The Epson 3880 is a popular machine – many of our listeners print on it, and in 2012, PC Mag featured it in their round-up, “8 Great Large-Format Printers”.
We receive a lot of questions about using, maintaining, and repairing the 3880, so we thought we’d use this episode as our answer to some of the most popular inquiries. Things like, “What’s the best way to feed canvas sheets to the 3880?” (check show notes below for a great downloadable PDF on this) and “How do I turn off the auto-shutoff setting?”
Listen in for Justin’s tips and tricks on these topics, as well as his thoughts on printing with expired ink. Should you do it? What are the risks? How important is a manufacturer’s recommendation to swap cartridges six months after installation regardless of expiry date?
- Keep the Epson 3880 on all the time, or auto-shutoff?
- Accessing the 3880’s maintenance menu
- Standby Mode
- Attaching a paper strip to canvas to make printing on canvas easier
- Using your hands to help the rollers catch canvas sheets
- Matte paper on the 3880 – which is best for vivid colors?
- Some general thoughts on matte vs. glossy papers
- Ink expiration – how serious is it?
- A huge customer support issue that resulted from using expired inks
- Swap inks every 6 months?
- Quick monthly step to take to keep pigments properly mixed
- Much more!
Listen in to learn about troubleshooting Epson 3880 common issues
- This episode featured questions from Richard, Robert, Gary, and Don. If you have a printmaking question for the show, submit it here.
- BONUS: Need help setting a custom paper size on your 3880? We have you covered. Click here for our free how-to guide on setting a user-defined paper size.
- Love the show? Have some feedback for us? Leave us a review on iTunes.
Prefer to read over listen? Want to save this conversation for reference later? We transcribe all of our shows for these reasons! Download this episode’s transcription below:
Or, to view a web version of the transcript:
Announcer 1: You are listening to the AskBC podcast – your printmaking questions, answered by the experts!
Justin: Hey guys, this is your host Justin. For today’s show, I picked out some various listener questions that are related to the Epson 3880. We talk about the auto-off function, expired inks, and the best paper.
Welcome to Episode 33 of the #AskBC podcast! I’m excited to get into it today. The Epson 3880, as you probably know, is kind of a hallmark and a work horse for our photography and fine art space. Let’s go ahead and get into the show!
Announcer: Richard asks, “I own an Epson 3880. I watched YouTube videos where B&H and Epson recommended leaving the printer on all the time. My printer automatically shuts off. If I’m away for a few weeks, I want to let QImage print an unclog pattern every three days.”
Justin: Good question, Richard, thank you. With the Epson 3880, it’s got an auto-timer, basically. It comes from the factory with this auto-timer set to a specific time. I think there are options like 4 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours, a day, 2 days, etc. where you can have the printer go into this “auto-off” state.
And to change that you actually have to go into the maintenance mode of the 3880, which is pretty simple — you just make sure the machine is turned off, and then hold down the “cancel” button whilst pressing the power button to power it on. I usually just keep the cancel button held down until it powers all the way up, and then you will be booted up in maintenance mode and you should see a “power off timer” option right there on the main menu. You can go within that menu and there should be an “Off” option that you can set it to.
And then to get back out of maintenance mode, pretty simple, again, just power the printer down and then power it back on as usual. That will keep the printer basically being on all the time.
You know, I’ve heard mixed reviews – or mixed thoughts and theories on whether the printer should be on all the time or should be allowed to be powered off or be powered off manually after you’re done printing. Some models go into a stand-by mode, various different things like this.
I haven’t been able to get a straight answer from anyone as to, like, “this is the best option, 100%.” In my experience, we basically just leave the printers as they come from the factory, just assuming that the people that are manufacturing the machine know best regarding what state it’s best left in, essentially. So we use a Canon iPF8400 that – I don’t know what time exactly, but I know that it does go into its standby mode. I think it runs some automatic cleanings periodically – pretty infrequently I would say. Maybe once a week or something like that I’ll hear it running an automatic cleaning from the standby state – which doesn’t seem excessive to me so I’m not worried about it wasting too much ink.
We’re not using it in a production environment over here, so definitely it going through a cleaning once and awhile seems like a good thing to keep the heads unclogged as much as possible. We also have an Epson 9900, again, just left at factory default settings. It also goes into a standby mode. It doesn’t power off completely, goes into a standby mode and, you know, you just press any button on the printer and it kind of wakes itself back up.
I think, you know, I’ve heard it’s important to keep it at least in a standby mode this way, not powering it all the way off. Because it keeps the heads charged, and it may do that just by having the printer plugged in, period. I’m not 100% sure on that from a hardware perspective, but I’m pretty sure that keeping it in the standby mode is definitely a good thing.
You know, every printer has a capping assembly that the printhead sits on top of and the cap kind of moves up to seal the printhead completely, so that’s obviously an important step in making sure that the nozzles don’t get dried out. So as long as that’s happening you’re probably pretty safe, but, anyway, that’s how to turn off that auto-off timer on an Epson 3880.
Hope that helps, and I appreciate you sending over the question!
Announcer: Robert asks, “Breathing Color advises to add a paper strip to the Lyve canvas so that the 3880 will grab it. This works well, but you lose the amount of canvas that you used for the added paper. Do you know of a way to compensate for this, such that you print on the entire canvas?”
Justin: Thanks for the question, Robert. In case anyone’s unclear – the Epson 3880 is kind of known to not feed canvas very well. For whatever reason, the little rubber rollers that kind of pull the paper – the media in can’t get a very good grip of the textured backside of canvas.
So, Robert is referring to an article that we wrote (that I’ll go ahead and throw in the show notes in case you haven’t seen that and it’s of use to you) – it’s an article that we wrote that talks about adding a leader – it’s a one inch paper leader – to the canvas and, you know, the rubber rollers within the 3880 can grab this normal paper a little bit easier and help it get started to be pulled through. Seems like it’s only that leading edge that needs to get in there and once it pulls a little bit of it, it doesn’t have a problem feeding the rest of the sheet.
So, what I typically do. Well, I have two answers for this.
What I typically do when adding the leader, or if I need to add the leader, is I’ll actually put it right on top of the canvas itself. What I think Robert is doing is he’s extending the canvas by an inch, rather than putting it on the backside of the canvas. So if he’s printing a 13×19” sheet, I think he’s adding that one inch leader to the edge and making it like a 13×20”.
What you can actually do is just put it on part of the sheet, like instead of butting it right up against the edge of the sheet just adhere it to the back of the sheet itself, that way the sheet remains 13×19” – you don’t have to adjust the file.
So, that’s part of the answer, and then the second way you could handle it is, you can add it kind of butted-up to make the sheet 13”x20” for this example. And then just modify your file, right? So you can just add an inch of blank white space to your canvas size in Photoshop, so make what you’re printing 13×20” instead of 13×19” and make that extra inch white space so it’ll match up with the white space you want to see when it’s coming out of the printer.
Hopefuly that makes sense, it’s kind of hard to explain without showing you a diagram or something, but yeah that’s kind of your second option.
ANd then I want to just mention that a lot of people seem to have this problem with feeding the canvas, and maybe it’s specific and worse on some 3880s than others. I’m not really sure…we do have a 3880 here in the office, and honestly I don’t find it that necessary to add this strip. What I normally do to feed the canvas instead is I just kind of spread my fingers out across the width of the canvas, with my hands upside down. Again, this is kind of hard to explain without showing you a video or something or a photo. But spread my fingers across the width of the canvas and get my fingers as far down close to the rubber rollers as possible, into the printer, and just put some even pressure down towards the printer, down on top of the sheet, and kind of help it when it’s trying to feed, when those rubber rollers are spinning, this is when you want to press down and force it in a bit.
This tends to work pretty well, just pushing it down giving it that equal pressure along the sheet with your fingers – tends to have the printer grab the sheet of canvas. This is way easier, obviously, than trying to cut one inch leader strips and adhere them to the back of the canvas, tape them to the canvas, or whatever.
So, if you can get it to work that way, skips a couple of steps and this works 99% of the time for me it seems like. So, yeah, hopefully that’s something you haven’t tried out. if you have any other thoughts or suggestions, anyone that’s listening, feel free to post your comments to the show notes page, which I’ll give you a link for at the end of the podcast. I’d love to hear any other creative solutions you guys may have come up with for this common difficulty on this 3880.
Announcer: Gary asks, “I’m not a heavy user of my Epson 3880. I just noticed this morning that a few of my inks have expiration dates of July 2014 and July 2015. Do I need to replace them at their expiration? Similarly, Epson says replace after six months of installing. Is this important?”
Justin: Hey Gary, good question, thanks for asking.
In general with ink expirations, I’d definitely lean towards following the manufacturer’s recommendations. All manufacturers pretty much have the same expiration dates on their ink. I’m pretty sure this is a valid thing to follow.
I have dealt with, from a support standpoint, here at Breathing Color, I have dealt with at least one – I think two different instances where a customer called in using an Epson or a Canon (I’m not really sure specifically), using a wide format printer, and they’re having some trouble getting the proper color, and we couldn’t really figure out why – they were using the proper ICC profile, all the proper settings, it was an image that they’d used before so they were pretty sure they knew exactly what it was supposed to look like when it was done, on a calibrated display, etc.
And in the end, after a ton of troubleshooting, I failed to ask the basic question about ink and it ended up being that, I think two or three of the cartridges were actually just barely beyond expiration. So we thought to swap those out, obviously not an inexpensive test, we thought to swap those out and see if that did anything and at first it didn’t. It didn’t fix the problem. So it was kind of discouraging. And then the client, the customer, ended up running a cleaning cycle just because I thought, you know, the remainder of that expired ink within the ink system – within the ink lines – was still in there, so we pushed that through first at least to give it a fair troubleshooting test.
So they ran a cleaning cycle or a couple of cleaning cycles and retried the print again and it literally made a night and day difference without any other changes, so the only thing I could attribute to is to the expired inks.
So that’s an immediate, noticeable downside of using an expired ink. I mean, who knows what other potential problems you get into when using expired ink, I mean does that stuff coagulate inside of the printer? Will it be a problem if you try to send that through the ink system, will that clog up the printhead or clog the line somewhere just resulting in, potentially, some massive repair bills or a lot of time spent fixing it yourself, or something like that?
Just seems better to me to stick with what the manufacturer recommends. On the six month replacement deal, I’m not too sure I buy into that. I’d say as long as it’s within…again, I’m not an expert on the hardware side of things. I’m not a chemist with these inks or anything like that, so these are just my opinions, my thoughts, my experience on this stuff – so yeah, I don’t really buy into the six month swap-out thing.
What I will do, I mean, especially if the printer is sitting there for quite a while without being used, I’ll take the cartridge out and invert it a few times just in case any kind of settling of pigment or anything else inside of the ink has happened. That’s probably a good thing to do every month or two if you’re not using the printer very much, but yeah I would think you’re perfectly fine using it up until its expiration date regardless of installing it, you know, seven months prior or something like that.
Just my thoughts, I appreciate you asking – again, if anybody has anything to add, definitely post that to the show notes. If you know more than I do on this, let’s talk about it.
Announcer: Don asks, “Which matte paper will give me the most vivid colors and deepest blacks for landscape images on an Epson 3880 printer?”
Justin: Hey Don, great question. Thanks for taking the time to submit, hopefully some of my opinions and thoughts here will help you along your new paper-choosing journey.
So I’m not sure if you’re familiar with printing on like a luster or glossy photo papers, or kind of what background you come from. Also, I don’t know why you’re choosing matte paper, you know, a lot of things that are missing.
But my thoughts on matte paper as it relates to any other finish of paper, is that – you’ve probably seen this if you’ve done much printing on matte paper – is that of course your densities – color densities, black densities – they’re going to be lower when you print on a matte paper. It’s just the nature of this type of paper. You know, ink is absorbed a little bit differently with this paper technology and this coating technology than it is like on a photo paper of a much different paper base.
So when you ask, “Which paper will give you the most vivid colors and deepest blacks?” When you’re kind of confined to a matte paper, I would definitely stick to something that’s pretty white. You know, this is always going to give you colors that tend to pop. The whiter paper you print on the better you’re going to be in terms of contrast, in terms of vivid color, deep blacks, this will definitely help on that as well.
When it comes to – you didn’t mention if you’re looking for something smooth or textured – first thing comes to mind to me is just going with a smooth, bright white, matte paper.
So, look at something like our – Breathing Color makes something one called Optica One. It’s got an amazing white point, amazing whiteness, looks great – it’s really smooth, lends itself really well to landscape imagery. So yeah, that’s kind of my thought on the subject.
If it were me, I’d probably stray more towards a Baryta paper – you know, it’s still thick, gives it that nice feel that a fine art paper has. But it doesn’t have the completely matte surface. Often you’ll see like a luster type of surface, something that’s semi-gloss. So again, that’s pretty preferential when it comes to paper, a lot of different things come in to making a decision, and a lot of that’s personal preference.
I think Renee Besta and I have talked about this in great detail before on a previous podcast, as far as “which is the best paper for my image?” Like, “Which specific paper is the best for my image?” – I hear this question constantly, and, you know, 75-80% of it is, well, what do you like to see your print done on? It’s something that, to a certain extent, something that you can’t be advised on, you know?
Do a lot of different prints of this image on a lot of different medias and kind of see what you think lends itself well for this specific image, or for your specific tastes. That’s really all you can do when it comes down to it.
So pick up a sample pack from somebody, or multiple somebodies. Print as much as you can, do as many different prints as you can and see what looks the best to you. Hope that helps!
Not the most straightforward answer, but that’s the reality. So thanks again, Don.
Justin: Alright guys, that is it for today’s episode! Thank you so much for joining in on the discussion, for submitting your questions, for being a part of the show. Really means alot to me. If you have thoughts on the subjects that we talked about today, do be sure to leave your comments, your thoughts, anything really on the show notes page.
You know, I encourage you guys to have discussion on these show notes pages – it’s really beneficial to everybody. I love talking about this stuff, so let’s get some stuff going.
For the show notes link, pretty simple – you can visit ask-bc.com/episode33.
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This feedback is super helpful to us, you know, it’s really the only way I can know if we’re going in the right direction. What you like to hear…so I’d really appreciate it if you took the time to do that. And if you’d like to ask a question for the show, that’s pretty simple as well. Just visit ask-bc.com, you’ll see a contact form there, just fill that out – a couple of quick lines. Submit your question, and if we choose your question to be featured on the show, we will mention your business name right in the episode – give you a nice little shout out.
Thanks guys, until next time! Take care
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