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Review Of The InkRepublic CIS For The Epson Stylus 1290

Jan 22rd, 2007

Chris Nicola
Cyprus

I am a serious amateur photographer and use my Epson Stylus 1290 printer to print photographs, letters, and personal designs made with Corel Draw 11 and other programmes. I previously used to refill the cartridges with bulk inks but was disappointed that air bubbles and foam frequently caused problems with the printouts after refilling a few times. I wanted something more reliable, and so I decided to obtain my first CIS.

I used about 300 ml of ink during the first month of use. The InkRepublic CIS performs well and I am happy with the product. The dampers are light and the ink tubes are flexible so the system does not interfere with the normal motion if the carriage. It is quiet in operation and performs well under high ink load. The dye ink supplied by InkRepublic is of a good quality in my opinion. The sponge-less dampers avoid foaming and have a built in filter and do not seem to be affected by a very small bubble of air if it accidentally enters the system, which stays at the top of the damper. Occasionally the print heads have to be cleaned to unblock nozzles but this is normal even with original Epson cartridges. Actually, I have had to use far fewer cleaning cycles compared to the time I refilled my cartridges with bulk ink and I have found the CIS to be more reliable and time saving.

The CIS always stays connected and air is not introduced into the system during refilling. The bottles are well designed. I have found that refilling is quick and easy by slowly injecting ink directly in the air hole on top of the ink bottles with a thin needle. (As a precaution, you may choose to close the ink stopper or loosen the bottle cap slightly to prevent excess pressure from reaching the head during this procedure.) Evidently, experienced CIS users recommend that the ink level be kept to within a half inch of the ideal position by regularly topping up. The bottles have to be kept on the same level as the printer. The ink-stop clips can be left open permanently once the set up is complete and are only closed for servicing or removal of the dampers.

The InkRepublic auto reset chipset is a very useful feature. However, keep in mind that some ink is wasted during priming at the time when the printer is fooled by the chipset into thinking that new ink cartridges have been installed. I have found it more practical to reset the ink levels regularly when the status monitor shows about half full using the ssc programme. (Available free at: http://www.ssclg.com/epsone.shtml). This way I can avoid problems if the status monitor shows empty in the middle of a print job and can also avoid some unnecessary priming cycles.

The CIS tubes actually run over the lever that adjusts the height of the carriage. This is not a serious problem though, and the lever is still accessible. One also has to be prepared to make some modifications to the top lid to make it fit. Although the top lid does not completely close with my set up this does not impair the printer operation.

In conclusion, I am happy with the system and would recommend the InkRepublic CIS to anyone who does high volume printing. It is reliable, and saves time and money.

Installation Procedure:

The written instructions and the videos on the CD were very helpful in outlining the installation procedure. However I have noted some suggestions below gained from my personal experience which others may find useful.
I was concerned because I am using my printer in a very confined space and I thought that this would present difficulties in finding a place to put the ink bottles. In practice, I found that the ink bottles fit nicely behind the printer. The actual installation of the CIS was not too difficult but required time and concentration. The hardest part was adjusting the CIS so the cartridge holder would move freely without the tubes touching the printer. I improvised by using self-adhesive Velcro to attach the CIS brackets so the CIS can easily be dismantled for printer servicing and cleaning. Also, it was necessary to make some modifications that were not in the instructions so the top cover of the printer would not interfere with the functioning of the CIS. I have noted the following steps in the installation:

1) I decided to label the dampers with a CD marking pen so as to avoid making mistakes with the ink. B, DC, LC, DM, LM, Y. The opposite ends of the tubes were also labelled before connecting to the bottle caps & tubes. See pictures 001 and 002
Chris Nicola 001

Response from InkRepublic:
We have improved this part. Currently we put color codes on dampers so that customer would not get confused.


Chris Nicola 002

It was not necessary to strip the tubes more than 5-6 inches where they connect to the bottles. (The printed instructions mention 1.5 feet, which is much too long.)

2) I then placed the bottle caps / tubes in the bottles noting the correct colours.

3) I suctioned out the ink and primed the dampers using the small suction bottle supplied, which worked well. It is important to clamp the tubes with the small white clamps after filling each damper to stop ink leaking out.

4) I removed the original cartridges, put in the chipset and then fixed the dampers in place according to the correct colour. (Left to right: B, DC, LC, DM, LM, Y) See picture 003.
Chris Nicola 003

Later, I decided to use some sticky sponge tape and Velcro to stabilize the tubes where they exit the carriage. This helps to stop the tubes from moving and touching parts of the printer during operation. (The sponge tape can be obtained on a roll at a hardware store for sealing doors and windows) See picture 004 & 004B. (Please note: The cartridges should be removed just before installing the dampers to prevent ink drying out and gumming up the ink spikes - the ink can turn to a honey like consistency in a short time in warm weather. Avoid touching the contacts on the chipset with your fingers. Be careful when you install it so as not to damage the delicate copper pins in the cartridge holder. If changing the type of ink e.g. dye to pigment or using ink from a different manufacturer, please check that the new ink is compatible and will not react with the old ink causing a clog. Otherwise, the print head will need to be flushed with cleaning cartridges before using the new ink.)
Chris Nicola 004

Chris Nicola 004B

5) I connected the long and short plastic brackets to the tubes according to the pictures supplied by InkRepublic for the 1280/90 printer. These pictures were very helpful but I had to download them from the website as they were not supplied with the kit. See pictures 005 and 006 to note the bracket positions on my printer. The hardest part was positioning the main bracket and adjusting the length of the tubing so it would not touch the printer during operation. I found the ideal position for the main bracket to be the place suggested in the picture from InkRepublic. If the main bracket is too low, then the tubes will scrape in the middle of the printer. The tubes have to be adjusted to the minimum length so that they will just allow the carriage to move fully to the right and left positions. With the carriage fully to the far left, the tubes should have no slack. (See picture 006B)
Chris Nicola 005

Chris Nicola 006

Chris Nicola 006B

6) I used self-adhesive Velcro to position the brackets instead of the double sided sticky tape supplied. (See picture 005) Cleaning the printer surface with a little alcohol before applying the Velcro tape will help it to stick better. Using Velcro has the advantage that the bracket can be adjusted for the best position, it allows for greater flexibility during the carriage motion and can be easily removed and fixed back on for printer servicing. (The disadvantage of Velcro is that from time to time you have to check the position hasn't moved and it is thicker than double sided tape so the top cover might not fit as snugly. After finding the best position for the brackets and tubes I used a CD marker pen to draw a line across the tubes at the edge of the brackets. Also, I used a pencil to make a mark on the printer where the main bracket was fixed. This way the CIS can be easily removed and fixed back on for printer servicing. The top cover had to be modified to fit on the printer without interfering with the CIS. Using a sharp hobby knife I cut off a plastic lip under the cover. See pictures 007 & 008. This was done by repeatedly scoring the plastic while applying pressure until it was completely cut. If anyone tries this method please be very careful and safety conscious. Also work on a surface that will not be damaged by the knife.
Chris Nicola 007

Chris Nicola 008

7) Other optional modifications included: A: Applying self-adhesive sponge tape to the to the top cover. See picture 005. This helps to make the CIS quieter. The tubes will not make a noise as they run against the top cover during operation. B: Using small pieces of rubber to support the printer cover, which does not fully close. (The rubber spacer is about 1cm high and can be cut from a pencil eraser and fixed with double sided sticky tape or a small rubber door-stop from a hardware store can be used - See picture 005.) C: Cutting away a small part of the cover on the side so the tubes will exit unobstructed. (See pictures 006 and 009). Applying some greaseproof tape to parts of the printer to reduce friction and wear in case the tubes accidentally touch the printer. (See picture 010). This tape is actually the thin variety of double sided tape and the grease-proof backing is not removed. D: Taping the ink bottles to keep them together (see picture 006). Actually, the bottles are supposed to be placed in the plastic box provided but I found this to be too large for my work space. I would have preferred a smaller box to be provided for the 1290 as only 6 colours of ink are used. E: Covering the sides of the ink bottles with cardboard or foil will keep them dark and discourage the growth of algae. F: Using a little blue tack underneath the ink bottles to prevent them accidentally being knocked over.
Chris Nicola 009

Chris Nicola 010

Pictures 006 and 011 show the printer with the CIS fully installed:
Picture 012 shows an easy way of carrying the printer with the CIS
Chris Nicola 011

Chris Nicola 012

Points To Keep In Mind:

If the stoppers are accidentally left shut during a powerful cleaning cycle, this will probably introduce air into the dampers and they will have to be re-primed.. If the ink bottles are too high then there is the danger that excess ink will run out of the head and start to drip. However, if the ink level is allowed to become too low then there is the danger air could be sucked back into the head and cause drying out and clogging. If all the ink levels have dropped by half an inch from the ideal position they should be topped up or another solution would be to prop up the bottles with a half inch block of wood.
Disassembling The CIS For Servicing The Printer

I decided to use Velcro to fix the CIS brackets so it would be easy to temporarily remove the CIS and unscrew and remove the top half of the printer for servicing and cleaning. The dampers are not removed during this procedure, just the tube brackets are. The top half of the printer can be unscrewed and the brackets can be pulled off the Velcro quite easily. The top half of the printer can then be pulled off in the normal way and be put to one side of the printer. If it is necessary to completely separate the top half of the printer from the tubes, then the ink bottles, which I have taped together, can be passed through the hole in the top half of the printer. Reassembly of the CIS is quick and easy by reversing the procedure. (See pictures 013, 014, 015 & 016.)
Chris Nicola 013

Chris Nicola 014

Chris Nicola 015

Chris Nicola 016

If for some reason it is necessary to remove the dampers for more than a few minutes then cartridges will have to be fitted to the carriage stop the ink spikes from drying out. The dampers can be grouped together and tape can be applied over the holes to stop the ink from drying out and they can be temporarily stored in a plastic bag. See picture 017. The dampers will need to be re-primed before being used.
Chris Nicola 017

Recommendations To InkRepublic To Improve The Product:

1- I would have preferred a smaller plastic box to be supplied to contain the 6 bottles of ink. This would fit more easily into my confined workspace.

Response from InkRepublic:
We are going to send you a smaller tray which can hold 6 ink bottles. Please see the following picture. Other customers can request these ink trays if our carrying case is bulky to your working space. We have different trays for 4-color, 6-color, 8-color and 9-color printer.

InkRepublic InkTray

2. The instructions should be updated and all the relevant videos for the specific printer model found on the InkRepublic website should be put on the CD. It would be simpler if all the video files on the CD were named .MPG rather than .DAT in my opinion. The CD should be supplied with a paper sleeve to protect it rather than being sent "loose".

Response from InkRepublic:
We are working on the new installation movies and instructions for our i-INK2 and i-INK3 based on your and other customer's inputs.


3. I suggest the 1290 CIS come with tubes that are at least 6 inches longer. The customer can always cut them and shorten them if necessary. I found the CIS tubes were of adequate length but longer tubes would have enabled me more freedom to position the ink bottles further behind the printer for added safety with my set up.

Response from InkRepublic:
The ink system you got is our standard product, we will send you longer tubes. Any one who needs longer tubes please let us know or make a note in Paypal checkout screen. We will customize it for you.


4 I believe the brackets should be supplied with self-adhesive Velcro instead of double sided tape. This will enable the Velcro to be removed quickly for printer cleaning and servicing as mentioned above. However, this is just my opinion.

Response from InkRepublic:
We will work on this as soon as we can. Currently 3M tapes and spare 3M VHB tapes (http://www.3m.com/VHB) are included in i-INK2 and i-INK3 ink system. These 3M tapes can let you attach and de-attach brackets many times. These tapes are not included in older version of i-INK, for example 1280, R200, C86, etc.


I wish to thank InkRepublic for supplying me with a good product, and for giving me the opportunity to express my views.

Chris Nicola
Cyprus

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