fiction book to, i recommend for a read

  11. With canon’s non “throw-away” printers, the print head is removable and the same exact head thats in their $15k ‘plotters.’

    I own two i850’s, and my dad has a i950, and we’ve never, ever once had a single problem with them. We’ve gone through a ton of HP’s and Epson’s that die or crap through expensive ink all the time.

    I also own a HP LaserJet IIId thats still kicking, and a HP 1200C or whatever for wide format printing, and a HP Pen Plotter that i’ve been meaning to hack, though it still works beautifully, being 23 years old.

  12. I have had one of these on my canon pixma mp830 for the past year.

    I paid $50 for the kit, installed in then 11 months later paid $20 (shipping included) for a refill.

    I love my CISS!

  13. As others have posted here, this is very common here in Asia. You can get a printer outfitted with big ink silos stuck to the outside case. The ink reaches the cartridge via tubes. I’m surprised you haven’t seen this in the U.S. Oh – right, trial lawyers in the U.S. will get you…

  14. Niiice, show those greedy printer companies* who is boss. (*I mean ink companies that give away free printers.)

    For pity’s sake this should be a $50 option to any printer above entry-level (all ~$80 and up printers).

    I especially like how he hacked into the stupid chip. Very nice.

  15. lukes:

    The ink-level-sensing chip, iirc, doesn’t actually sense the ink level. They just have a counter that keeps track of how much ink has been “requested” from the print head. The chip typically runs out before the ink’s totally gone. If you’re not very cynical, you could say that this is because of a combination of uncertainty in their measurement method and the desire to maintain uniform quality as long as the cartridge is viable. On the other hand, new cartridges cost $35…

  16. So I *was* going to say that this would be great for the old Canon we had, but then I remembered that like 2 months after the warranty was up the feeder went and we had to give it one sheet at a time (or else it’d suck up the whole stack of pages at once). That was the final straw that drove us to lasers, and we never looked back. With color lasers below 200 bucks (though I grant you you’ll spend another 200 on toner after you blow through the “starter” cartridges in a month), it’s just a better idea in the long run.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.