We interviewed Ron Ardito, who has been installing and servicing Epson printers since they started printing color. He and his firm operate out of Manhattan and he sees all types of variations of these printers in the wild.
Everything from high volume printers with floors full of these two models to smaller mom and pop top of operations with one printer that gets used occasionally. We interview Ron in depth about best practices, how to keep these printers operating in top condition, what breaks most often, and what to watch out for.
- Ron’s expert opinion on the Epson 9900 & 7900 models
- 9900 & 7900 advantages over other Epson machines
- Power cleaning the printers
- Print head clogging
- Ideal usage patterns
- Nozzle checks
- Print head, how long it will last, and how much it costs when it goes out
- Error Messages
Listen in to learn about how to maintain and repair your Epson Stylus Pro 9900 and 7900 Printers
To learn more about Ron you can visit his website http://arditos.com/
Read the transcribe for this episode
To See The Transcript:
Justin: Hey guys I’m your host Justin this is the Ask BC podcast and today’s podcast is a special “Tools of the Trade” edition. We are Ron Ardito here and we’re gonna talk about the Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900 today.
Hey Ron how are you doing?
Ron: Very well thank you.
Justin: Great! So for some context why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.
Ron: Well we’ve been servicing Epson products for at least 15 years. We started with an Epson color printer and now we are we’re servicing the 99 series and the 77 series. And any of the graphic models that Epson now produces. We service all of them.
Justin: Nice so you get your hands on these printers everyday, so you’re kind like the perfect person to ask these questions to, it sounds like.
Ron: Yeah we do a lot. I personally work on just the graphic pro models. And mainly the 79 or 99, 49 series, and of course the 7880, 9880, 9890 models.
Justin: Perfect, well today we wanted to interview to get kind of a ground level review of how these printers operate in the wild from somebody who has years of experience fixing them like yourself. We want to kind of find out specifically how they work what breaks most often and how to keep them running smoothly. And today we wanted to talk specifically about the Epson stylus pro 7900 and 9900. To start out with what do you think of these two printers overall.
Ron: I think they are probably the two finest pigment based printers on the market today. They perform they are very durable. I have accounts over in Manhattan on these two machines, 7 days a week 12 hours a day. And the more they are used, the more you’ll get out of them obviously. The reliability factor is very high on these machines.
Justin: Do you notice any advancements on these from the older models like the ones you were mentioning a second ago: the 7890, 9890, and the 7800, and 9800 models?
Ron: Absolutely. The 7800 and up to 9880 series were mechanically very different from the newer models. The 7900 and 9900 are entirely different machines using Epson’s latest print head technology, as well as the ability the individually clean colors. Which is a big advantage over the earlier machines? The newer machines are quieter, they are faster. If you are using the paper roll, which most people do, they are gear driven, motor driven paper feed up and down. You have the ability to put an X-rite proofer on the machine as well, which was not available on the earlier models.
Justin: Wow that’s interesting. So cleaning the colors separately that saves you quite a bit of ink on the older models, doesn’t it?
Ron: Absolutely. On the older models, when you were doing a power cleaning you were cleaning all the colors at the same time. Which led to a lot of ink being wasted. On the newer machines you can clean two colors individually based on placement on the head and what colors you want to clean. You would just tell it I want to clean cyan and end up cleaning cyan and another color. But again that is a big savings in ink and time.
Justin: Yeah definitely that is a great advancement actually I’m sure that’s really helpful for people.
So when servicing them, what do you find breaks most commonly, or what kind of problems do you see most commonly out in the field?
Ron: On these machines the logic board–the electronics–are almost bullet proof. The issues that we have with these machines like any other piece of machine would be mechanical. And that would be the pump unit where you are having plumbing, hoses, pump, motors running, we have issues with that from time to time. Which I would consider normal maintenance but again based on usage. The print head can be a factor. They seem to be lasting apron 3 years and when they fail it’s not a question of the head being clogged. It’s a failure internally in the head.
Justin: That’s kind of the nature of the print head, right? It’s not if it’s gonna fail, it’s when it’s gonna fail. It’s gonna dependent on volume.
Ron: Absolutely, people don’t realize the head is considered consumable, just like you would have a drum I a copier or a laser printer. That is a consumable item. And as the machine is used it will, they don’t seem to deteriorate the print quality right up the failure point, they just fail. You loose a color a portion of color and at that point it’s time to replace the heads.
Justin: And of course all the Epson heads need to be serviced by a technician rather then user serviceable.
Ron: Yeah, unlike the Canon machine where, say a Canon iPF9100, you can replace the head yourself. I always recommend if someone is going to do that, they should take a look at both printheads at the same time. On the Epson machine it is a technician-required exchange and it takes me about 2 hours, sometimes a little longer, depending on the adjustments required.
Justin: So it’s pretty involved, it sounds like.
Ron: It is involved, it is. Once it’s in and adjusted, the machine is back to where it was when they got it. In fact it’s usually better.
Justin: So moving on, let’s talk about print head clogging. We all know that print head quality is a little bit of challenge on the Epson printer because of the Micro Piezo printhead technology. Any tips on preventing the clogging, maybe specifically for the printmakers who don’t print every day? Maybe every other day, or third day. Any tips on that?
Ron: Absolutely. First, I don’t think printhead clogging is really an issue on the newer machines. Printhead failure, obviously, which we just discussed, is definitely an issue at times. The best way to keep these machines printing correctly and printing all the colors is to use them. If the machine is in a studio where they only use it 1 weekend a month out of 4, the issue is you’re going to not so much clog the heads, but when it is time to use it again you’re gonna end up running a number of cleaning cycles–again expensive ink and time–to get all the nozzles back printing. I recommend if you’re not gonna use the machine at least once a week, to run a minor cleaning. That way you don’t have to print a document, just turn the machine on, go into setup and run a cleaning cycle. That way the ink will stay wet.
Justin: Yeah that’s not to bed. I don’t think once per week is to crazy I don’t think. What about printing a nozzle check would that be effective or not really?
Ron: A lot people will come in and in the morning and they’ll run an auto nozzle check, which is a big time waster and a real ink waster. When you run an auto nozzle check the machine is going to–through the AID board, which is automatic ink detection (a big part of the newer machines) make sure that every nozzle is firing. If one of those nozzle is not firing, it fails the nozzle check and continues to run another cleaning. It will run up to 5 cleanings before it actually fails and tells you in the display that you have a clogged nozzle. So to get around that I tell people to turn that off, if it’s one of the options available to the end user. Turn it off, you come back after a nice weekend, run a nozzle check. If the nozzle check looks good you’re ready to go to work. Any kind of cleaning cycles what so ever. If the nozzle check is bad, clean the color where you have an issue. If there are breaks here and there then you run a normal cleaning cycle. Then another nozzle check but do not run it in auto mode.
Justin: that’s a great piece of information. I’ve never actually had that brought up to me before so that’s great.
Ron: Another thing that people don’t realize is if you run a nozzle check and you have a break in one of the colors–a black for instance–that is not going to have any effect whatsoever on the output. If you have a couple breaks in say a cyan, then you’re going to have an issue probably some banding on the output. But a lot of times if you have a break here and there, some people become obsessive and they just keep cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. It would take a lot less time to take a small print of the image you want to work with and take a look at it. If it looks clean and there is no banding then that’s the way to go.
Justin: Interesting. You have an interesting perspective. I’m kind of one of those people who gets obsessive about small breaks and I’ve always felt that that will cause problems.
Ron: it’s certainly dependent on the color and what you’re printing.
Justin: So just print it out and take a look. At the end of the day, just inspect it visually. Good piece of info there. So what are some other tips to keep the machines running smoothly Ron?
Ron: Keep it in an environment that is conducive to the operation of the machine. You don’t want it too cold–nothing below 60 degrees. A humid environment is not good, because paper will absorb water, which will end up giving you an image that is not as sharp, because the image is basically diluted because the ink is a pigment based, water-based ink. When you’re putting that ink that is already saturated is not a good thing. So you want to keep the environment 65% humidity is pushing it. I would like it somewhere around there you don’t want water dripping off the machine or yourself. So keep it relatively dry temperature wise no hotter then 80 degrees for the machine or for you. There is no point in doing that. Keep it in an environment where it is relatively dust free, because the dust is a bad environment, more so on the older machines then these machines. These machines will attract dust, since it’s an electronically charged piece of a equipment there is always some kind of charge going on here will attract to the print head and various areas by the print head, dust and dirt and hair. Everything that is in the air. And there is a lot of that in the air if you take a real bring light you know what I’m talking about, or sunlight comes in, there is stuff floating around all the time.
Justin: Yeah yeah I think people underestimate that, I constantly hear people storing the printer in the garage or warehouse and printing from there, just seems disastrous.
Ron: Well they will end up in situations on these machines where you look at the output and you see little marks here and there, little dots, and that’s usually because there’s a buildup of hair, or fuzz, or lint, on the bottom of the print head. Once that gets ink on it it’s like a paintbrush.
Justin: Definitely it can kind of resemble printhead strikes.
Ron: To a point not exactly the same but the end result is the same you have a piece of printed material you can’t use.
Justin: Is that something that is user serviceable. Can someone just open their printer and wipe the print head off or is that not recommended?
Ron: No not recommended and not on these models. The print head on the 7900 and 9900 metal series is very very fragile. If you’ve ever seen the bottom of one, it is gold and it is a very very thin gold foil that is on the bottom of it. The reason for it was to really limit or do away with head clogs, and it does. Whatever they use there does help. But you don’t want to touch it, you don’t want to scrape on it. Of you ever get a real bad paper jam it can actually damage the print head.
Justin: So it’s best just to call somebody who knows what they are doing?
Ron: I would think.
Justin: OK, great. Do you often run into service issues that could easily be prevented with proper preventive maintenance? Do you see a lot of people that don’t run proper maintenance on their machines?
Ron: Absolutely. Again environment is critical, where the machine is working. Make sure it’s a dust free as much possible, the temperature within the realm that we just discussed. Humidity same thing. The key to keeping these machines working and getting what you want out of them is far as prints per month or prints per year, Is by using it. What I’ve seen is the biggest failure is after 3 years or there about is the print heads. But you replace that and off you go. There are other issues with the ink cartridge bays but I only see those in machines that are using a non-Epson ink product.
Justin: Ok sounds like you seem to have a lot of really good things to say about the Epson 900 series printers. So kind of to wrap it all up at the end of the day do you recommend these machines to your customers?
Ron: Without a doubt. Most of the people I serve, and again most of it is in Manhattan, multiple machines and they went from the 9800 series, the 9880 series to the 99 or the 9890. Same machine without the orange and green inks. They are very happy with these machines, they are happy with the speed, the fact that they are virtually quiet. They are naturally very quiet machines and when you have a bunch of them in an office that’s a factor. You know the majority of these people are using Epson ink. When you stop using Epson ink it’s a whole another ball game. And there are customers out there who have to use a different ink for Dye sub or something along those lines, or a dye-based ink.
Justin: You mean just third party inks in general even if they are pigment that can cause problems?
Ron: They can cause problems. Honestly I’ve never seen one that dried correctly compared to the Epson inks. It’s usually that the blacks dry sooner and when you have inks that don’t dry. They may come out on the paper dry, but they are drying on the paper at different times in the machine and are getting on the pump unit and the print head. And when you get, usually it’s the black inks that dry differently, and you usually end up with more service issues.
Justin: I guess getting into the Epson inks vs. third party inks is a whole another conversation in itself.
Ron: It would be.
Justin: Pretty debatable.
Ron: Absolutely, truly debatable.
Justin: So Ron I know that the Epson printers can spit out a ton of different error messages at you, are you pretty familiar with all the different error codes and what they mean? And how to fix them?
Ron: Well I don’t have them memorized I can tell you that much. I have a sheet I referred to. Obviously some of them are more common than others. More common ones are: pump issues, pump maintenance. Maintenance errors, like the older machines will tell you that your pump is worn, your ink tubes are worn, you flat cables are worn, your print head needs to be replaced, the CR motor. There is a bunch of them. Some of them are very accurate some of them are pretty vague. Really depends on the error message. Some of them can be dealt with by the end user very few of them on the newer models.
To clear a lot of these error messages, like an 1800 error is an AID board failure. What has happened is the machine has failed “x”-number of head cleanings and it’s reached a point where it’s now done. Come up with 1800 and now it’s time to have a tech come in and figure out why this is happening. It’s either the pump or the print head or possibly an AID board or the firmware. There’s a number of them. If you’d like I’ll get together a list of the most common errors and what the remedy might be to get rid of that error. A lot of them are gonna be “call technician,” but some of them are self-serviceable.
Justin: Ok that’d be perfect, we’ll get that list and put it together in a PDF and we’ll throw that in the show notes for our listeners so that would be great.
Ron I really appreciate your time today, it’s been an awesome call. If people want to find out more about you, where can they go?
Ron: Very simple just go to arditos.com that’s my website.
Justin: Ok perfect. Thank you so much.
Ron: You’re very welcome. Talk to you soon.
Justin: Well that’s it for today’s episode, thanks so much for listening, for the list of common error codes 79 and 9900 visit the show notes at ask-bc.com/9900. That’s ask-bc.com/9900. If you’d like to ask a question for the show visit ask-bc.com and if we end up using your question a free Breathing Color tee-shirt will be on its way.
[00:14:27] End Audio
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