Erratic behavior of epson 3800

For the last months, I had piezo-flush filled cartridges in my epson 3800
I recently replaced them with new piezography k7 cartridges.
The first tests resulted in solarized prints (see earlier post)

I just did a couple more power clean cycles.
The nozzle test comes out perfect, the inks in the right position.
But if I repeat the test after 10mn, the patterns get mad: lots of missing
nozzles in the dark shades, and all of a sudden I get dark shades in the
light areas.

Could it be that the ink system is sucking back, getting either air (missing
nozzles) or ink from the capping station ?
Any chance that this can be fixed ?
All advice welcome !

Regards from the Alps

Hi Andreas~

I see you posted another thread with the same issue/question, which Jon responded to with questions.
In regards to your report of solarized prints, please tell us:

  1. What Piezography ink shade do you have in what color position cartridge?
  2. What curve are you selecting when printing?

In regards to your nozzle check:
If you are experiencing ink mixing in the nozzle check, then this could be caused by back-suction, which generally happens when the dampers are old and don’t have good flow, or too many powerful cleaning cycles are done in a row.

  1. Have you cleaned your printer’s capping station, wiper blade, and bottom of the print head? If not, I suggest you clean your printer by following our instructions, here:
  2. What is the humidity in your printing environment?
  3. About how old is this printer?
  4. What inks were previously used in this printer?
  5. How often has this printer been used, vs. how long does it sit unused?
  6. After installing the Piezography cartridges, what did you do to charge the printer with inks?
  7. Has this printer ever had any parts replaced, such as the dampers, capping station and/or wiper blade?

Please let me know so I can help you resolve this and get back to happily printing.
Thanks~ Dana :slight_smile:

Thanks Dana for your reply !

Here is the mapping I used:

And this the result of a nozzle check, 30 seconds after a head-clean and 5 minutes later:

I had started with clean cartridges and the piezography ink was just pushing piezo-flush solution out.
The printer must be 3-4 years old, it is beeing used in an environment of about 60% humidity.
Capping station and dampers were never replaced,but I recently cleaned them following your (very helpful) instructions.

I downloaded the service manual for this printer, but have no idea where to get dampers from, not even if they are replaceble.

I am thankful for your advice…

Thanks for the additional information.

The nozzle check is small, but from what I can see it looks like some nozzles in the center of the black channel drop out, and dark (black?) nozzles print in the center of the yellow channel.
Are all channels, including the yellow channel fully printing in the first nozzle check (I can’t see clearly)?
If the second nozzle check was printed about 5 minutes after the first, with no other cleaning cycles done between, then I have a few ideas and questions:

  1. Please remove and examine your refill carts- make sure all exit chambers are at least 1/2 filled with ink, and no ink is in the empty air chambers, or leaking from anywhere.
  2. Are there any ink drips on the paper during printing?
  3. Does your capping station seem to allow fluid to flow thru- or does fluid puddle on it?
  4. Did you clean the bottom of the print head and wiper blade following our instructions?
  5. The repair manual instructs you to replace the entire ink assembly, which is one unit including the cartridge chambers, ink lines, and set of dampers (AKA “ink selector unit”). The ink assembly costs about $170 from, as per the Epson service manuals and our personal experience, dampers should be replaced about every 1-3 years.
  6. What is the current ink level in your carts?

Please let me know so I can try to help.
Thanks~ Dana :slight_smile:

Thanks for your help.
Yes, it seems all chanels were printing in the first nozzle check (the ink in the Y slot is very light…)
Chambers are all filled to 80-100%
No drips during printing.
I just flushed the capping station: piezo-flush flows through (after 1 second puddle), so no problem here.
Bottom of print head is clean (as much as it can go), same for blade. Had done so before the switch to piezography.
Ink levels are at 30% (They were full when I started two days ago, so around US $ 150.- worth of ink sits now in the waste tank…)
Slight feeling of frustration…

That’s what I’m here for, thanks for the additional information.

From what you explain, everything is correct, and I don’t see any issues that would cause your results. Shade 7 in your yellow channel is supposed to be very light, to achieve highlight details.
Does your printer’s pressure pump turn on at all while the printer sits idle? If so, about how often?
The black and yellow channels are not near each other in the damper or print head order, so I don’t think it’s black that is getting sucked into your yellow channel… but maybe shade 2/cyan or a mixture of ink from the capping station.

Dampers should be replaced every 1-3 years. Yellow and magenta are always the thickest (this is true with all pigment inks- including Epson), therefore usually show signs of particle build up in the dampers faster than other colors. Based on the age of your printer and the symptoms, you may be dealing with the results of particle build up in the dampers, which restricts ink flow and can cause back-suction.

What inks did you have in this printer prior to installing Piezography?
Were you getting consistent good results with the previously installed ink/carts?
I don’t see that you purchased carts from us, so what carts are you using?
Did you use one set of carts for flush and another set for Piezography inks, or one set for both flush and inks?

Please let me know so I can try to help you resolve this.
Best regards~ Dana

Thanks Dana,

The pressure pump does not turn on more often then necessary, usually only just when a job gets send to the printer.
Except for 3 a stubborn missing nozzles in Magenta, I had not experienced previous trouble with this printer. Gaps in M were the reason for the purchase of the first set of carts, and the printer was left a few month filled with piezo-flush. In the mean time I had decided to convert to a BW printer (with a remap of the M chanel) and ordered a second set of carts, which were filled with piezography ink last week.
Prior to this the printer only contained OEM Epson inks (although some out of date) and has seen less than 2000 prints.
The carts (two sets) are apparently identical to yours, one set was only filled with piezo-flush, the other only with piezography ink.

I also tend to favor the dead dampers hypothesis, caused by age and maybe old ink (that the piezography bath didn’t resolve)
If the replacement parts are around US 150.- as you tell me, and that it takes at least 2-3 hours to install them, I am looking at a US$ 500.- repair, and that is hoping that the capping station is OK…
This is about the price here of a second hand printer (if you are lucky), or a new printer without the OEM inks I wouldn’t need…

Your help is still very much appreciated !
Best regards

And somewhat off-topic:

Regardless of the money invested, it is somewhat absurd;
I can fix anything on my 40 years old enlarger myself, even have parts remade by a mechanic, but I am lead by the manufacturer of a 20kg 3years old printer to trash it because a 10gr. fabric filter needs to be replaced, but isn’t available as a part and costs as much as the whole machine to replace.
You do a great job by providing inks, refillable cartridges, resetters for waste tanks, expertise and support that manufacturers are reluctant to disclose. Sometimes promoting art is really a political statement…

Merry Christmas and happy new year !


Last night I removed the print head, took the dampers as well as the capping station apart and cleaned the whole stuff. Lots of work but it was well worth it; there was quite some caked ink in the dampers (which have a transparent side) and in the capping station. To my surprise, the printer re-started without complaining once reassembled.

To my frustration, the cross-contamination was still there, but I managed to narrow down the problem: it only occurs when photo black is selected. Once matte black is active, there is no black ink being sucked in the yellow nozzles. That seems to indicate that the capping station and the print head are no longer suspect.

While i cleaned the dampers, I noticed that each damper handles two ink channels (google “epson 3800 damper” to see them) and fluid can only be sucked from the printhead side of the damper. No fluid can be force-pushed (not gently at least) through any port.

There are 5 identical dampers, 3 connect incoming inks and the print head directly, 2 are used for a last color (Magenta) and the black/matte channels through a pair of switching valves made of a material similar to the one used for the dampers (but didn’t find anywhere as a replacement part). The “fingers” of the ink switching mechanism push alternatively on the sides of these valves to open/close the corresponding chanels.

The mechanism that switches inks seems to function as designed (I checked with epson’s adjustment program). My guess is now that either the aluminium foil covered part that distributes ink to the dampers or one of the valves is defective.
Does it ring a bell somewhere ?

Update on the ink assembly part:
The foil-covered ink dispatcher is not causing the trouble; every chanel is being delivered to the right port with no leak to any other.
The valves seem as well to be working as designed.

Some of the dampers do only let fluid pass through them when considerable suction is applied. Not a good omen: the metal mesh filter must be clogged with old ink, even if this is not visible from looking at the dampers.
Thanks Dana for your initial advice: you were spot on.

I ordered a new “ink assembly set” from a German supplier.
I will also receive a whole bunch of unwanted hardware (cartridges holder, ink collector, ink lines, Ink dispatcher, ink selection mechanism, valves and plexiglass frame).

Has someone tried ordering the dampers from chinese manufacturers ?
Since several sources are available, it is not easy to make the right choice. The first quote I received was not much cheaper than the whole Ink assembly.

Hi Andreas~

I’m glad to hear my initial assessment of the dampers being the issue was correct. I suspect replacing all the dampers will also bring back your magenta channel.

Yes, the “ink assembly” consists of the cartridge holders, ink lines, and damper unit. The Epson repair manual instructs to replace the entire ink assembly, and doesn’t provide information for replacing the individual dampers. I have figured out how to replace the individual dampers, though we don’t sell them and aren’t Epson techs, so are hesitant to instruct people to work on their own printers, as that opens up support for printer repair, which we don’t want to do.
We have many technical and curious users, and several have taken steps to work on their printers, and one user just posted photos of replacing the dampers:, so I think our support community can help each other by sharing what they learn :slight_smile:

There are TONS of Chinese companies manufacturing and selling printer parts. I would say both the US and Hong Kong suppliers on eBay would be safe, as they both have over 99% positive feedback from thousands of transactions. For comparison, the “going rate” for a basic/single channel damper that fits the 4000, 4800/4880, 7800/9800, and 7880/9880 is about $25 each plus shipping (and you need 8 dampers for these models), so about half the cost for a dual channel (more complex) damper is perfectly reasonable to me (and you only need five dampers dual dampers for the 3800 and 3880 models).

I am excited to see more users share their experiences and helpful information and photos they learn, as this is exactly what we hoped for when we started this support forum, and although we are always here to support our products and help customers, the support community that is forming here is incredible and benefits MANY. Thanks to all for your contributions! :slight_smile:

All the best~ Dana :slight_smile:

Tuesday I ordered 10 dampers ($60.- + $19 for shipment) in Hong Kong, they were delivered on Friday in Switzerland (pretty impressive by the way).

I noticed that the metal mesh filter is squarish as opposed to round in the original part. Installation was no issue. Replacing the dampers took entirely care of the cross-contamination problem. Still three missing nozzles in Magenta, but I opted to ignore them (for the moment).

I finally got to print my first “Piezography/K7/Special Edition” photograph on Type 5 paper. I was unimpressed… until the printer started with the GO coating. It was like watching a silver print appear in the developer (not a compliment i would lightly formulate). My next thought was, “Finally, this is it. I no longer need to enlarge my pictures in the darkroom”.

(I can very well understand/imagine why you don’t want to act as an expertise center for someone else’s products, you are doing a great job supporting people who buy your inks/papers/cartridges. Allowing users to post some know-how on this Forum is very useful for the community).

Excellent- your update and positive post are exactly what I need to start off a great Monday morning! :slight_smile:

I’m happy to hear the damper replacement went well, and resolved the printing issues you were experiencing. Thank you for sharing your experience for others to learn and benefit from!

I’m also very happy to hear of your final Piezography success, after resolving the printer issues. As you noticed, Gloss Overprint makes a huge difference in the Piezography gloss output, and the final results are truly remarkable.

Now that you have learned a lot about your printer and successfully repaired it (for very little $ compared to sending it for repair), you can enjoy happily printing with your Piezography system!
Just keep an eye on your cartridge ink levels to avoid letting any carts run dry, and print to your heart’s content :slight_smile:

Thank you again for your input, and I’m happy to hear how everything worked out.
Best regards and happy printing~ Dana :slight_smile: