How to refill an ink cartridge with a small piece of tape
Is your printer lying to you? If you own a Brother inkjet printer, that's probably a big yes. As Slate magazine reports, a clever chap over at fixyourownprinter.com has discovered a nasty little secret of Brother printers; a secret that could cost you hundreds of dollars over the life of the offending gadget. And yet all you need to bypass it is a small piece of tape.
I've never trusted my printer. Sometimes my wife will call me at work and say "hey, can you pick up a black ink cartridge on the way home?" In my head I'm doing the math, thinking it was only a couple of months since we bought the last one. "Maybe we've been printing a lot lately" I'd rationalize. "But I never noticed the printouts fading or streaking. Ah well, it's only about $30 for a new one. Wait...$30?!"
It's true enough that the average ink cartridge costs more than some of the lower-end printers these days. In fact, we often found it cheaper to buy a new printer, remove the cartridges that came with it, install it into our old machine and throw the new printer away. What a terrific waste that was, I can already hear Mother Nature weeping.
It's all based on a marketing principle you know well if you buy razors. The "razor and blades business model " is a classic loss-leader way of getting you hooked on a product by offering it free, or almost free. So, big companies give away the razors or printers, knowing in a few months you'll be back to buy the overpriced blades or ink cartridges.
Now as we all know, technology may advance but that isn't always in our best interests. In this case, today's printers come with sensors that tell the prniter when it is out of ink. That shuts down the printer and it's not possible to print again until a new cartridge is installed. It's like being held hostage; "give me a new ink cartridge or I'm going on strike."
Well, someone calling himself "oppressedprinteruser" was sick and tired of replacing the ink cartridges; not only that, he was highly suspicious that the cartridge was even close to empty. So, he cleverly put a small piece of black electrical tape over the sensor on the cartridge and inserted it back into his Brother printer. Bingo! The printer thought a new cartridge had been installed and he was able to print again.
You would think this would give you some limited extra life, maybe 20-30 extra prints. But some users adopting "oppressedprinteruser's" technique have reported as many as 1800 extra printouts from the supposed dead cartridge. That's a lot of extra life, and it's not just Brother printers. HP, Canon, Lexmark and Epson are all vastly underestimating the life left in a cartridge. The BBC has reported that by ignoring warnings on Epson printers, overriding errors and using other such hacks, users were able to print 38% more pages even after the dead cartridge error; as a result, Epson agreed to an out-of-court settlement in 2006 and gave customers a $45 credit, although they admitted no wrong-doing. Ahem.
Bottom line, don't trust your printer. When it says it's out of ink, take a look at the last printout. If it's not faded or streaky (and even if it is, that could just mean it needs a cleaning), pop along to a site like fixyourownprinter or JREF and search for a solution. And if you own a Brother printer, just invest in a cheap roll of black electrical tape; it'll save you a small fortune.