Sunday, February 23, 2014

They Don't Make 'em Like They Used To

Such a cliche, but so true when it comes to printers.  I purchased an HP OfficeJet Pro L7590 for $160 about 3 years ago and it recently failed.  The print heads need to be replaced.  The cheapest price I could find?  $68 each and this printer needs 2 - that's almost the price I paid for it!!!  After further investigation I discovered this is an all-to-common scenario.  Manufacturers are making printers cheap (as in low quality), selling them cheap (as in low-price) and making money on the expensive consumables - ink, paper, printheads, etc.  If your printer experiences a problem not covered under warranty, in most cases it's cheaper to pitch it and buy a new one than to get it fixed.  Does this make any sense?

The OfficeJet printed quality prints while it lasted, but now is relegated to scanning duties, since that's the only function that works on it.

Around the same time, my HP LaserJet 4100 started printing really bad lines and other artifacts on the paper.  Here is an example:

First, let me tell you a little bit about this printer.  I acquired it from a previous employer that was just going to throw it away.  I literally saved it just before it was going to be thrown in the dumpster.  It wasn't working and the help desk administrators figured it was cheaper to pitch it than get it fixed.  This thing did live on the factory floor in a harsh environment.  It had a thin covering of black soot and looked even worse inside.

I took it home and the following weekend blew out as much gunk as I could with my air compressor.  It still wouldn't work.  I noticed it had a memory DIMM installed so I removed it, cleaned out the area and reinstalled the module.  Voila!  The printer booted successfully.  The toner cartridge had about a 1000 more pages left!  Test prints looked nice and clean.

It continued to create great looking output for about 2 years, then started experiencing the problem mentioned previously.  After further investigation, one of the suggestions was to replace the toner cartridge.  I purchased a refurbished cartridge and installed it into the printer but no luck, same problem.  Then I found what would finally fix the problem and wouldn't you know, the part costs $20!  Wait... what?  I don't have to throw the whole thing out?  Yep, and let me tell you, these things are built like tanks.  HP probably hates how so many 4x00's are still in production.  For $20, why not fix it?  Yes, they are somewhat slow compared to newer laser printers and it's only black/white, but the price per page is very low.

If you see lines on pages like the one pictured above, you most likely need a new fuser sleeve.  In some cases, I would recommend a whole fuser kit, which runs roughly $60.  In my case, I decided to try replacing the fuser sleeve with a new one I purchased on eBay (made in America, ironically enough).
The old one looked like this:

Notice the lines and discoloration on the sides.  There's even a small piece of paper "fused" to the sleeve on the far left.  Now here's what a new one looks like:

Notice the smooth, even and darker black color of the sleeve.  It was very easy to replace - here's a link to a video with step-by-step instructions:

Now, the output looks like this:

Okay, so now that we've replaced the fuser sleeve and the output is looking great.  Let's reset the page/paper and maintenance counts.

Reset Paper Count Procedure:
  1. Turn the printer off
  2. Hold down the value­ - and item - keys (the left side)
  3. Switch the printer on
  4. Release the keys when the display changes to reset maintenance count.
Reset Maintenance Count:
  1. Turn the printer off
  2. Turn the printer on
  3. Press the select button when the memory starts to count and hold down until all three LEDs illuminate
  4. Release the select button
  5. Press up arrow until the message new maintenance kit is displayed on the control panel
  6. Press select, the display will read new maintenance kit and the printer will reset.
Now you will have a Supplies Status print-out that looks like this:

Beautiful!  So if you come across an HP LaserJet 4x00, especially for free and even if it doesn't work, I highly recommend taking it home and spending an hour getting it working for years of future service.  They don't make printers like these anymore.

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