Print-spooler jams, overpriced ink, and mechanical failures soon after the warranty expires; these are just a few of the printer hassles that have contributed to our love/hate relationship with computer printers — of all brands.
Here are some solutions that will make us feel a bit better about our most — ultimately — expensive peripheral.
I rarely print in color; I typically make hardcopies of documents in draft mode, using only black ink. So I was surprised, recently, when my Canon printer stopped printing and its yellow error light flashed, indicating that one of the three color cartridges needed to be replaced. Where had the color ink gone?
The answer is relatively simple — and applies to nearly all brands of ink jet printers. You know how your printer makes all sorts of mechanical noise each time you power it on or before it processes a print request? It’s running a regular maintenance check and automatic print-head and nozzle cleaning. And each time it does so, it uses a little bit ink from each color cartridge.
According to a June 2013 Consumer Reports article, “Some, even a lot, of that precious ink probably never even makes it onto printed pages. Instead, it’s used to clean print heads and for other maintenance chores, typically when the printer is preparing to print after sitting idle for some time.” Compared by volume, brand name ink costs considerably more than a U.S. $180 bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne.
Annoyingly, I’m held hostage by the color cartridges. If any one of them runs out, the printer locks up until it’s replaced — even if I select monochrome or grayscale printing. Even more annoying, both ink-jet and laser printers commonly flash low-ink warnings when there’s 10 to 20 percent ink remaining.
Let’s face it: we’re not really buying ink from printer manufacturers, we’re buying printers from ink companies. Ink-jet printers, especially, are sold as loss leaders. The profit is in the ink — and it’s a very profitable business. If not for the increasing availability of third-party ink, we might easily be paying the same for a set of brand-name ink cartridges as we spent on the printer, itself.