Review of InkRepublic Epson 2200 CIS Unit

Throughout the fall of 2004, InkRepublic contacted me several times to create a review of their CIS product for the 2200 printer. Some time ago I posted an article on re-inking the 2200 cartridge and I believe, their request was based on their knowledge of my work.

A month ago, April, I received the product and proceeded to install it and use it. This review will be based on overall appearance and engineering of their unit, ease of installation, actual use and some form of conclusion.

 

Background

Some time ago, Epson provided a sample image from their new Photo Stylus 700 and stuffed it into every PopPhoto magazine for that month. Of course, the first thing I did was go downstairs and take my loupe and check for pixels. I was impressed. Good image too. I bought a 700 that afternoon.

When we opened a portrait studio four years ago, I used that printer, (4) 1200's and a 7500 for various tasks. In time, all five smaller units had a Continuous Ink System from another company. One was equipped with the black/white inkset. Being 1200's the cartridge and underlying 'technology' was not as fancy as the 2200, but, it was State-of-the-Art, at that time.

The issues I had with them were dropped nozzles, clogs with the b/w inkset and 'resetting' the software when it thought the cartridge was empty. If it sat for a couple weeks, cleaning cyles were the order of the day. Also, the level of the cartridge in relation to the top of the ink in the bottle was a consideration. Inks get too low? Dropped nozzles. Too high? Siphoning may happen.

One day, a couple years ago, I bought some genuine Epson 1200 cartridges on eBay, disconnected about $850 of tubing and CIS and such and threw it all out. I had enough. And, I gave it every chance I could to behave itself.

When I started using the 2200, I looked for a way to re-ink the cartridge, with Epson inks, which I did and I have not looked back since. Trust me, when you first see a 10600 500cc cartridge? You will be impressed. I based my re-inking on someone else's work and a few hundred 're-inks' later? Not one problem. Epson inks, not 3rd party's.

When I was approached to review the InkRepublic's CIS, I was skeptical …

 

Overall Appearance

When I opened the box, the packing and bagging was just plain great. What I appreciated most were the ink bottles in their own sealed plastic bag. Plus, even with the cap, there was another seal on the top of the bottle. Bag break? No problem. The bottles are capped. Cap comes off? No problem. The bottles are sealed. Most components were seperately bagged and that made it really nice to lay everything out before installation.

The components themselves are very well done. The tubing, when seperated into individual tubes, does not have a ridge from the web between the tubes. The manifolds that go into the printhead unit, are very well thought out. Filter. Ink Chamber. Siphon Break. Separate Ink Reservoir. Tubing Attachment. Well done.

The holder for the tubing is a nice touch instead of simply taping it to the side of the printer. Having the chipset in its own holder instead of the individual cartridges - also a nice touch. And, having a box for the ink bottles instead of a tray? Again, well thought out. Cats, cannot mess with what's inside the box.

 

Installation

Looking at the supplied CD, it was not very clear how to use it. Went to the website, and, a bit confused there too. After an eMail and being told how to save certain files and rename the suffix, at least I could get them to work. I was sure I could install it without instructions, but, I wanted to make sure.

After reviewing them, I was reminded with so many printers out there, what a task it must be to have clear instructions for each one. But, I found them adequate to give me an overall view of what to do. The CD should be labeled as to what to do, how to do it, and the label would also be one more piece of advertising for the company.

I placed the chipset part in place. I made a mistake and did not get it in far enough and the electrical things did not work very well. After some correspondance, I snapped it in place and now all is very well. (It really 'snaps' when properly inserted.) I took the manifolds and tubing, seperated the eighth unit from the rest, and slipped the clips over the ends. Tried one out and I believe, they are just way too tight and might hurt the tubing. I took them off and put them back in the box.

I marked each manifold with the ink color. Using a small bottle to serve as a vacuum to pull the ink thru the tubing into the manifold is a very easy way to prime the system. Doing one at a time worked quite well. However, were I to do this again, a second set of hands to hold a flashlight etc would have been very helpful. But,. I managed.

The manifolds themselves are a bit resistant to push onto the stubs at the bottom of the printhead. That also means, it will be a bit of work to remove them. Once in place, all is well. During this step, make absolutely certain the correct ink is in the correct tube and so on. Really embarrassing if it is not. Take your time and all should be fine.

 

Actual Use

To test the unit, I decided to print some test targets and then some vacation snapshots I had from a trip to Bolivia. All 600 of them in 4x6 form on 4" roll paper.

I did the usual of printing test targets to make sure there were no dropped nozzles. After one sheet of paper, all was well. And, I might add, since then, there has not been one problem in that area.

I have all the equipment to create my own ICC Profiles. Next, I printed the test targets to create a custom profile. Then, one of my standard test images. That came out so well, I decided to start printing my vacation snapshots. Loaded up the first 4" wide roll of Epson Luster and fired up Qimage Pro and away we went.

That weekend I printed 300 of the 600 images. The color, to the eye, was just as good as the Epson inksets. Mind you, an ICC Profile is still needed for more critical work. But, for snapshots? I did not want to take the time to do the profiling.

A tip is in order at this point. When loading a new roll, cycle the power to the printer to reset the ink level in the chipset.

I did have an issue routing the tubing from the printhead to the top of the printer. And came up with my own method that works just fine. No manufacturer of any CIS system will have a corner on this problem. Reason? The printer was designed for cartridges, not a CIS unit.

 

Conclusion

Pros

- Inkset color match to Epson is excellent
- Brassing, metamerism, on a par with the Epson ink
- Manifold is a very good design
- Tubing is first rate
- No clogged nozzles, no air bubbles
- No siphoning of ink thru the printhead
- Inks dry in less than 24 hrs
- Any inks can be used, Epson, InkRepublics, others
- Priming the manifolds is very, very easy
- Packaging - very nicely done
- Ink bottles in box is very useful
- Plastic tubing 'trough' is nice
- Customer Support is timely and excellent

Cons

- Tubing exiting the manifolds needs to be attached at the top of the printhead
- Tubing exiting each manifold could have been a specific length for alignment
- Better information regarding chipset installation - pictures + diagram
- The Instructions need a fair degree of improvement
- Clips way too tight (Do not need them anyway)
- Slight odor to ink when printing a lot of work

 

Recommendation

If, you want a CIS unit for the Epson printers, this is the one to get. It simply works. Not once did it drop a nozzle, clog nor siphon. Even after being shut off for two weeks to over a month.

I have not re-inked my cartridges any longer and using this CIS unit and InkRepublic inksets for all my general printing needs and will use Epson inksets from the 10600 cartridges for production.

 

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

 

Images

Ready to go!

All the items ready for assembly.

Gasket from the ink bottle. We need to make a small hole in it for the ink tubing to pass thru.

Simply make a cut with a scissors.

Line it up with on eof the holes.

Pierce this plastic membrane with an Exacto blade or paper clip. The idea is not to have more holes than we need. Just enough to let the bottle breathe as ink is drawn out.

Label the Manifolds for clarity.

Seperate the tubing for routing inside the ink box and also the ink bottle.

"X" marks the top of the bottle cap.

In action ... Plenty of room for air to pass thru as needed.

I placed a piece of tape on the outside so as not to pull the tubing from the bottles.

When adding the manifold without the clip (which stops the ink flow) some ink will dribble on the bottom of the chamber.

Just pop a Q-Tip down there and suck it up. You will also be able to seperate the manifolds just enough to get a Q-Tip between them as well. Even when all of them are installed.

"The Mess" (Really, not bad!)

Ready to route the tubing. Note: Do NOT leave the bottles above the printhead very long. The ink will siphon down and thru the printhead. Faster, than you might like, too.

With spacer installed. Note: If the tubig had a better haircut, the alignment could have been better.

The unit setting among 'The Mess'.

Final routing which works very well.

A little bit of tape to guide the tubing over the notch in the case.

Routing to the ink bottles.

April 2005
June 2005

End of Review