Printer manufacturers and most third-party companies do not seem to want you to know why and how you can maintain your printer. They don’t want you to know what parts will need to be replaced and hwo much they cost. When you buy a car, you know you’ll have to replace the breaks, change the oil, and buy new tires in a few years. Despite these ongoing costs, you still buy the vehicle because it’s useful. In the same way, your printer has ongoing maintenance costs, but of course you still need it.

Most printers start out working perfectly, and then after a few years, a series of problems occur. This page should give you the knowledge you need to keep your printer working well and help you make safe decisions about maintenance and inks.

Why do pigment inks clog more than dye inks?

Pigment ink is made up of a few basic components: pigment, resin, water-based cosolvents, humectants, and a few proprietary elements that vary from brand to brand. Pigment inks must be filtered to an absolute degree at a larger micron level than dye to ensure smooth flowing through the new Epson and Canon heads.

Pigment ink is not a solution. Rather, pigments are a suspension, similar to milk. The pigment and resin make up the solids of ink. A resin is liquid plastic, and just like liquid plastic, it dries and becomes solid. When pigment ink is bound with resin and dries, it becomes a colored solid, often difficult to loosen. This is why a printer head must be kept lubricated. Over time it will dry out, even when at rest on a capping station. By keeping the capping station moist with a lubricant that loosens ink and lubricates the capping station, it will keep the head properly moist and free-flowing. This is one reason we created the CLF007P cleaner and lubricator.

Do not use cleaners that dry instantly like Windex. You want to keep the head and capping station moist with a proper lubricant while you make sure you’re preventing the build-up of gunk.

What are other differences between dye ink and pigment ink?

Dye ink is usually made up of compounds similar to pigment, but without resin. Dye inks form a solution, which can be more stable than pigments and does not need to be shaken. It should be understood that some dye inks use a great deal of dye in order to produce a rich result. When dye ink dries, it can form crystals that clog a printer. The head and the capping station must still be kept moist. Some dyes, such as special fabric dyes, have resin added, and so much be treated with the same care as pigment inks. Here too, dyes should be filtered to .2 microns to ensure smooth flowing.

What are the ideal printing conditions to keep the head from drying out?

Humidity should be at about 30 to 40 percent, and the temperature should be 70 to 75 degrees fahrenheit. As temperature decreases, the ink becomes thickers, making it more viscous. When the temperature rsises, viscosity decreases, making the ink thinner. These changes in temperature can also affect the printing color. Low humidity can cause the heads and capping station to dry out, causing ink drop out and improper cleaning.

What can I do to prevent the head from drying out?

Run a nozzle check at least once a day. Do not let the printer get below 65 degrees. Place two drops of CLF1 on the capping station each evening. CLF1 is a special cleaning solution that can dissolve dried resin and pigment from the ink, while lubricating the head and capping station to prevent further drying. Do not use fluids that dry fast, such as window cleaner. They may clean, but they cause the head to dry and clog.

What is a capping station?

A capping station is where the head rests and is cleaned. The capping station contains a foam pad that the head sits on, and underneath this is a tube that goes to a pump. If the pump becomes worn, suction decreases and cleaning suffers. If the pad becomes deformed over time, improper contact is made and suction decreases. All of this causes ink drop outs.

When do I need to change a capping station?

A capping station will become worn over a period of time. It should be replaced every three years with average use. The symptom of a capping station becoming worn is when you perform a cleaning and some nozzles fire, while others drop out. When you clean again, the dropped nozzles fire, while other nozzles now drop out. This is when it’s time to change the capping assembly. If the same nozzles drop out each time, your problem is a clogged head.

What causes nozzles to drop out when they were printing just fine a month ago?

At any time, the damper that sits on the head can become clogged from particle build-up on its screen. This will restrict ink flow, thus starving the head.

What is a damper?

A damper is a plastic structure with a mesh filter that acts as a one-way valve that holds and dispenses ink. Epson designed this structure to keep the printer head performing well. It should be changed once every two years. For Mimaki and Roland printers, we offer large dampers with largers creens. This helps in handling high speed printers.

When should I use cleaning cartridges?

If you have what I described as a partially clogged head, I recommend placing our CLF2 tinted cleaning cartridges in the printer and performing a fill or several power cleans. Let the cleaning fluid sit in the head for at least half a day to loosen the hardered particles in the head. You also need to place extra cleaning fluid on the capping station in order to work on the bottom of the head. This process can work within hours or it may take days. It depends on the amount of resin used in the ink and how long the head has been clogged.

Sometimes, just using CLF007P over a weekend may break up the particles and flush through with a standard cleaning. It all depends on the degree of clogging. There’s no way to predict exactly how clogged the head is.