Printer cartridges Epson flags as empty still have a lot of ink in the tank

In 2008, we ran a test showing printers often left a lot of ink in their cartridges even when officially empty. A recent video from a professional printer says higher-end machines are no different.

es pro 9900 front no paper epson   sgia

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It’s no secret that changing your printer ink when you’re prompted to is as pointless as changing your oil every 3,000 miles. When we took a look at how much printer ink was left in empty cartridges back in 2008, we found supposedly dead cartridges had anywhere from eight to 36 percent of their ink left.

Seven years later, not much has changed.

Bellevue Fine Art Reproduction, a printing company in the Seattle, Washington area, recently published a video on YouTube showing that a pro-grade Epson 9900 series printer had as much as 20 percent of its ink left in the tank when officially empty, as first reported by ArsTechnica.

Update: Epson had this to say about its machine's ink reporting: 

"For quality assurance, the Epson Stylus Pro 9900 ink system uses two methods to track ink levels. The first system estimates ink consumption by mathematically calculating how much ink is consumed from a cartridge for each ink droplet fired during printing and print head cleaning...[The second is the] “Ink Out” notice [which] is triggered by a...physical sensor in the cartridge...The sensor triggers when ink volume has declined to the point that further use could cause harm to the print head."

Throwing out ink-loaded cartridges is bad enough when you’re buying refills for consumer-grade inkjets for $25 to $50. But when you get into high-end printers like an Epson Stylus Pro 9900 you’re looking at a machine that loads eleven cartridges at once, and each costs more than $200.

Bellevue Fine Art says it loses hundreds of dollars in wasted ink every month, and so far it says Epson hasn’t been receptive to complaints.

The reproduction company came to its conclusions by weighing full cartridges. Then they weighed them a second time once they were “empty” and divided the difference by 1.08—the weight in grams for one millimeter of ink, acording to Bellevue Fine Art.

The impact on you at home: Owning an Epson 9900 is an expensive proposition and only makes sense for businesses requiring high quality printing. Nevertheless, Bellevue Fine Art’s story serves as a reminder that just because your printer says an inkjet cartridge is empty doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the case. In fact, if you print a lot of pages every week you could end up throwing away hundreds of dollars by the end of year. How far you want to push your cartridge past the “empty” point is up to you, although you should also take into account any warnings from the manufacturer about doing so.

Update: This article originally published at 11:15 a.m. eastern time on Sept. 15, but was updated at 2:30 a.m. eastern on Wednesday, September 16 with comment from Epson.

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