Since the inception of Printer Potty and the external waste kits sold for more than a decade, the design of various inkjet printers have changed significantly and with these changes have come new options (and new challenges).
This article is intended as a brief overview that we’ll be covering in more detail, in both video and written formats so expect more detailed and accessible information over time.
Epson Inkjet Printers
“Maintenance Box” units
Almost all wide-format Epson printers have what’s known as a “maintenance box” which is a consumable item that can be purchased to replace a unit in the printer. Each will usually have a chip attached which records guesstimated waste ink volumes received by the box and eventually triggers a “full” error.
This style or type of waste ink consumable has, over time appeared in some of the desktop printers, particularly Workforce branded units and lately some Ecotank models although usually only newer ET series (not their L series equivalents).
The original/OEM maintenance box parts are usually available with many parts available as compatible units and there are also some chip resetter options available to allow the chips to be reset and the pads replaced by the end-user.
“Porous Pad Assembly” units
Porous Pad Assemblies have existed since around 2010 or so and throughout have never been intended as user replaceable items especially as a waste counter reset is still required to clear the associated “service required” error that blocks printer functionality.
The assemblies consist of a plastic holder that contains absorbent padding and the design allows for the part to be removed by a service technician quickly and easily and then replaced with a new fresh plastic pad holder and pads. As awareness of these parts has grown, resources and instruction guides have become more widely available showing how to replace the pads and/or parts without incurring service charges. We also started stocking and selling these parts directly as it became apparent that more users wanted to access and use these products, particularly when our pre-existing Printer Potty kits were unsuitable for some end-user scenarios.
Replacement Pad kits
Printer Potty products now include an expanding range of pad only replacement products. These kits make use of the existing pad holders in many printer models to minimise the amount of waste plastic and unnecessary long distance shipping/packaging that official porous pad assemblies required. The reduced shipping profile, paper based instructions and natural wool fibre mean that the pads can easily be recycled and minimise the hidden costs that other products incur.
Like Porous Pad Assemblies the pad replacements still require some form of reset to allow the printer to regain functionality (see WICReset).
Printer Potty Kits (External waste ink tanks)
Until the advent of simpified designs that made porous pad assembly access easier, even service centres were faced with a complex process that required considerable disassembly to access and replace the waste ink pads in many early Epson inkjet printer models. The Printer Potty waste ink kits side stepped this process by identifying simpler ways to intercept and redirect the majority of waste ink flow to an external waste ink tank, thus “Potty training” the printers. Many of the Epson models still benefit from this approach and as spare parts have been retired we have found ourselves as the only remaining option to resolve the waste ink issue in printers that have no other reason to be retired.
Again, use of these kits still require the waste ink counter be reset (see below).
We are working on a series of videos to help detail what options exist for specific model groupings and these will be released (and linked on/from here) over time.
Whilst we have an overt commercial interest in recommending our own products we believe strongly that there is no good reason for these printers to be artificially condemned as non-serviceable for something as ridiculous as a waste ink pad or counter. In an age where waste plastic and other electronic waste is and should be actively discouraged we would encourage you to seek solutions that mend and make-do even if you aren’t able or willing to consider our solutions.
*(Epson) Waste Ink Counter & end-user options
As noted above, all but the maintenance box solutions require the waste ink counter to be reset on Epson printers. This is an internal value stored in the printer non-volatile memory and represents a value calculated by engineers observations of waste ink production over time. The counter is incremented as waste generating functions are carried out (eg: cartridge changes, printhead cleaning, etc..). A trigger value is applied to the printer and once the counter reaches this trigger level it produces an error indicating that action is required.
Epson official service centres do have the facility to reset the waste counters and resolve the replacement of pads. Unfortunately, first line support and many associated service centres frequently choose to misrepresent the solutions available, and are often quoted as implying serious difficulties for end-users. Additionally the cost of such official servicing is often over inflated and used as an encouragement towards whole printer replacement.
Third Party options
With the limited official channels for resetting in an accessible and/or cost effective manner, end-users are reliant on “liberated” services tools (normally supplied to service centres) or a compatible third party utility to allow the waste counter to be reset. Epson have never made it company policy for end-users to attempt or use such tools and only legal action forced Epson America to provide a IPR (Ink Pad Reset) tool for a few years (only within North America).
Needless to say the issue of resetting a printers waste ink counter is a contentious one but is largely addressed by tools such as the WICReset (Waste Ink Counter Reset) utility and development is supported by the purchase of “keys” which effectively act as reset credits to allow the waste counter to be reset.
Canon Inkjet Printers
Information on supported Canon printers may be available here:
“Maintenance Tank” units
As with Epson printers only the larger wide format printers and some top-end consumer printers have user replaceable waste tanks. Again, these have a chip to help record and determine waste ink levels and will trigger an error when perceived to be full. These tanks do not exist for the bulk of Canon printers, particularly not for desktop products.
Replacement waste pads (OEM/Original parts)
There are some sources for the original waste pads but unlike Epson designs the waste pads are rarely easy to access and require substantial technical knowledge to disassemble, access and replace.
Waste Ink Tanks
We do offer Printer Potty external waste ink kits for retrofitting to Canon printers but, due to the complexity of the process required to fit them we’ve held back from producing specific guides for each printer. The overwhelming difficulty of the process in particular has meant we couldn’t take the time to product economically viable information that wouldn’t result more in frustration than success.
However some of the newest Canon desktop printers are indicating that end-user installation of external waste tanks are much simpler than previously experienced and we are examining these now with a view to producing guides and compatible products accordingly.
(Canon) Waste Ink Counter Resetting
This is the biggest hurdle for Canon inkjet printers. The process of resetting the waste ink counter in Canon printers has become increasingly difficult with significant steps taken by the manufacturer to render end-user interaction near impossible without detailed instructions. Access to the appropriate version of the official service tool is essential in all but a small number of cases and regardless, the printer has to be manually placed in a “service mode” to apply changes. The process is not recommended for most end-users as a result.
HP (Hewlett Packard) Printers
Information on the appropriate solutions for HP printers is very limited. Some printer models (eg: Officejet Pro-X / Pagewide) have “ink collection” parts but in the main, waste ink seems to build up until printhead clogging is caused by the build-up of the waste in the head cleaning systems resulting in overall general failure of the printer.
Additional information for this brand of printer is still being sought and will be added over time.
Brother Inkjet Printers
These are actually the least wasteful brand of inkjet printers available. Brother printers do still have waste ink pads and head cleaning systems but the volume of waste ink is considerably lower in many models, compared to Epson and others brands. External waste ink tanks can be fitted to these models but due to the minimal waste generated we ironically opted to pursue the more wasteful Epson units as the priority.
Resetting the waste ink counter on Brother units is generally achievable using a series of button or touch screen sequences and, until recently, not blocked or obfuscated by manufacturers.
Additional information for this brand will be applied over time.