Pigment Settling and printer maintenance
15 May, 2013 by
Pigment Settling and printer maintenance
Jon Cone
Summer time is the traditional time of year when we begin transferring huge quantities of PiezoFlush to our University and High School inkjet customers. Inkjet printers should never be allowed to sit with pigment inks for more than a few weeks, or pigment settling will begin to occur.

Schools (and home users) which shut their programs down for the Summer should flush out the printers and allow them to sit with PiezoFlush. This keeps everything moist and ready for the ink recharge in the Fall. One set of large format carts filled with PiezoFlush can be shared amongst printers of the same model. We received requests for 5 liter jugs of PiezoFlush as a result of sharing resources such as flushing carts. Many professional studios use PiezoFlush for routine maintenance.

Ever wonder why Epson writes on their ink cartridge instructions that the cartridge should be discarded after six months of use? The ink does not go bad. Ink should have a shelf life for two years or more. What happens is that the amount of ink that has been consumed is too low for the rate of pigment settling within the cart. In other words, if you have not used up an ink cartridge full of ink in six months - then you are not printing at a rate that is high enough to prevent pigment settling. Epson wants to avoid a lot of issues around pigment settling - and therefore the easiest way to circumvent technical support issues due to settling is to simply instruct users to throw their carts away.

Pigment settling in large format printers InkjetMall's own ink formulations do not escape pigment settling. No pigment ink can escape settling. It's just a simple matter of gravity affecting tiny solid particles. They eventually drop to the bottom of the cartridge. They can also drop to the bottom of the ink lines and that is when things can quickly go bad for users that leave their printers sitting for a few months. We all know that we are supposed to limit our sodium intake otherwise our arteries in our bodies begin to become clogged. This is what happens to ink lines when printers are allowed to sit. The ink lines become thinner as a channel for the ink to flow through when pigment begins lining the walls of the thin 'arteries'.

Flushing out settled pigment from large format printer ink lines in mass can clog dampers. Dampers are inexpensive and should be replaced (according to Epson) on an annual basis. But, the rule is that those who allow their printers to sit unused are less apt to perform annual maintenance that includes the changing of the dampers. Dampers are filters. More importantly - dampers contain a reservoir of ink that is fed to the print heads. At regular intervals the print head returns to the capping station and suction is applied to refill the damper. If the damper is restricted in any way, the result is usually visible banding in the prints. However, it can also be intermittently missing nozzles on a nozzle check. So dampers need to be kept in tip top condition.

If a printer has been allowed to sit for months (and sometimes we help customers recover printers that have been allowed to sit with pigment inks for years...) you can expect to change the dampers after the printer has been flushed.
Fortunately, pigment settling is easy to avoid by simply removing pigment ink carts every few weeks and giving them a gentle shake. For color sensitive studios this should be done once a week. This takes care of the ink inside the carts. We do this at Cone Editions regardless whether we are using OEM inks or our own inks. We actually will physically shake our large format printers to do this.

Pigment settling within the printer can only be avoided by printing - so that the contents of the ink lines in Pro printers is replenished at a minimum - once every week - no more than two. With 15ml or so of ink - that is a lot of printing that needs to be done. People are very mistaken to believe that having the printer 'auto-perform' a head clean every day is enough to keep the ink from settling in the printer. I would estimate that if you are using Epson inks in a Pro printer - you should print a minimum of 25 full sheets of 13 x 19 every two weeks. This is about 2 prints a day. 25 full sheets of 8.5x11 would keep the printer happy. Printing one sheet a week or every few weeks, is just not the way to be kind to a printer so that it is kind back to you. Large format flush kits  
Pigment settling and small format printers
Things do not really change when it comes to small format. The inks still settle. The carts should be removed and shaken gently if the printer will not be used. Fortunately, it is much easier to put a desktop printer in flush for storage. If you are not going to use it for a few weeks - simply install flush cartridges. We provide these for several models here. And for desktop printers which have ink stems on which the cartridge is placed we have a cleaning kit for cleaning print heads.

Here is also a video on how to do that.

However, recently Epson produced a desktop printer called the R3000. This is one of the most popular ConeColor printer models. But, it's not a desktop printer other than in size. Inside the R3000 is the print head that runs the Pro 3880. It has ink lines and dampers like a Pro 3880. However, it does not have the basic maintenance tools of a Pro 3880 printer. Users of this printer should be very cautious not to allow it to sit for weeks without use. There is no POWER CLEAN function on this printer. If you abandon it for a month - you may end up with headaches that you will regret. Put this printer in flush fluid when you leave it on its own for an extended time.

So what can InkjetMall do to help?
PiezoFlush is our unique cleaning, flushing and storage fluid. It does not use ammonia like home-made solutions or internet based recipes. Ammonia and copper can form solid precipitates that may ruin a print head. We do not really recommend this as a solution to clogs or flushing. If a print head has a small fissure that in the course of normal printing is of no consequence - the ammonia if it finds its way into the internals will quickly ruin the print head.

Instead, PiezoFlush uses a proprietary chemistry blend that acts to solubilize solids, is strong enough to clean and yet safe enough for long term storage. We sell PiezoFlush in bottles from 110ml up to 5000ml. We have a desktop printer PiezoFlush kit. We have PiezoFlush cleaning kits for many supported printers. The product is easy to use. The basics are that you fill up a set of refillable carts and install them into your printer. Depending upon your printer model (we'll help with that) - you either run POWER CLEANS or an INK CHARGE. If the clogs are stubborn - you may need to allow the printer to sit for 24 hours and give the PiezoFlush a chance to penetrate prior to your running head cleanings.
Pigment Settling and printer maintenance
Jon Cone
15 May, 2013
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