Monday, 27 February 2017

Resurrecting my printer

A few days back my printer stopped working. Catastrophe!

It's quite a beast of a printer, an Epson Stylus Photo 1400 from 2007. You can gauge how large it is from the ordinary yellow mug in this picture:


Opened out and ready to print, it seems even larger:


My printer is meant primarily for printing colour photographs up to A3 size, using expensive ink cartridges and proper photo paper. In its day it was almost the best you could buy, unless you were really going to town on your equipment. In fact it cost me £252 in September 2007, which was then quite a bit for an inkjet printer. It's nearly ten years old now, but has always produced faultless photo prints.

However, the only photo printing I have ever done with it has been for other people, on request. Never for myself. Most of its printing work - a considerable amount over the years - has been concerned with ordinary paper documents of one kind or another - typically bank statements - and letters I've written for stamping and physical mailing. This is well below its maximum capability, and I have often thought that I could have saved myself some money here. An ordinary document printer would have been sufficient. But there has always been the occasional call for photo printing, and I'd never want to fob people off with anything less than a top-notch response.

It has always been hooked up to my desktop PC via a USB cable. They are both of the same 2007 vintage. If I updated the drivers, I could get it to work with my 2016 Surface Book, but there is no pressing reason to do that. If I have something to print, I transfer the photo or document file to the desktop PC and print it from there. I don't want to burden my laptop with peripherals.

Anyway, I'd received an email from my credit card company, telling me that this month's statement was ready for viewing. I got it up on the laptop, downloaded the PDF file, popped it onto an SD card, then cut and pasted the PDF into the desktop PC's memory for permanent storage. This done, I next wanted to print a paper copy so that I could check the statement against my own running record of transactions, and reconcile the account balance on my record with whatever the credit card company said it was.

I turned on the printer, gave the 'print' command, and...whoops, no joy. The paper wouldn't feed. Damn.

I made sure the paper was properly loaded, and wasn't kinked or sticking together. There had - for some time - been the occasional refusal to feed sheets into the printer - but always curable by checking the paper alignment and feed angle. But this time none of these actions had done the trick.

I checked the printer settings. But they were as they should be.

Was the paper perhaps minutely too thin for the printer? I was using a budget pack of 80g/square metre white A4 business printing paper from my usual stationers. A fresh pack. Same paper weight as usual, but a different make. Hmm. Let's try really thick paper. I tried printing the first page of the credit card statement onto high-quality photo printing paper. Yes, that worked! Printing excellently as usual. So the printer wasn't actually broken. Or had suddenly become confused. It must be the paper. Perhaps I simply needed heavier, thicker paper for my statements (and letters)?

Back to the shop. This time I invested in a 500 sheet pack of white 100g/square metre A4 business printing paper. Back home, I popped a stack of this into my printer and expected success. Oh dear. Still no feeding going on...

Well, I urgently wanted to check my statement, so I quickly improvised an entirely digital method. I took screen prints - three needed - of each page of my credit card statement and pasted them into Paint, then saved them. These could now be drawn on, making marks onscreen with the special pen that came with my Surface Book. I simply ticked off matching items using the pen, flipping between the transaction spreadsheet and the saved PNG files. This done, and the statement balance reconciled, I binned the PNG files. The method worked, but it was something of a pain. The job would have been swifter and easier using paper prints and an ordinary pencil.

I needed to get my printer working again!

Since the printer dealt with photo printing as usual, the problem must be straightforward. Something that cropped up now and then with every machine. I researched the common problems of inkjet printers on the Internet, and quickly found what I wanted. There was a rubber roller, which pressed onto the paper and rolled inwards. If there was enough friction between roller and paper, the paper would feed. There would be no trouble with photo paper - it had a particular surface that the roller would grip well. But there might be issues with ordinary white paper. Dust on the paper or (more likely) the roller would reduce the friction, and the roller wouldn't grip properly, or not at all.

Did I need a new roller? No. It could be cleaned with a moist cotton bud - using plain cold water. Just don't go beyond 'moist'. Running water would be bad for the innards of the printer. And - need it be said? - first disconnect the printer from its power source!

As simple as this? OK...let's have a go...

It was easier than I thought. I found that the roller could be moved up and down with a firm fingertip while I wiped a barely-moist cotton bud over it. The bud clearly grew darker, so I must have taken off a fair bit of dirt or dust.

Everything looked dry, so I started the printer up again. This time it all worked. A perfect result.

So there you are: if flummoxed, always try looking up a solution on the Internet.

I had been seriously wondering whether this was the end of my printer, and I'd have to buy another. And if so, it would have to be a cheap one, which ruled out serious photo printing in the future. That wouldn't matter much to me, but it would to the people who sometimes wanted bespoke prints from me. I'd have to disappoint them. But it was all right.

Just as well! I'd recently bought an entire set of new ink cartridges, and now two packs of printing paper. A lot of that expense would have been wasted. I had nearly 1,000 sheets of A4 paper - far too much for my immediate needs. I decided to give the cheaper pack of 500 80g/square metre sheets to my nephew. If he didn't want them all for printing, his daughter - my great-niece - might like to draw pretty pictures on them.

1 comment:

  1. After the second colour printer failed, often they failed to print a black only document because one of the colours had run out or head had dried / clogged through lack of use. I gave up colour, never having printed a colour photo, and bought a monochrome laser printer, it is quiet and fast! toner cartridge lasts an age and running costs seem lower.

    Seems that printers like to be used, my occasional use often ended up with printing faults like streaks and banding wasting those expensive inks with a head cleaning routine, all money down the drain...

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