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My Experiences With HP9000 Printheads

Thinking of replacing the printheads on your HP9000 yourself? Here is what happened to us - and don't worry it's all good

Although we have found this printer to produce a good quality print and to have been reliable, there is a question mark over the longevity of the printheads and also the high cost of replacing them. You will find, in this article, my experiences dealing with these issues and I hope you will find some inspiration for dealing with your own problems.

If you own or operate one of these printers you will be aware of the cost of replacement of the printheads and may also be aware of the relatively short life-span reported by a number of owners. Hopefully, if you read on, you will find the confidence to attempt the replacement yourself and save up to £400 per head in doing so.

Having operated our 9000 for just over a year we began to notice a "scratchy" appearance to the light Magenta print when carrying out the IQ test and were informed by our maintenance engineer that this was a characteristic of a worn head and that we should consider replacing it in the near future.

Before committing ourselves to replacing it we decided to give the head a clean by hand using lint-free cloth dampened with head cleaning fluid and gently dabbing the head in order to soften and them draw through any congealed ink. Repeating this a number of times resulted in the print quality returning to its original quality.

However, over a period of a few days it returned to its scratchy appearance - this did not generally affect the prints that we were producing but did cause problems in areas of flat colour especially light greys.

Having persevered with this cleaning routine for a few months, the head was causing so many reprints that it was decided to bite the bullet and pay for the head to be replaced. We were quoted a cost of £1600 + call-out charge for this. The engineer was booked on a Friday to come in on the following Tuesday.

We decided to park the head in the docking station and switch the machine off - this seats the printheads in a bath of ink and is recommended in order to soften any congealed ink and aid cleaning.

On the Monday the machine was switched on and the heads put through the standard cleaning routine and left for the engineer.

When the engineer arrived he ran the IQ test to ascertain the state of the print quality and found that all 6 heads were printing scratchily. After an hour of intensive cleaning some of the heads appeared to be improving but not to the extent that we were able to print a reasonable quality exhibition graphic.

After a significant amount of further cleaning it was decided that we would replace the Magenta and Light Magenta Head under a scheme run by HP for out of warranty machines where they agree to sort out any problem (including changing up to 2 heads) for a 1 off charge of £1000 (I'm not aware if they are still running this scheme)

When a second engineer came to change the heads he noticed that there was an air leak into the ink reservoir. When this problem had been rectified, all the heads apart from the light magenta and magenta improved to an extent where we were confident that we would be able to produce a good quality print.

We were concerned, however, that once the engineer had gone, if the heads deteriorated we would have missed our opportunity to have them replaced as part of the HP scheme. We persuaded the engineer to leave the 2 heads with us so that they could be installed as part of a follow up call and we would only have to pay for the call out and not for the parts.

Almost inevitably, the day following the engineers visit, the light magenta and magenta heads deteriorated significantly. The earliest that the engineer could return was in three days so we decided to investigate replacing the heads ourselves.

We parked the head assembly, switched off the printer and removed the plastic covers. Then we removed the metal covers, back and front to the printhead assembly. Next using a scalpel we scratched marks into the head fixing plate to mark the current position of the head. Using the caps supplied with the new printhead, seal off the ink flow and remove the connector for the electrical feed. Take a small socket driver and undo the screws which secure the head to the fixing plate.

We then removed the printhead from the storage packet and carefully placed onto the head fixing plate, lining it up with the marks previously made. Next re-connect the ink feed and electrical connections. Replace covers and run the ink system purge routine in the maintenance menu to fill the printhead with ink and run the head alignment routines to fine tune the alignment.

This was repeated with the second printhead both of which continue to print well. The heads that we did not replace have continued to improve over the last 3 months and are printing well within the tolerance for printing a good quality exhibition stand graphic.

We have since been made aware that the use of an ultrasonic cleaner can return the heads to a good condition when they have been clogged with ink.

Matt has been involved in the design and production of exhibition stands for 2 decades and has run his large-format digital printing business in Maidenhead for the last 8 years.

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