A few columns ago, I promised to be brave of heart and try refilling a color ink cartridge for the Lexmark printers. Well, as the deadline for this article drew nigh, I broke down and gave it a whirl. Just as the last time, I used the InkTec system from
http://www. californiainkjet.com - you can either order online, or they are also usually at the Pomona computer shows. The kit comes in nice professionally done packaging, which I like, and the kit includes everything you need to refill about 4 color ink cartridges (more on this later). As I recall, the price is around $12.95.
The box contains two packages, one containing three 20 ml color ink containers, and the other with the balance of the stuff - two plastic gloves, a two piece aluminum cartridge tool, 3 needles, a small syringe, and a plastic holder for your original (empty) ink cartridge.
OK, on to the how to do it part. First, refilling the color cartridges is a bit different than doing the black one. For openers, you have to remove that pink top from your old cartridge. The InkTec kit includes this handy dandy forged aluminum cartridge opening tool that fits over the top of the ink cartridge and fits snugly to it. You then take an aluminum butterfly screw (also included) and screw it into the tool, so that the whole thing acts like a lever and pops the top off of the ink cartridge. Actually, it's pretty cool, although in my case it looked for a moment like the plastic top was going to snap off. Not to worry.
Having popped the top, you can see that inside your color cartridge there are three individual containers for cyan, magenta, and yellow. Before going further, as with the black ink kit, you place the (headless) cartridge into the special holder.
Now comes the reinking part. There are three bottles of ink - each with its own needle that you screw onto the bottles - they then act like syringes. Having placed the cartridge into the holder, you take each color of ink separately, angle the needle down into the cartridge towards the print head. Then you back off a little bit, and slowly let about 5-6 ml of ink into the chamber. You want to go slow here, and only add the amount of ink that you need for each chamber. Remember, it is likely that when your cartridge ran out of ink, one color went first and there was probably some ink remaining for the other colors in their containers. If you go too fast, you risk overflowing the chamber that you are filling, and then the ink will spill over into the other color chambers - at the very top of the cartridge, there is an open space. If this happens, bye bye cartridge.
OK, when you've filled the three ink chambers, then you replace the ink cartridge top, and use the enclosed tape to make sure that it is affixed to the cartridge body. This actually sounds trickier than it really is; the piece of tape in my refill kit had lost its sticky stuff and didn't hold, but I didn't notice any problem with the top coming off.
Finally, just as with the black ink refill setup, you take the enclosed syringe, insert it through the bottom hole in the cartridge holder, and extract about 0.5ml of ink to make sure that the print heads are flowing. Then take the cartridge out of the holder, wipe dry, and voila, you are ready to go with your newly refilled color cartridge. As a final note, I recommend using a small label like an Avery label to date when you refilled the cartridge and then stick it on the side of your refill. Otherwise (and yes I did this) if you have some refilled and non refilled cartridges mixed together, you will get confused as to which is refilled. Also, the original cartridges are good for about 3-4 refills before the print heads go, so it's nice to know how close you are to that point.
Personally, I found the colored inks to be a bit messier than the black only refills - I feel like a real artist as I type this with one psychedelic multi-colored finger. Actually, the InkTec folks must know about this little secret as well, since they included two disposable gloves in their kit, although for some reason they did not include a plastic mat.
When you have finished, you will have about enough ink for three more color refills, depending on which color you use the most - each ink bottle holds 20 ml.
Reach me at Tony@scoug.com.
You might want to read last month's Ink.
By day, Tony Butka is a bureaucrat for Los Angeles County. In his other life he lives in a loft surrounded by computers, printers, and a host of vinyl records.
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