Random Blog Clay Feet: October 08, 2009
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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Back From the (near) Dead

I can hardly believe it. But it is still working yet today. After months of great frustration and seriously considering throwing in the towel and buying a new one to replace one that has not been used very much at all, I finally got my printer to begin working properly.

For months I have had a problem with my printer just fading out of black (instead of fading to black like in video production). When it would print, which was never predictable, it might just as suddenly quite printing in a very few minutes. On top of that I also began to have problems with it spreading great pools of ink around the corners and along the edges of the sheets of paper. It seemed that my nice new multifunction printer was not such a great investment after all.

About a year or two ago I had installed a continuous-feed ink supply to this printer. At first it seemed to work quite nicely. But then I had problems keeping the hoses attached firmly out of the way in the routing. When they came loose the print carriage would jam inside and make awful noises which made one believe that the whole printer might be self-destructing. I tried several methods of attaching the hose inside the printer after the original double-sided tape from the supplier failed and finally ended up sawing a hole in the plastic to allow the plastic retainer tab to sit flat up under the top of the inside.

That seemed to solve that problem but then I started having this more serious issue of ink fading out completely more and more often. I tried everything I could think of. I raised the print bottles higher, I cleaned the heads repeatedly, I readjusted the routing of the hoses – nothing seemed to have much effect.

I called the people I bought the ink system from and the lady told me the ink bottles absolutely had to be on the same plane as the printer or they would not work right. I figured out that was what was causing the flooding over the paper but it did nothing to get it printing like it was supposed to. I did hook up a hose to the internal dumping system however and routed the output of the head cleaning process to drain into an external bottle instead of dumping into the bottom of the printer like the default factory setup did.

I decided to try again yesterday to see if I could do anything to make it start working again. I filled up the black ink reservoir. I put the printer through repeated head cleaning cycles but with no effect. I even tried putting some ink directly down into the carriage to see if maybe it had dried up somewhere along the way. As I was doing all of this my cat jumped up on the desk and demanded attention. As I tried to pick him up and move him out of the way he swatted the whole set of ink containers off the desk with his tail and they hung down beside the desk by the hoses connecting them to the printer. I dropped the cat on the floor and grabbed the hose to fish up the bottles which all had their vent caps open. There were various colors of ink splattered all over the sides of the printer, the desk, the wall and dripping onto the carpet underneath. What a mess! Of course that cat was totally unconcerned.

I finally decided to call the supplier again and see if I could talk with the man there who always seemed much more knowledgeable about their systems. He seems to have invented most of their processes and is very familiar inside and out with these printers and usually has much better insights for solving difficult problems if I can actually talk to him directly.

Fortunately he was the one who answered the phone yesterday and I explained to him my problem. I was nearly at the point of getting rid of this printer altogether and buying another one but I really didn't like that idea and don't have the money now besides. I had been so frustrated for so long and just felt impressed to call him today which may have been a suggestion from higher Wisdom anyway.

When he heard my description of the problem he told me to prime the cartridges. He said that it sounded like they were starved and needed to get ink flowing from the bottles again. He told me just how to get it primed and so I hung up and proceeded to try it. On the second attempt I began to notice that while trying to suck ink out from the bottom of the cartridge with a syringe it seemed that even with a great amount of vacuum placed on the outlet there was almost no ink coming out.

I thought that was a bit strange since there shouldn't be anything preventing the ink to flow from an open bottle full of ink to the top of the cartridges where the hose entered. As I thought about it more I examined a pinch point where the hose entered the printer from the side. The lid sits down very snugly at that point and the hose always looked very restricted there. But I simply could see no other way of getting the hose to where it had to go inside the printer. I had installed it exactly per instructions that came with the system, but as I looked very closely I realized that this very well might be the very problem that has plagued me all this time.

I took time to massage the hose to try to unrestrict it as much as possible and then decided to take a pocket knife and cut a relief cavity into the side of the printer cover to let the hose have some free room to squeeze through. Since I have no plans to return the printer to the manufacturer I can do whatever I need to do to it to make it work right no matter how hacked up it might look.

After putting some slack in the hose and getting a good notch cut into the printer cover, I put everything back together and tried to prime the cartridge again. This time the ink flowed very freely and I knew I might have solved the problem. I tried another print job and this time it printed fully and completely without any problems whatsoever.

At that point I decided to catch up on a whole bunch of print jobs that I had been needing to do for the past week or two. As each page came out perfectly I could hardly believe my eyes. After all the ideas and crazy notions that I had tried to solve this problem, the real issue all along had likely been this one little pinch point. And to think that I was ready to throw away the whole expensive printer when the only problem was just to give the hose a little relief in the right spot.

I have been thinking about that a lot lately. How many times have I been so sure that I knew what was causing some problem, maybe in someone else's life even, only to spend a lot of time judging, second-guessing or criticizing what was not the real issue at all. Then later I might find out what the real problem was, and maybe the real issue was far more simple or less offensive than the things I was so tempted to accuse, at least in my own mind.

I could hear God pressing home the warning in this experience with my printer. Don't throw out valuable things and especially people and relationships just because you are so sure you know how worthless they are. You simply don't have the wisdom needed to know what is really going on. You must learn to listen to outside insights, to defer to those who do have more experience and seek to see things from heaven's perspective and not be so ready to give up easily. When the real truth comes out you might be very glad that you did not give up too soon.