Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Print quality problems on Epson Pro printers

Today's topic is troubleshooting print quality problems with Epson Pro series printers.

In particular, we will focus on these Epson models:

Epson Pro 7700
Epson Pro 7890
Epson Pro 7900
Epson Pro 9700
Epson Pro 9890
Epson Pro 9900
Epson Pro 11880

We get a few calls every month with a variety of issues relating to print quality.  Today we're going to focus on what a bad print head typically appears like, and the process of diagnostics.

When attempting to diagnose what is causing print quality problems on these printers, there are really only three parts / assemblies that will lead to problems.  The print head, the pump/cap cleaning assembly, or the valve/damper assembly. 

If your printer has been sitting a while without use, this guide may not be the correct route, as the printer as it sits can develop a clogged print head, or a clogged valve/damper assembly which will require a much more thorough diagnostic.

However, if your reading this and have recently developed problems with one, or multiple colors not printing correctly when you do a nozzle check, keep reading!

First, you should always run a nozzle check before doing anything major.  Below is a image of a good nozzle check from one of the above models.  In particular, you want to ensure all the colors are present, and all have a good full pattern.
Good Nozzle Check
As you can see above, this is from an Epson 7900/9900.  While this unit uses 11 inks, only 10 print at any one time.  All 10 colors are present, and we do not see any large gaps in the print.

The nozzle check below though, is from another 7900/9900, and there are large gaps in multiple colors.
Bad Nozzle Check
In the above sample, 7 of the 10 colors are fine, but the yellow, photo/matte black, and the green colors all have multiple missing rows.  The sample above is of a fairly bad print head.  In many cases, this problem will only be present in one color, not 3 like the sample above.

If you look closely at either of the above images, focusing on just one (any) of the colors, you see almost a stair step pattern.  Each of those 'steps' represent a hole on the bottom of the print head that shoots ink onto the paper.  Each color has 360 nozzles - 12 across in each row, and 30 rows.

Whenever you see multiple missing rows, this is almost always a bad print head.  However to help diagnose the problem, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1) If you are missing individual segments (nozzles) in the pattern instead of one or multiple rows, then you might have a problems with the cleaning unit. The cleaning method on these printers is fairly simple.  A small suction cup lifts to the bottom of the print head and sucks ink through the print head to clean it.  The unit then has a wiper blade that wipes any gunk from the bottom plate of the print head.  This cleaning unit has multiple pieces of rubber tubing, which with age can develop cracks.  Think of drinking a soda or a shake with a cracked straw.  You end up getting air instead of whatever you are trying to drink.  The same principle applies to the cleaning unit.  If the tubing has a leak, the unit will not create the suction necessary to clear / clean the print head correctly.

2) If the missing segments move around on the nozzle check, it likely is not a bad print head.  In our experience, if you have a bad print head, you will never get any print from the missing rows ever.  If you are able to get print quality back by doing enough cleaning cycles, but the problem eventually re-occurs, you are likely looking at the cleaning unit, or the valve/damper assembly causing the problems.

In most cases, the approach we take when attempting to troubleshoot this problems is fairly straight forward:

1) Open the unit to physically examine the cleaning unit.  Some bad cleaning units will spill/leak ink from that part.  Once you open the unit, and if there is a puddle of spilled ink under the cleaning assembly, there is almost guaranteed to be a cracked piece of tubing on that part.

2) Remove the cleaning unit to expose the back of the print head.

3) Gently (very gently) clean the nozzle plate of the print head.  We do this to introduce small quality problems intentionally.  This is so that when you reinstall the cleaning unit, and run a cleaning, you can verify that the cleaning unit is doing its job, and cleaning all the other colors correctly.

4) Reassemble the unit, run a nozzle check before you do any cleanings (you should have a few missing segments in a couple colors).  Run the cleaning cycles, run another nozzle check, and see if those small problems clear up or remain.

If the small quality problems clear up, that verifies that the pump/cap is working correctly.  If the small quality problems persist, then you likely have a bad cleaning unit.

In some cases, you can have both parts bad (a print head and a cleaning assembly).  I recently worked on an Epson 11880, with missing nozzles in the yellow color.  I knew it was a print head from looking at the samples, so I arrived at the customers location and replaced the print head.  When doing the initial cleaning of the new print head, I had quite a lot of problems getting any of the colors to print correctly.  I then sat and ran cleanings on the color pairs (cleaning 2 colors at a time instead of all the colors).  I was able to clear all the colors with the exception of the light black, and the light light black colors.  I was able to then determine there was a problem with the tubing on that portion of the cleaning assembly, in addition to the bad print head causing the problems with yellow.

As a side note, the Epson 11880 seems to have more bad cleaning units then most of the other models listed above, but you can never rule out a couple parts causing the problems.  I always advise my customers on the 11880 models that the cleaning unit is troublesome and they might consider replacing both parts at the same time to ensure operation.

A last note, depending on the model, these print heads are fairly expensive.  As of writing this post, the print heads range in cost of between $1300 and $2000.  That is for the part only.  In most cases, we can replace a print head with two to three hours of labor.

If you are having this type of problem, and you are in the Phoenix area, give us a call at our store and we can advise / schedule a service call to get the problem resolved.

I hope you enjoyed this quick troubleshooting guide, and feel free to leave any feedback!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Epson Pro 3800 & 3880 leaving drops of black ink on paper.

Hello all!

It's been a while since I have updated the blog, and will try to add some useful information on a more regular basis!

Today I wanted to explain a common problem that I am seeing come into the store with the Epson Pro 3800 & 3880 printers.  We have seen a increase in the numbers of this printer coming in with black drops of ink on the paper, most of the time on the left side as the paper is exiting the printer.

This problem will also cause a few other symptoms that you might be encountering, including:

  • Drops of black ink dropping onto the paper during print operations, these usually are not small drops, but large black drops of ink.
  • The yellow color will sometimes not appear yellow anymore, it is instead darker then usual, and sometimes almost a grey shade.  This is caused by the leaking black ink which is located right next to the yellow color on the bottom of the printhead, and the yellow ink is getting tainted with the black ink during prints.
  • Eventually the Photo black ink will stop printing completely.  You may be able to print with the Matte black ink, but when in Photo black mode and you do a nozzle check, a very small section if any at all will appear on the page.
All of these problems are caused by a faulty part inside the unit.  The real verification (for those that have had the problem long enough) is to open the ink bay on top of the unit, where you install your ink cartridges.  Remove the Photo black ink and give it a shake.  In most cases that ink cartridge is empty.  The black ink has slowly leaked from the bottom of the printhead, and only stops when the Photo black ink cartridge is empty.  Of course if you reinstall the ink cartridge, and check the amount of ink the printer says is left in the cartridge, it will say there is ink still there.  The printer doesn't realize that the ink has leaked out of the cartridge.  Replacing the ink cartridge will only allow the new Photo black ink to leak out, until that new cartridge is also empty.

The Ink System Assembly needs to be replaced to resolve this issue.  You can contact us at the store for more information, and a quote on service prices.

I love the Epson Pro 3800 & 3880, but we have seen enough of these printers with similar problems to know that sometime during the life of the unit, you will typically encounter this problem.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

HP M1522nf Multifunction, and the 49 error.

Today we encountered a HP M1522nf Multifunction printer, scanner, copier which was experiencing a 49 error during its power up.

The unit would start up fine, finish its initialization procedure, and about 5 seconds later would issue a 49 error, power off and on, and then reset itself and start the whole thing over again.

I was a bit perplexed on this issue. When referencing the service manual for the printer, it only referred to powering the unit off for 30 seconds, and then powering it back on to see if that would clear the error.

Of course it didn't.

For the follow up, it suggested calling HP service. Usually the service manuals will give you an indication for what parts to swap in an attempt to diagnose the unit. Thinking the formatter was the most likely culprit, I called HP, and they did verify that the problem was most likely the formatter.

However, while on the phone with a HP technician, I noticed that the top bezel that covers the buttons (the bezels are replaceable for the different languages) was not sitting correctly in place. I removed and re-seated the bezel, and the unit is working fine.

It seems the bezel was pushing some of the buttons on the front panel during power up, causing the unit to perform a reset every time it powered up, and then it continued to attempt to reset the unit during its POST procedures.

Hope this can help someone out there. Not the usual repair, but it does make for happy customers, when you can repair a unit in a hour and return it to the customer!

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Unable to install SQL Service Pack with various versions of ACT installed.

I need to give credit were credit is due. We had at the store in for service a unit that would give very strange error messages when it would go to install a service pack for SQL server from windows update.

Most customers don’t know, and don’t want to know what SQL server is, or does, but for the rest of us, these types of problems can cause extreme hair loss!

The root of this problem is basically this: ACT locks up the SQL database engine to make sure any important information that you put into the system, can’t be accessed against your wishes. In their efforts to lock down the system to ensure your data’s safety, they also managed to lock out Microsoft’s official patches. They took out the method of installing these patches, which then causes the patch to fail. Not a very easy problem to figure out, and not so simple of a solution. I will say though, without the following link, I wouldn’t have been able to solve this problem. ACT doesn’t acknowledge the problem on their online knowledge base, and the only information I found was on a blog.

Thank heavens for blogs!!

Link: http://www.sqlserverfaq.net/2008/07/15/unable-to-install-security-patch-948109-to-sql-server-2005-express-edition-which-is-installed-along-with-act7-software/

Much kudos’ to SQLServerFAQ.net, and the information that they provided.

Side note: Some of the instructions are a little difficult to follow, and once during my attempts it gave me a strange response. If this happens to you, I suggest you start over again from the beginning. That worked for me!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

HP Pavillion ZD7000

We've had a customer drop off a HP Pavilion ZD7000 series laptop for repair. Symptoms include no backlight on the display, and corrupted video on the external and internal display both. Strange ansi type characters, etc.

It seems that this is a known issue on this series of laptop computer. In addition, even if the unit is out of warranty, HP will extend the warranty for this issue. We have contacted HP and arrange to ship the unit back to them for warranty repair. Since this unit is a Pavilion or Presario, the unit must go back to a central repair facility for this repair. If this had been a business series laptop, we could have repaired it here at the store. One more reason to look at the bit more expensive, but better service NC and NX series of laptops from HP/Compaq.

For those of you with the same model, and same problems, contact HP technical support directly, explain the situation, and keep after the technician until he finds the article on their knowledge base. My notes indicate that the ZD7000, ZD7200, ZD7300, NX9500, ZD7900, ZD7100 all have the same known issue. We can also facilitate this repair for you, but there will be a charge for the time needed for phone calls, packaging the unit, and testing the unit when it returns.

Epson Photo 2200 Printer Problems

At the store is a Epson Photo 2200 series printers, with a print quality problem. It isn't your typical cleaning/clog problem, and wanted to mention the issue here, and the resolution.

It seems that sometimes on the Photo 2200, the pump assembly while operating, doesn't do its job. The symptoms appear to be clogged nozzles, or colors that 'come and go.' After flushing and checking the colors that appear not to print, the technicians realized that the nozzles were clear, and it wasn't a clog or electrical problem causing the failure. After removing and examining the pump, it appears that the part would only work part time. In some cases you can rotate and operate the pump, but it wasn't really pumping anything. The resolution for this case is to replace the pump assembly. It is not a difficult repair, but in many cases, you would also want to clean your printer professionally, as this usually only happens after extended use of the printers, and as such, the printer could use a good cleaning and adjustment to ensure it continues to operate for a while longer.

Parts can be purchased from our store if you would like to repair this yourself, please contact a technician and they can help you determine which part you need.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Strange WinME Startup Program Issue

We're scratching our heads a bit at this particular problem, wondering if anyone out there has any experience with this particular issue.

It seems that on boot, on a older Windows ME installation, not all of the startup programs will run. In particular Norton Internet Security will just sometimes not start. No systray icon, nothing... If you start the Norton program, you will find that the firewall and antivirus auto-protect features are disabled. You can enable them, and work normally, but it takes you launching the application and telling the firewall/anti-virus to 'turn on.' There are no error messages during boot. My thoughts, ditch the ME since we all know that wasn't Microsoft's best day, but the customer dearly loves his system, so that's out!

Still working on this problem, so we'll update the article when we have a solution!

UPDATE: We were able to finally resolve this particular problem. In the end, it took completely uninstalling the product, including live update, and all other Symantec programs. Once the visible items in add/remove programs were removed, the technicians searched the directory structure and removed items such as the Symantec Shared directories,etc; the left over Norton folders in the Program Files directory, and cleared all user and system temp folders. Once this had been done, the program was reinstalled, and ran on startup, enabled, without any problems. We are elated that this problem was resolved, as the only other option was to reformat and start over from the beginning, which is a headache even for the seasoned users!