How Much Ink Is Your Printer Wasting? Epson Owner Says He Loses $100’s On Wasted Ink Every Month

Sep 11, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

How Much Ink Is Your Printer Wasting? Epson Owner Says He Loses $100’s On Wasted Ink Every Month

Sep 11, 2015

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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I don’t think it comes as a surprise that printer ink grossly overpriced. This seems to be the case whether you’re purchasing ink for your home office printer or ink for your photo printers. For example, a set of 11 UltraChrome inks for the Epson 9900 wide format printer will set you back at least $800. Paying that kind of premium, consumers want to make sure they aren’t letting any of that precious liquid gold go to waste. Unfortunately, every time your printer notifies you it’s time to replace an ink cartridge, you’re probably throwing out hunderds of dollars worth of ink.

“On average, when we throw away a cartridge of ink from our Epson 9900 printer, we throw away well over 100ml of ink. Many times 150ml or more. But, on average, we throw away 120ml of ink with every 700ml cartridge and about 60-80ml of ink with every 350ml cartridge.”

A fact that has Bellevue Fine Art Reproduction so frustrated, they’ve taken to YouTube to publicly ask Epson take a closer look at their ink measuring system.

We’ve contacted Epson about this many times, we’ve spoken to many representatives, we’ve sent cartridges in, we’ve escalated this as high as we possible could and have always been ignored or told that we were just wrong. But, as you can see from our demonstration here, we’re absolutely not wrong–we’ve done this so many times we can’t count. I would challenge Epson to watch this video and improve their ink measuring system in their printers because, clearly, clearly, we are throwing away hundreds of dollars of ink every month.”

Take a look at Bellevue Fine Art Reproduction’s revealing demonstration, here:

Wasted Ink in the Epson 9900

YouTube video

DIY Remaining Ink Measurement

It’s not hard to understand why the print shop is at wits end with Epson–no one likes to waste ink or money. Epson has (sort of) addressed this in lower-end printers with their EcoTank, but after watching the demonstration above, it’s blatantly obvious there’s still a long way to go.

Now, if you want to do a little testing of your own, here’s the formula Bellevue Fine Art Reproduction suggests to use if you want to see how much ink your Epson 9900 is wasting without having to cut open the cartridges. Remember, this formula is for the Epson 9900 cartridges, which may vary from other brands/models.

epson-inkThis all makes me wonder how comparable printers/ink cartridges perform…Has anyone tried similar tests on their ink cartridges?

UPDATE (September 16, 2015): Epson sent us a clarification on how their system is designed to work, here is their response in full:

Your recent article highlighted a video posted by Bellevue Fine Art Repro. I’m contacting you on behalf of Epson to clarify how the ink system of the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 is designed. The Epson Stylus Pro 9900 printer is a graphic arts printer designed for professional operation for printing high value photographs and fine art reproductions on canvas and other specialty media up to 44 inches wide. Like Epson’s other graphic arts printers, the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 is finely calibrated to consistently deliver extraordinarily high print quality.

  • For quality assurance, the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 ink system uses two methods to track ink levels. The first system estimates ink consumption by mathematically calculating how much ink is consumed from a cartridge for each ink droplet fired during printing and print head cleaning. The printer and ink cartridge use this information to display ink levels and initiate an “Ink Low” status alert. This alert is an indicator to the operator that it is time to consider ordering a new cartridge and occurs with roughly 10-15 percent ink remaining.
  • After “Ink Low” alert, the printer can continue to print normally until all usable ink in the cartridge is consumed and noted with an “Ink Out” notice. This “Ink Out” notice is triggered by a second method – a physical sensor in the cartridge – not an estimated amount. The sensor triggers when ink volume has declined to the point that further use could cause harm to the print head.
  • If a cleaning cycle is initiated during the “Ink Low” status and the level of ink remaining in the cartridge is estimated by mathematical calculation to be less than required for a print head cleaning, the printer will signal that there is “not enough ink to complete the process.” The ink required for cleaning is conservatively estimated to assure there is enough ink to completely eliminate any print head obstructions and ensure quality output. At this stage a fuller cartridge needs to be installed to complete the print head maintenance. But, it is important to note, that after this maintenance cycle, the original cartridge may be reinserted and used until “Ink Out” status is reached. It does not have to be discarded.

The printing system of the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 is conservatively designed with two methods of tracking ink levels. The “Ink Low” signal does not prevent the ink from being used until the “Ink Out “signal. In the event that a print head cleaning is attempted after an “Ink Low” signal, the professional operator may have to swap in a full cartridge for cleaning and use up the useable ink in the original cartridge at a later time.

The attached Q&A for professional operators of Epson Stylus Pro 9900 printers and other Epson graphic arts printers explains the functionality of the ink system in more detail.




[ via Reddit ]


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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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12 responses to “How Much Ink Is Your Printer Wasting? Epson Owner Says He Loses $100’s On Wasted Ink Every Month”

  1. Jonathan Fitzpatrick Avatar
    Jonathan Fitzpatrick

    Denis O’Donovan

  2. Çağatay Belgen Avatar
    Çağatay Belgen

    the ink is placed horizontally in the printer (correct me if it is placed vertically)… gravity may be the responsible behind unused ink.

    1. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
      Tiffany Mueller

      Gravity could play a part in it, for sure. That being said, it still seems like an issue that could be resolved, or, in the very least, greatly improved upon through better design and engineering. in my opinion, anyways :)

      1. Teodorico Morell Avatar
        Teodorico Morell

        I would be hard to say if it is really a design flaw, or done on purpose.
        Selling liquid gold, sorry ink, is big business.

    2. Ahmet Avatar

      In that case it is a design bug (or feature). Still outrageous. 15-20% waste. I could easily design a Coke bottle that retains 20% of the content. Imagine the public reaction. And Coke is almost free compared to printer ink.
      (Do these printers waste ink on printer head cleaning as well? Would be interesting to know how much of the ink actually ends up on paper.)

  3. Renato Murakami Avatar
    Renato Murakami

    Well, at least it’s still not on HP levels of scamming. You know how they do it, right? For the consumer cheaper versions of inkjet printers, what the cartridges really are internally, is a small sponge that usually isn’t even half the size of the cartridge itself, with just a tiny bit of actual ink sprinkled on top of it.
    And I mean it. I’ve seen new cartridges being opened with parts of said sponge being completely dry because there wasn’t enough ink in there to fill it up.
    I’m not shure how they are able to keep such practices, but it’s a straight con.

  4. Ron B Avatar
    Ron B

    Being a commercial printer you’d imagine the issue if the ink ran out 3/4 way through a job, meaning the 1% warning would be very important and a tolerance level be the safer side (more reserve). That said, their methods of measuring ink usage may suck and definitely needs better engineering.

  5. C Avatar

    Everyone knows that Epson is in business to sell ink

    For awhile they were giving away the moderate and low end printers – so they could sell more ink

    Someone needs to find a hack that allows one to continue printing after the “warning” – you may lose a print toward the actual end of the ink, but you;d gain more prints in the long run.

    1. Marko Avatar

      So is Canon

  6. Aadila Avatar

    Cartridge should be bought very carefully,hp laserjet 85a cartridge is the best cartridge I have ever used since it is compatible with most of the printers.

  7. Marko Avatar

    This is done on purpose. 100%. It’s a money maker and they can go on with this practice as long as we buy their ink.

  8. Bryan Hanna Avatar
    Bryan Hanna

    Does anyone have any experience with using a chip resetter and trying to continue to print using that cartridge for longer?