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Printer Hardware

What Do You Do When Printers Cost Less Than Ink? 970

An anonymous reader writes "A family member recently asked me to pick up more ink for her Epson Photo RX 595. Unfortunately, replacing the black and color ink cartridges costs $81.92 + tax at the local store! That's so bad that I got a replacement printer that's just as good, and spare ink, for less. But now I have a useless piece of e-waste that I can't even give away. What can you do with a printer like that? I hate to just throw it away."
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What Do You Do When Printers Cost Less Than Ink?

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  • Re:Prevent. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by IndustrialComplex ( 975015 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:25PM (#30316460)

    Ship it back to the manufacturer if you want to make a statement. Corporate HQ is probably the best since they don't have the on site means/processes for disposal.

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:26PM (#30316474) Journal

    Box it up and send it to the manufacturer. It's their business practices that cause this waste. Make them deal with it.

  • Just Throw it away (Score:2, Interesting)

    by keithpreston ( 865880 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:26PM (#30316484)
    Throwing it away is the only way to break this bad pricing model. The printer company will lose the potential revenue stream from ink on that specific printer and might eventually come to its senses and have a good pricing model. In fact doing this a lot of times will help. I must say that I've been tempted when I found a sale in which printer + ink was cheaper then ink alone.
  • Re:Prevent. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:27PM (#30316508) Journal

    If you do end up stuck with a printer, or printers, you might want to see if you are, or if you know, any electronics/robotics hobbyists. Even cheap and ghastly printers contain a reasonable supply of motors(some conventional DC, some steppers) and gears and optointerrupters and other fun little gizmos. The larger and more sophisticated printers can contain pretty impressive quantities of such.

    Arrgh for the love of mod points, that's insightful.

    Next - a series of combat robot competitions where the components must come from discarded printers. Who's game?

  • If I ran my country (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:27PM (#30316526)
    If I ran my country (and I really think I should) it would be illegal to sell a device at a loss in order to gouge on the consumables. In addition, they would be required to accept the return of any hardware they sell for environmentally acceptable disposal, meaning it would need to built into the price. I think some countries may already do this on some products.
  • Re:repurpose, refill (Score:4, Interesting)

    by e2d2 ( 115622 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:29PM (#30316568)

    Yeah my thoughts exactly. If you're a hacker make a fabber or CNC machine from it's parts (and some others of course). If not then donate it to someone that may want to do that. Local robotics clubs are usually filled with hackers that love to make such things. After all it's not too far from a typical robot in it's mechanics and electronics.

  • Recycle It! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by esten ( 1024885 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:31PM (#30316620)
    Best Buy has recycling programs for E-waste. For most items Best Buy's service is free or minimal cost ($10) and you get a $10 Best Buy gift card. I would assume recycling the printer would be free.
  • by Zerth ( 26112 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:33PM (#30316660)

    Either a paper cutter(replace ink with knife), a plotter(ink with pencil), or just steal the motor/belt system as one half/third of a homemade CNC.

  • Re:not a bargain (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CodeBuster ( 516420 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:37PM (#30316740)

    There's no way that a pigment can cost thousands of dollars per liter.

    It doesn't, but the cost to the company is not just the cost of the pigments, it is also the loss leader price for just about every printer they sell; especially true with the consumer grade laser and photo printers. The market has demonstrated, whether through ignorance or otherwise, that they prefer the razor and blades [] model to paying what the individual items actually cost. This could happen even in the absence of any collusion.

  • Kodak has had their printer line on the market for over a year now, they place the print head on the printer itself and forgo all the smart chip garbage causes some rather anti-consumer issues on other brands of printers. Their cartridges are really cheap compared to others, under $25 for a full set of color and black ink. The print quality is great, and the prices while not as cheap as the lower end HP's and Epson's are reasonable, I paid $120 for my all in one last year and have changed cartridges once and it hasn't skipped a beat.

  • Re:I Second this (Score:4, Interesting)

    by AdamThor ( 995520 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:44PM (#30316884)

    Indeed. Laser might have higher upfront cost, but tend to cost a lot less per page.

    Additionally, if you only print occationally Laser is an even better bargain. Ink cartridges will dry out wether you use them or not. Toner lasts much longer. Color lasers are less and less expensive, as well.

    If you only print a few things a year it's easy to think "I'll get a cheap inkjet, I can't justify more." But you'll get very little printing per ink cartridge and this will be a very expensive case.

    That's how I found it before I got my HP Laserjet 2600n anyway. It's been great and only cost me $250.

  • Stop printing (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bl8n8r ( 649187 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:45PM (#30316898)

    seriously, most of the crap i used to print works just fine digitally.
    The camera in my cellphone comes in handy for just about any kind
    of digital reproduction I need. Shift away from the I-need-to-print
    this-just-so-i-can-take-it-with-me to taking a pic of it, or emailing

    The only thing I use my printer for now is printing out coloring
    book pages for the kid.

  • by okmijnuhb ( 575581 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:50PM (#30316980)
    Sometimes you can find after market refill kits, with which you can inexpensively refill your cartridge.

    It's truly sad and disgusting when we have a society based on swindling one another.

    Another peeve of mine; Tropicana juice and Haagen Dazs ice cream, once sold in pints (16 oz) are now 14 oz.

    Caveat Emptor!
  • by bberens ( 965711 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:51PM (#30317014)
    That wouldn't work out for me. I buy the afforementioned "loss leader" printers and then buy cheap third party ink cartridges from places like lasermonks or something. Buying the expensive printer up front would just waste money for me. Of course I don't print much so I'm sure it's worth it to some people to have a nicer printer. My "starter ink" lasts me more than a year.
  • by omnichad ( 1198475 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @05:56PM (#30317104) Homepage

    I'll second this! I bought a Kodak Easyshare 5300 All-in-One on Woot for $35. It came with a bad printhead, but they gladly replaced it. Just last week, I replaced it with a Kodak 5250LE (Wal-Mart Black Friday special). The new one is not as sturdy as the old, but it's working great so far.

    They print the retail price of the cartridges right on the box! No bait and switch there. They use pigment-based inks, and as far as I've seen, all their printers are using the same cartridges. It's practically a revolution in home desktop printing.
    Beware, they aren't all that friendly to networking. The original line of printers had drivers that actually looked for a device on the USB line and refused to print if it wasn't there. The new 5250 scans and prints wirelessly from my Mac, but as far as I know, there's still no Linux driver available.

  • by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:02PM (#30317218)
    Or some people seriously only print a few pages a year. I bought a printer for $60 almost 2 years ago for home, and I'm still on the original ink cartridge. Apart from printing out the odd recipe for my wife, and printing out my tax forms, I find little use for dead tree.
  • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:05PM (#30317264) Journal

    Why should you pay to ship their crappola to them? Make THEM pay for their mistake!

    See if you can't find a bit of mail from that company that's BRE. (Business Reply Envelope) Then, tape the BRE envelope to the box the printer is in so that the BRE account is clearly shown, and take it to the USPS, along with a big sign saying whey you refuse to do business with them taped out the outside.

    There's nothing about a BRE that limits its scope to the envelope - anything you stick it to is shipped to them, paid by the BRE account at the USPS. And since BRE is first class, they'll be paying POSTAGE rates for that mail, not SHIPPING rates. Your average printer might rack up a few hundred in shipping fees.

    AFAIK, it's perfectly legal... (YMMV, IANAL, yatta yatta)

  • by BlackSnake112 ( 912158 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:06PM (#30317280)

    The starter or even the regular ink, once in the printer, the countdown has started. In a year the ink will be 'out' according to the printer software (well HP and Epson anyway I cannot say for others). The printer knows it has 'old' ink and tells you it cannot print. I used a two year old still in the air tight package cartridge, and the printer still said the cartridge was empty. I can feel and see the cartridge is full, but it still would not work.

    Ink jet printers are using the razer blade method of generating profits. The printer is cheap since all the profits are in the ink.

  • 3D printer (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dissy ( 172727 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:06PM (#30317288)

    My suggestion would be convert it into a 3D printer (Known as a fabrication machine)

    Granted, I don't know your skill set so this might not be a valid option, but you have to admit the results are nice!

    Video of a 3d printer made from an old ink jet (Boring to watch straight through, best to watch the first few moments and jump ahead to the end imho): []

    Here is a better video showing the output from a production 3d printer, to give you an idea of what is possible: []

    Finally, some more basic info: [] []

    Google will have more detailed info if you are interested

  • Re:KaBOOM!!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Recovery1 ( 217499 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:06PM (#30317290) Homepage

    Oddly enough that really isn't as satisfying as you would think it would be. I took my old monitors and computers out to 'the pit' on some private farm land I owned. Using a shotgun was a little risky because of the potential of those pellets scattering and bouncing back when hitting metal parts. It's also too limited in range to use from a distance and I would rather not die from something as stupid as destroying old equipment. That left longbarrels like rifles. Those bullets just leave holes and do no further damage (Though one of the CRT tubes imploded when they were hit and took out much of the monitor.)

    I next tried pouring my equipment with gasoline because of its high combustibility and hoped the bullets would collide with metal and create sparks. It doesn't work that well. Those scenes in the movies where the cars always explode after shooting the gas tanks--not as easy to do in reality as you would think. So imagine trying it on old electronics.

    In the end the best two plans are to rig it with explosives or do the good old Office Space scene by taking a baseball bat to the office copier in a field. Not only do you feel more invigorated at letting off some steam at the copier but you will leave feeling much more satisfied. Just be wary of the flyback transformers in these old CRTs. Make sure they have been discharged before you mess with destroying monitors via the Office Space route.

  • by neurovish ( 315867 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:15PM (#30317434)

    Or some people seriously only print a few pages a year. I bought a printer for $60 almost 2 years ago for home, and I'm still on the original ink cartridge. Apart from printing out the odd recipe for my wife, and printing out my tax forms, I find little use for dead tree.

    I went to kinkos and printed out the few pages I needed this year for $1.74

  • by Dutchy Wutchy ( 547108 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:16PM (#30317464)

    Unfortunately, replacing the black and color ink cartridges costs $81.92 + tax at the local store! That so bad that I got a replacement printer that's just as good and spare ink for less.

    Many other people brought this up, but if you read the OP you should notice that they did get replacement cartridges in addition to a printer. Assuming old-printer-replacement cartridge and new-printer-replacement cartridge can print the same amount, then they were clearly taking the less expensive route.

    Why failures at reading comprehension are awarded Informative and Insightful is beyond me...

  • by JDeane ( 1402533 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:19PM (#30317520) Journal

    Totally agree with this, I buy a Lexmark or what ever I can get thats the cheapest for printing and when the ink runs out I find some one who wants a year old printer for free (people buy a new ink cartridge and get a practically new printer for what ever it costs to buy some ink)

    I get a new printer and usually some paper and other goodies out of the deal.

    I just cant stand paying the same amount of money for ink as a new machine when I know the ink will dry up or "expire" in the same amount of time anyway.

    If I printed more I would be all for buying ink since I could probably get more out of my money that way.

    I do feel bad about the E waste but thats a problem that needs to be tackled at the manufacturers of Ink and Printers, I cannot honestly believe the price they charge for ink... It should be cheaper to fill the damned things then it is to buy a new one.

  • by Chirs ( 87576 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @06:37PM (#30317802)

    I dunno...a BRE for a printer company attached to the original printer box from that company might not qualify as "junk".

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:11PM (#30318266)

    There's not much justification for a photo-quality printer, but there is for having a color printer. Maps, diagrams, and even lecture notes are often much more readable with color printing. Online printing and store printing can't really replace having a color version in 30 seconds or less.

  • by LionMage ( 318500 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:34PM (#30318534) Homepage

    Let's concede that the head-on-cartridge design is to be praised, even if it increases the cost of the cartridges.

    Head-on-cartridge was one of the reasons I ultimately ditched Epson for HP. The HP carts at the time had the print head built into the cartridge, so if I ran into problems, I simply bought a new print cartridge and life was good.

    Epsons have the print head built captively into the carriage, which makes cleaning the print head all but impossible unless you work for Epson.

    I eventually switched away from HP after I ran into a problem with my HP color printer of many years. It seems that even keeping the print head on the cartridge doesn't eliminate all problems. I thought my HP had some kind of print head clog from me not printing in color for a while, but that wasn't it. Turns out it was a logic problem in the printer.

    My solution was to buy a Canon. Canon keeps the print head separate from the ink tanks, and each ink color is in its own tank. I purchased one of the 6-color photo printers which had special photo-cyan and photo-magenta colors in addition to the usual CMYK. What sets Canon apart from Epson, though, is that the print head can be removed from the unit and replaced without any special tools. You install the print head when you unbox the unit and set it up, and only ever remove it if there's a problem -- the only downside to this is, by the time you need to replace the print head, it might be impossible to find.

    So in conclusion, I would say that head-on-cartridge is good (especially for low volume printing where quality isn't paramount), but having a user replaceable print head is the best possible solution.

  • Re:Go Paperless. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by reason ( 39714 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @07:48PM (#30318714)

    Almost, yes. I've started "printing" meeting agendas and the like to my Kindle recently, and keeping maps and flight itineraries on my iphone, so there is much less that I need to print.

  • by Corporate Troll ( 537873 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @08:58PM (#30319426) Homepage Journal

    Inkjet was and always will be a half-assed home solution

    No. That is untrue. As much as I am a Laser fan these day, I do remember the initial Deskjet days. We had a HP Deskjet 500 and it lasted years and years and years and years. In those days, HP built printers like tanks. They were pricy too. I think we bought ours for about 400€ back then.

    I also own a HP Desktjet 320, which is essentially a HP Deskjet 500C in portable form. While studying I was on the road often and that was useful. When I graduated in 1998, I put it to retirement. About a year ago a friend of my sisters was cash strapped and needed a computer with printer. I put a dumpster-diven machine for her in order and gave her the 320. I bothered to buy new cartridges. (Hard to find) I assumed the one in it would be dried out. When I configured the printer, I let it do the printing with the original cartridge in it and the printing was perfect. Yes, that cartridge was working perfectly after 10 years.

    However, both the HP Deskjet 500 and the HP Deskjet 320 were built before inkjets became disposable items.

  • Re:I Second this (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:10PM (#30319510)

    Also, I don't get why people insist on Lexmark/Dell machines. Messy as hell, problematic, badly fitting peripherals and pain in the ass maintenance.

    You might also add that Lexmark are the fuckers who "encrypted" the code on their toner control chips, just so they could use the DMCA hammer on third party refillers who managed to find a way to reset the chips so a refill would work.

    Many years back, I was in a group which was to decide on the next standard laser printer for our company. After extensive testing, including timing, font and kerning comparisons, ppm rates, etc, we chose Lexmark. Of the three brands we evaluated, Kyocera was too cheap to license truetype fonts and instead substituted Agfa fonts, which looked like crap and got resolved poorly on non Kyocera pinters. The HPLJ 4 and the equivalent Lexmark were too close to choose between, so, instead of flipping a coin, we decided to recommend the Lexmark because it was made in the US.

    They turned out to be excellent printers, but, after the DMCA fucking around, I wouldn't have one in the house.

    Same as, after the rootkit shit, I won't touch a Sony product. Business ethics mean more to me than either quality or price.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:36PM (#30319702)

    Just don't leave that dye-sub print in the sun.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:40PM (#30319738)

    I've been using continuous ink for 2 years now - bought my hp c6180 pre-modded in Seoul, where I live. Prior to this I was spending about $350 a year on ink. In the last 2 years I've spent $10 because the 100ml refill bottles only cost $5 each. In about 2 months I'll need to buy another bottle - magenta this time.

    So what if using this voided my warrantee. If my printer breaks, I'll buy a new one and use the same continuous ink system and it will pay for itself the first time I need refill ink.

  • by V!NCENT ( 1105021 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @09:46PM (#30319792)

    Except for one tiny problem: laser jets are as harmfull to ones health as somebody who lites a sigarette in your room. I don't know what it's called... fine dust?

  • Re: castoffs (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:18PM (#30320040) Journal
    With the right skills, that'd probably be quite doable. A standard printer, by its nature, is capable of precise control of several motors, with input from several sensors, based on input from a buss of some sort that is easily connected to common computer hardware. With newer HPs(the ones whose guts I'm most familiar with) the printer even tends to be built around one or more ARM SOICs running VXworks. I'd assume that other manufacturers aren't fundamentally different, though their SOIC and OS choices may differ.

    Unless they've really locked down the board(disabled JTAG, goofy firmware encryption tricks, etc.) you could probably just reprogram the existing board, and use it as an interface between the computer and the bag of motors and sensors. This would be particularly cute, of course, now that wired and wireless network printers have really come down in price.

    If your l33t skills don't extend to reprogramming undocumented embedded systems, there is still the nice collection of motors and sensors(and possibly some drive circuits that can be chopped off more or less intact) ready to be connected to an arduino or something.
  • Re:I Second this (Score:4, Interesting)

    by virtualXTC ( 609488 ) on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:42PM (#30320194) Homepage
    Have you seen a newer model Brother?
    They've come along way in the past couple years.... and are far more network compatible than the HPs I've tried. In the office we have 2 Brother printers and both work so flawlessly for scanning and printing with our mixed (Linux, Mac, Winblows) computing environment I'm considering one for home. Ironically, I stumbled on these printers accidentally after returning an incompatible multifunction HP, then a Dell, then a Samsung, even more suprising, the brother cost least of all of them!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @10:50PM (#30320234)

    I have a Continuous Ink System (paid $50 on eBay) for my Epson RX-595 - I use it primarily to print on DVDs, I have printed hundreds (thousands? maybe) of DVDs and I still haven't needed a refill ($25 for a complete refill set). Most of the time it prints very nice... however, the system does have it's quirks. Sometimes, I need to do nozzle checks (if I haven't printed for a week or two) or sometimes the printer flitzes out and requires me to 'pop' and re-set the feeder carts back into it.

    I did deal with the tubes coming loose - but superglue on the clip fixed that. A couple of foam ring spacers from DVD cake box packaging protects the tubing where it exits from the printer.

    Overall, I've been very satisfied, and probably have saved buying 8 or 9 sets of cartridges so far.

    If you are paying full retail for manufacturer's ink cartridges, you are doing it wrong.

  • Re:Prevent. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday December 03, 2009 @11:26PM (#30320472)

    Hah, like hell I'm going to the effort of taking my toner cartridge down to the UPS shop only so HP can simply refill and resell it.

    If you're not giving me something in return for my effort, I'm not going to expend that effort. I happily toss my toner cartridges in the Dumpster.

    I know that wasn't the point of your post (the point was to abuse HP!), but the toner send-back thing really annoys me. I get jack out of it, it takes my time & money (gas), and they get free (empty) toner cartridges.

  • Re:not a bargain (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajlisows ( 768780 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @01:58AM (#30321270)

    The problem I have with the printers that have separate print heads is that the print head gets clogged you pretty much have to buy a new printer as the replacement heads will be about 70-90% of the cost of the entire printer. Usually if the printer sits for a month the heads are going to clog.

    At a company I worked for, we bought a good number of fairly expensive Epson printers (one of the techs there was a "Certified Epson Tech" so he made a big push to get them). Within 18 months about half of them were dead. I had a similar experience with some higher priced Canon inkjets as well. Of course, this was 5 years ago or so. Things may have changed.

  • by rolfwind ( 528248 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @02:14AM (#30321336)

    Um, no- dye sub (wax) printers produce unbelievably fragile prints. You can scrape the wax right off the page with your fingernail, it creases easily, etc. Also, since it's a dye, and not a pigment, it fades within months.

    They also suck up enormous amounts of energy and take a good 5-10 minutes (or longer) to warm up because it has to melt (and keep melted) all the damn wax and internal printer bits. Even with fairly sophisticated energy saving functions, the damn things still eat you out of house and home, and the melted wax has a smell that permeates the room. If you want to move the printer, you have to trigger a special cool-down mode and wait a good 30 minutes so that you don't spill wax inside the machine...

    What are you talking about? I have none of those issues. Pictures from 5 years ago, not faded. It registers less than 1-3 watts in stand-by (but I unplug it anyway). When I start it up cold as in not plugged in, I could print in less than 30 seconds - now, I have no clue whether this is just waiting for the OS of the machine to start and selecting my picture or there is really some warm-up time. There is no wax coming off the page with a finger nail, I just scratched a picture - nothing, it is clear coated. There is no transit time, the little guy even has a handle to be portable! I never ever smelt wax from the thing.

    You must be either talking about ancient machines or big ones which I'm unfamiliar with.

    Mine is a previous generation of this Sony (otherwise mostly same): []

    For 8x10 prints, there's Hi-Touch, which from their 4x6 printers I tried, were similiar to my experience on my Sony.

  • Dye-subs (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Michael Meissner ( 520083 ) on Friday December 04, 2009 @08:53AM (#30322682)
    The problems with dye-subs is the print will last maybe 10 years (according to Wilhelm). That's great for a picture that you will hang on your refrigerator for a while and then be replaced, but not as good for something that will last longer. Another problem is because the ink and paper come as a kit, you don't have much choice as to the paper, and likely there will be no clone versions of the ink/paper combinations, and when the manufacturer stops making it, you need to replace the printer. Dye-subs are great for things like photo setups at festivals, where you want something that can do print after print for fixed costs all day long, and the photo is immediately protected against the elements.

e-credibility: the non-guaranteeable likelihood that the electronic data you're seeing is genuine rather than somebody's made-up crap. - Karl Lehenbauer