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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Disaster - Epilogue (Part 2)

Part 1 of this post about my experience with Canon and my ImagePrograf 2000 printer can be found here. At this point I will simply carry on with the story.

After two boxes of printer parts had been confirmed as having arrived at my home, the repair appointment was scheduled. When the repairman opened up the machine he found something very unusual and unexpected. We had thought that the ink was being 'sucked' out of the cartridge and being deposited in the maintenance tank (the tank where excess and discard ink from cleanings etc goes). But there it was. The ink. All pooled INSIDE THE PRINTER and contained within a portion of the machine's 'innards'. it wasn't in the maintanance tank at all.

Before explaining what happened, I need to explain a bit about how the printer works (at least this is the way it was explained to me). Each ink color has it's own sub-reservoir. A volume of ink is drawn into the sub-reservoir from the main ink cartridge and, when you print, the ink going to the print head is drawn from the sub-reservoir tank and when that tank reaches a certain level it draws more ink from the main cartridge. The printer is engineered this way so that when the chip on the main cartridge reads 'empty' things don't come to a grinding halt. There is enough ink left in the sub-reservoir to finish the print job and even to continue with some printing until you can get a fresh ink cartridge of that color. Only when the sub-reservoir is near empty do things come to a grinding halt.

Apparently my printer developed a leak in the sub-reservoir tank (I presume around either the intake valve drawing ink into the reservoir or around the exit valve that feeds the ink down the tubes to the print head). All the ink leaked around this valve into the bottom of the part that holds half the sub-reservoir tanks (there are two groupings of six inks, each of the six with a sub-reservoir tank). Once this was figured out, the repairman knew what parts of the printer needed to be replaced. Of course, nobody anticipated this as the problem and the parts had to be ordered. And there were a lot of parts that would need to go into this 'hemi-transplant'!

Several days later I received three more large boxes of printer parts delivered to my home and another repair was scheduled. This time a huge 'hunk' of printer was replaced, including the sub-reservoir tanks on the side that serviced magenta ink.

So two questions remain: 1) how did this happen and 2) did the fix work?

How did this happen? Nobody seems to know the answer to this question! The repairman and the slew of engineers he spoke with say that they have never seen this happen before, though this model printer is relatively new. In fact, they wanted the parts that were removed as defective to be shipped to them so that they could examine them and perhaps get some type of idea regarding if this was a 'freak' one-time occurrence or if there was a potential manufacturing and/or design problem. 

Did the fix work? I am glad to say that thus far it does appear to have eliminated the problem. Before the fix my large magenta cartridge would be empty within 48 hours of inserting it into the printer. The printer has been 'post-op' for 5-6 days so far and the magenta ink level on the software monitor seems stable. Although nothing was done to the print head, I do notice that on my test prints there is a slight color shift in the highlights, where the yellows are slightly more magenta. I can tell this by comparison to some old test prints I had kept. But I suspect that this color shift (which is very mild) will likely be resolved by recalibrating the printer and making new color profiles.

So far so good.....it looks like I have my printer back. Not, however, a fun ordeal! And now we will see how easy or difficult it is to get Visa to pay for it using the extended warranty benefit.

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Disaster - Epilogue (Part 1)

Back in May I had written a long post about the apparent demise of my Canon ImagePrograf 2000 printer. For full details, those that are interested can revisit that post. Suffice it to say that I switched over to Canon because of multiple head failures on my Epson 7900 (a well known defect that Epson has never owned up to - just Google Epson 7900 print head failure), with the Canon having a user replaceable print head. While I found the prints from the Canon to be every bit as good as the ones that rolled off my Epson, the printer developed a 'terminal' problem just when it was out of warranty.

The printer seemed to empty my magenta ink cartridges in 24-48 hours instead of the almost a year that the ink cart should last. Nobody at tech support could figure out what was going on and I wasted several hundred dollars in magenta ink. Because the printer was out of warranty, Canon wanted $1500 to come fix it without providing much in the way of a warranty for their work and without knowing what the problem was. When I complained about the price, they said I should call my local Canon Worldwide authorized repair service and maybe they could determine what the problem was when they came and examined the machine. They were going to charge me $1500 because they didn't know what the problem was but, if the problem was identified then perhaps it could be fixed for significantly less. I did what Canon suggested, and while the local repairmen weren't sure what the problem was for sure, they thought they might be able to fix it with a $30 part and a $180 visit to install the part. But, of course, there no guarantees. Nonetheless, I took the gamble. But two days after their 'repair' (replacement of the print head service module) the machine 'gobbled up' another $175 magenta ink cart. The printer was far from fixed.

Enter my 26 year old son......

"Hey dad, too bad you didn't use one of those fancy credit cards to buy the machine. You know, the ones that extend the manufacturer's warranty"

Turns out I raised a genius :)  It just so happens that the credit cards that offer that benefit don't have to be all that fancy. And when I checked, I had 'unwittingly' purchased the machine on just such a Visa card! After submitting the appropriate paper work, and after a few delays and missed deadlines on their part, followed by my making several phone calls they agreed that this fit into the manufacturers warranty extension benefit and that they would cover the cost as long as I got it repaired within 6 months. 

So I made a call back to Canon to get the $1500 repair deal. Except now the cost 'would have been' $1000.....would have been because Canon claimed that since I already had 'someone else' work on the machine they could no longer get involved with the repair.

WTF? I follow their instructions, call who THEY suggested, get the machine worked on by an authorized Canon Worldwide dealer who charges me over $200 and still doesn't get the machine functional, and have now poured several hundred dollars worth of magenta ink into the printer and now Canon can no longer work on it because 'someone else' initiated a repair???? I asked to speak to the tech support supervisor. He couldn't help me but said he would bump it up to a customer service supervisor. That supervisor said they couldn't help me but said they would bump it up to another supervisor. Finally, after pushing through three supervisors they agreed to repair the machine for $1000 paid up front (which I planned to submit to Visa once all was said and done). The repair was finally scheduled.

The first step was to speak with a very interested and supportive repair person who, like the others, said they had never ever heard of this happening but that he was going to call some engineers to get some ideas. He called back and said that two boxes of parts would be arriving at my home before he was scheduled to have a look at the printer.

Want to know what the problem was and how/if it got fixed? Tune into the next post for the answers. After all, one post can only go on for so long :)!

Problems With My Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Large Format Printer

RANT WARNING:

Just under two years ago, after going through three print heads in about four years on my two Epson 7900 large format (24 inch) printers, I said that I had had it with Epson and their quite clearly faulty 7900 print head design (there were hundreds, if not thousands, who were having similar print head problems and at that time there was even a class action suit brewing). So I purchased a Canon ImagePrograf 2000 24 inch printer. The Canon has a print head that is easily replaceable by the user, and with the print head being the part most likely to develop problems (and also among the most expensive of parts), I thought that even if the print head went bad it would be easy to swap out (albeit at $650 a pop). I was looking forward to years of printing with the new machine.

I do need to say that the print quality, both color and black and white, with the ImagePrograf 2000 is fantastic. Every bit as good as the Epson (to my eye anyway) and I have no complaints about the quality of the output. Early on (while still under warranty) the print head did develop a clog that would simply not resolve in the yellow channel (part of the nozzle check pattern was fine, but part refused to print no matter how much I cleaned the head). I use the printer essentially daily, so remaining idle was not the problem (these big printers are meant to be used and if the ink stops flowing for a week or two it is very easy to develop clogs). Canon cheerfully sent me a brand new print head which I was able to easily pop into place.....problem resolved and to this date has not come back.

Unfortunately however, a new and seemingly 'terminal' problem has developed. All of a sudden, completely out of the blue, the magenta ink cart registered as empty. I changed the cart ($173 a pop for a 300 ml cartridge!) thinking I probably had simply missed the 'empty soon' warning. It registered as a full cart until the next day, when it suddenly went from being read as full to empty in a split second. That's 300ml of magenta ink that usually lasts me at least 6 months!

Canon tech support was very willing to spend a good deal of time with me on the phone, I will give them that....which is more than I can say about Epson support once your machine is out of warranty. They had me print out an error log from the printer, photograph it using my cell phone and send it to them.....there were no errors noted by the machine. They then had me update to the latest firmware. Another fresh cart of ink went in and registered as full.....it looked fixed! For a day. The next day the exact same thing happened (oddly without the maintenance cartridge filling up significantly with discarded ink as best one could tell) and another 300 ml cartridge was emptied and registered as needing to be replaced. In fact, whenever I lifted the cartridge out of the machine it did feel totally empty based on weight. But it was still printing and gave a perfect nozzle check. I was happy to keep printing since there was about a years worth of magenta ink that had been put in there somewhere, and as long as the nozzle check was OK I could ignore the 'cartridge empty' warning sound. 

That was until it developed it's 'terminal' problem. It wouldn't print anymore because it apparently finally 'thought' the magenta cart was empty. If I turned the printer on and off it sometimes bizarrely indicated full but usually indicated empty and, in either instance, the machine wouldn't print because of the empty ink cart (which by weight seem to be the case). If I tried to print I would get an error message saying that there was no magenta ink and printing couldn't continue.

Why do these things only happen when the device is just a couple months out of warranty? The machine is not even two years old. Canon USA wants $1200 pre-paid to come out and fix it (even though they say they have no idea what is wrong at this point)! Instead I called a local Canon authorized repair and maintenance company that actually has been a pleasure to deal with, but they had never heard of this happening before and couldn't guarantee what it would cost to fix. Nonetheless, the tech thought that it was possible that it could be fixed with a $27 part (print head management sensor) but the trip over and subsequent work was $180/hr. If that didn't work his next guess would be to replace the purge unit, a $300 part and $180/hr labor (the functional word here being guess), but that he couldn't be 100% certain that would fix it either. In addition, as I explained to him, there would need to be a wait between tries because I could just put a new magenta ink cart into the machine and it would register as full and work perfectly....for a day or two....so it would initially appear that whatever they did would work, but that the test would be with time. They did note that if they got it working (for even a day) that I could put it on service contract so that if it broke again a few days later it would be repaired. Great idea, but the cost of that would be $1200 for a single year of coverage! The machine itself was barely twice that brand new.

I decided to roll the dice and thought it would be worth giving them one chance with the best guess $27 part. I spent what was required to have them replace the print head management sensor and all was well. For a day and a half anyway, after which the machine emptied (presumably into the maintenance 'discard' cartridge) yet another $173 magenta ink cart....the third one since the saga began! However, I do have to say that the repair technician was honest and up front from the start and really did put in a good deal of time and effort before coming to my home to try to figure out what the problem was likely to be.

It was clearly time to cut my losses and not throw good money after bad. Between my experience with Epson, and now Canon, it does make me wonder if any of these large format printers are designed to really last more than a year or two. The extended warranties are expensive and seem necessary because, at least in my experience, it seems like the companies know the machines won't last. I could have gotten a 'lemon' once, but not all these times. To me, the whole thing just feels contrived. The problem is that I love making prints and enjoy making large ones. So I may be looking at yet another printer. 

It seems like the more electronic and 'better' printers get, the more likely they are to fail. The last printer I had which was replaced electively and only because I wanted to 'upgrade' was an Epson 7600. It has been downhill after that :(

At this point I am considering a return to Epson even though the  Surecolor 7000, which is the replacement for their 'ill-fated' 7900, uses the same print head the 7900 did, albeit with some minor revisions I am told. That, and the ink has been reformulated. I am a bit uncertain where this will lead me, but I am certainly very disappointed with Canon! 

I will post an update as to where this leads.

Goodbye Epson

Several weeks back I had written a rather long post about my experiences with the Epson 7900 wide format printer. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted that post shortly after it was up and simply couldn't muster the strength to rewrite it.  This was the first time I have accidentally deleted something like that. Oh well....

At any rate, the post had outlined how in six years I went through three 7900 printheads and two printers. The average lifespan of the printheads were two years and went from a minimum of a few months to a maximum of about 3.5 years. I was fully willing to attribute one printhead failure to random bad luck, but not three. The internet is rife with posts about the printhead failures with this generation of Epson printers, and there was even a class action lawsuit against Epson for this very reason which, my understanding is, was lost on a technicality (though I can't find definitive documentation of that). And,of course, despite all this, Epson says there is nothing wrong with them.

At the end of that post I mentioned that the new 17 inch Canon imagePrograf PRO-1000 printer had received favorable reviews compared to the comparable sized Epson printers (they were generally considered a bit better in some features and qualities and a bit worse in others). I was planning to wait for this technology to come to new Canon wide format printers, which were last updated about three years ago.

Well, the announcement has been made. The new Canon wide format printers, which employ technology similar to the PRO-1000, are 'real' and scheduled to ship at the end of June. Yes, it is a bit of a wait and I would also love to see some formal and unbiased reviews of these new models.....but I just don't think I am willing to go with another Epson unless the print quality were significantly better (which from all I have read, it isn't).  Every time I think about purchasing the new Epson SureColor model which replaces the 7900 (and which uses the same printhead generation as the 7900) I can hear The Who singing "Won't Get Fooled Again" in my head:

How To Change The Epson 7900 And 9900 Printhead

As long time readers may know, some time ago I had major problems with my relatively new Epson 7900 printer.  In fact, I ended up buying a new one because the cost of having Epson service replace the printhead was absurd......it closely approximated the cost of a brand new printer which came with a one year warranty, as opposed to the thirty day warranty the Epson service came with.

Had I seen this video by Eric Gulbranson, I might have had half a chance at fixing it myself.  At any rate, I would have tried.  So I thought I would share the information.  But here's the thing, I watched it even though I don't need a printhead replacement simply because it is actually quite interesting to see what is going on behind all those covers.  Really it is!! And Eric is quite entertaining to boot. His website also contains more valuable Epson printer information.  If you find it useful why not make a small donation. I did, as it has to have taken quite a bit of effort to make these videos.  

And here is one more that I am probably going to try to do myself as part of routine maintenance that appears simple enough.  I have shared this one once before, but it probably bares repeating.  And thanks to long time blog reader Lee Moses for pointing these videos out to me!  Thanks Lee.

Addendum: I did the wiper blade change myself.  Nothing could be easier.  Like the video said, takes a minute.  It might have taken me two minutes because I was nervous with it being my first time and all! The two year old wiper blade was really pretty grungy.