PiezoFlush for extended getaway?



My Epson 3880 seems to be giving up. I had purchased it from a known Canadian vendor with an extended warranty. Last Summer I started experiencing incomplete test patterns. Did many cleanings, the problem went and came. After consulting here and elsewhere I was told the problem was likely a bad ink pump or motor. So I used my warranty and sent it in. That was a mistake. It took six months. I got it back yesterday. It gives a “SERVICE CALL ERROR 1404 / PLEASE CONTACT TO THE REPAIR CENTER” when I boot it. It also looked banged. I don’t think the vendor ever sent it in to Epson. I’m going to have to fight with the vendor to get reparation, but that’s not the point of this thread. The point is the 3880 needs replacing.

At first I looked at the natural successor, but it appears the P800 isn’t 3rd party friendly. I also want to use rolls, and the P800’s extra add-on attachment ($$) is said to be cheap and flimsy. Finally, the ink cost is astronomical compared to what I am used to with my 3880.

Then I considered the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000. Read a lot on it. I like that the MK/PK each have a dedicated line. The wasteful switch in the current Epson design is an obvious cash grab and a major annoyance that also leads to clogs and time wasting. But I’m not familiar with the Canon landscape and don’t know of any reputable 3rd party ink provider.

So I am now seriously considering a 4900 as replacement. Despite its age, and the awful clogging problems.

Cone INK, Red River paper and a ColorMunki colorimeter have allowed me to cut costs considerably. I’m a wedding photographer and print a lot of 16x20 and 12x18. I’d like to start doing 16x24. A lab here charges $18 for this, whereas my cost with a 4900 would be around $3.

Everyone raves about the quality of the prints, and it seems to be the only wide format printer I can still buy new and get quality 3rd party inks for. I am ready to dedicate a room the 4900 with controlled humidity (I hear 50% is a sweet spot) and commit to a daily printing ritual to ensure the print heads remain clog free.

However, should I go away on vacation, could I use PiezoFlush to clear the heads, put the 4900 under a heavy duty cover to ENSURE with 100% certainty it wouldn’t clog in my absence? Replacing print heads prematurely would definitely outstrip any cost savings.


If you put PiezoFlush into the printer, and run the INITIAL FILL procedure and then CONFIRM that the PiezoFlush is all the way through the system and you are printing pink nozzle check - then yes, you can turn off the printer and go on extended vacation. Putting the printer into a bag keeps it moist is you think your environment is too dry or the humidity will be in very low 10s or 20s for the entire period. The printer prefers humidity in the 30s. But, even without the bag, the PiezoFlush is designed to remain wet. Ink is designed to dry quickly.

4900 printers have terrible reputations with OEM inks - not so with ConeColor or Piezography.


I may have a very good deal on a used 9900.

Are there any known issues with this 44" printer? It would cost me $500 more than a brand new 4900.

There is a lot more information about the 4900 than the 9900 out there.


Yes the 9900 is subject to the same poor reputation for use with OEM inks as the 4900. However, they have a good reputation for use with ConeColor and Piezography inks.

We often get free 4900, 7900 and 9900 printers with one permanently clogged channel. At that point it is useless to the owner for color printing and they prefer not to invest any further. So carry them down flights of stairs and sometimes have them delivered to us. In all cases, we have recovered the missing channels with PiezoFlush. Some of these we have donated to schools. Others are in our studio now.

If we can not recover one or more channels we map them out and use them with one of our Piezography systems which require between 6 and 9 working ink channels. These printers have 10 channels (11 inks).

So - if you can fully test and vet the 9900 and you are satisfied that it is producing perfect nozzle check test - and printing images reveals no sign of micro-banding - the 9900 may be a good printer for you.

Having said that - were it a used printer coming into my studio, I would completely flush it out with PiezoFlush allowing it to stand in the printer for at least 48 hours and then flushing again. This way I have the best opportunity with the ink exchanger and filter dampers, as well as the ink lines and print head. If I was planning on using it for both matte and photo black inks - I would work the black ink exchanger several times once the PiezoFlush is in the printer. Here we might actually take the ink exchanger apart and replace the dampers in it because this is simple for us.

Finally, I would replace the wiper blade and clean the flush box and capping station. At this point it is not full refurbished (new print head and new ink exchanger and new flush box and new capping station) but it is fully checked out and cleaned and ready for service.

I suppose anyone would do something like this buying an old performance motorcycle that they intended to use for high speed track use. Or an old roadbike that they intended to take on a 3 week unsupported tour. The printer is high performance and it must be considered in the same way. You just do not plug it in and take it on an unsupported 3 week ride over remote mountains, or run it at full speed without checking its brakes. So as I describe cleaning it is a way for you to freshen up the system without the expense of refurbishment.


Thats a lot of good advice, thank you.

Whats the cost of replacement dampers? A wiper blade appears cheap. Im sure the change would be time consuming for a first time but I’m manual and willing to take the time because yeah, Id like to print on matte paper and canvas. If im getting this, its especially for canvas printing and stretching.

Im currently using PiezoFlush to try and revive the 3880. Im in the 48h waiting period.

You have an idea what the cost of refurbishing a 9900 is?


more research led me to compassmicro. All 9900 parts appear to be there.

pump & cap assembly $231.18
wiper assembly $13.04
rubber seal joint 2x $6.88
selector unit $173.60

That’s $432 in parts and a day’s work (with the help of the $12 manual and some youtube videos) to refurb most of the parts. Print heads are about $1000 new, if I need them. myx900.com appears to have a video on how to change it yourself.

What else can break? The carriage motor or belt?

Basically I’m trying to budget a worse case scenario where even if I change the print heads, selector unit, wiper and pump&cap assembly, and spend the $1432 on parts and spend the time, I will be able to get a few years out of it with good maintenance. It’d be unfortunate to replace all these parts only to have a belt that I can’t change break.

Ideally I’d like to get a 4900 and 9900 so I can keep using your inks as I have been doing with my 3880. There is no guarantee you guys will ever break the SureColor anti-3rd party protection and I don’t want to invest in this new line.

Advice is appreciated.


the encoder strip is very critical. a lot of printing problems can be attributed to a dirty or damaged encoder strip. probably cheap to replace.


Encoder strip = scale? http://www.sdott-parts.com/epson-pro-9890-9900-9910-surecolor-sc-p8000-sc-p9000-cr-scale-1550667.html

Well, this must be my lucky day. I found a brand new 4900 for $715USD, cartridges still shrinkwrapped and the blue stickers still on the printer. Ink never went in. It’s a nice lady photographer who is 2 hours from where I live who is retiring in 2 years and never got a chance to use it. It’s too good of a deal to pass up so I will be making the drive this week and pick it up. Now that you confirmed I can run an INIT CHARGE fill cycle with PiezoFlush and go away on vacation safely, how does one make sure it won’t clog on a daily basis?

You already recommended 30-39% humidity and as soon as my OEM cartridges are empty I will switch over to Cone inks.

What kind of photo should I print to make sure the head and all 10 nozzles are solicited every day? QTR test images?

My concern is even if I print a 8x10 every day it may not use every color and therefore still lead to a clog.

Likewise, I assume I should make the MK-PK switch daily by printing a photo on both kind of paper and use both matte and photo black to ensure they dont get clogged either?

Basically since I am starting with a brand new 4900 I’d like to come up with a workflow that ensures its longevity.


I have kept 4900s humming for many years by simply doing an auto-nozzle clean every morning religiously. If one nozzle is out, it will clean that channel pair but no others.

This keeps things exercised. It’s expensive but I’ve run 49s for over 5 years this way.



Thank you for the tip Walker.

With daily auto-nozzle checks, at what interval do you guys switch out the ink selector unit? Do you also make the PK-MK switch every day?

On the short term I would rather spend 175$ on a selector unit every 1-2 years (I assume) and a few cents each day on a nozzle check than changing the print head. That seems to run at least $1000.


PK-MK every week.

We change ink selectors and cleaning units (together) every 1 and 1/2 years. With pre-emtive damper/cleaner maintenance, our x880 printers have gone for over 8 years this way (on the same head with experimental inks going through them btw).



How do you guys clean the dampers? Initial charge fill with piezoflush cartridges?

Cleaning the wiper blade and capping station appears easy enough but I thought dampers were mostly internal.


I picked up the 4900 today. It was brand new, but was purchased at least 4 years ago because the initial 80ml cartridges have an August 2013 expiry date.

I’m thinking doing an initial charge with old ink is probably a terrible idea, so I’d rather order cone inks for it immediately.

Do I need OEM cartridges for the very first initial charge or will cone ink cartridges do fine?


Cone ink carts will work fine.

Related to May 1st post, we actually [I]replace [/I]the dampers (ink selector unit on your 4900) entirely. There are screens on these dampers that can fill up so PiezoFlushing doesn’t do much if they are full.