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Optimizing your Printer

Posted on Dec 30 2011

Today I'll not talk about code optimization but instead about hardware optimization.

First, allow me to say I hate printers.

They are actually quite useful tools for everyday interactions with the "real world" (or at least, the part of the real world that still use paper instead of digital documents). But the printer vendors are one of the most hateful industry : proprietary drivers, bloated software that you HAVE to install with your printer, and - most of all - toner page counters.

Today I had to print many documents to send them back as snail mail. This is already an annoying thing to do. But when I was about to print the last page (of about 40) my printer stopped working and all was displayed was Please replace the Toner.

WTF ? It was just printing very nicely just seconds ago ! In my old printers memories I was thinking that a toner would die when there is no more ink, or more exactly when you can no longer read what it prints...

Looking at my Brother MFC-7440 printer settings, I found something called the "Page Counter". It tells you how many pages you have printed so far.

Guess what ? It was stopped at exactly 1500.

Conclusion - in case you don't know about it - toners have a page counter, and toners will stop working when the page counter hits the limit, whatever if you have ink left or not.

This just another form of planned obsolescence, and I hate it. Since when engineers should design products that are planned to break ? Since when science should be used not to improve the products, but to degrade their quality ? With all the waste of both energy and raw materials (and your money as well btw), this kind of behavior should become a crime, or at least I hope it will become in the upcoming years.

But let's back to my printer, which looks like this actually :

IMAG0014.jpg

I searched a bit on the internet and people were talking about different ways to reset the counter. I didn't find any information for my specific Printer/Toner.

Some people were suggesting to remove and put back again the Toner. That didn't work for me.

In terms of planned-obsolescence-engineering, it was making sense to put the counter inside the toner itself. And to have the printer ask the toner how many pages were left.

So one of the way to reset the page counter was to stop all possible communications between the toner and the printer.

IMAG0015.jpg

So I removed the toner and looked at it :

On both left and right sides, I found some round-looking holes ending with a small glass-like window. Some place where maybe a laser could "communicate" with the toner.

I tried then to simply close these holes. Putting tape was not very easy so I instead used tissue paper with a little water to make it stick.

And once the toner was put back and the printer turned ON... Tadaaaa ! It was working like a charm and I could print my page number 1501 !

I'm not sure how many pages the toner will actually be able to print, but I'll make sure once it really die to update this post with my optimized page counter.

I expect a x1.5 to x3 optimization here.

And what about you ? Do you know good ways to fight against planned obsolescence ?

Update : as mentioned in the comments, a must-see documentary on planned obsolescence is available in English French and German. It was haired in early 2011 on the Arte tv channel.

15 comments
  • bablukid
    Dec 30, 2011 at 14:18

    Look at this : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iB8DbSE0Y90 (french) ... here we learn that Lightbulbs or Nylon stockings have been re-engeneered just after their creators discovered that the product lifetime was too long and would kill the business !

  • Dec 30, 2011 at 14:59

    @bablukid : yes I already watched it before, a must-see documentary indeed. Only in french version so far I guess...

  • Dec 30, 2011 at 15:14

    Printers still exist ? Industry of printers looks like one of the worst... I wonder if innovation exists in this activity...

  • ellie
    Dec 30, 2011 at 16:33

    What does the page counter say by now? Does it count over 1500 or did it just stop working?

  • Dec 30, 2011 at 16:37

    @ellie : this is a printer global page counter, not the toner one (which I guess is hidden).
    So yes it keeps counting ;)

  • anonymous
    Dec 30, 2011 at 17:12

    Here's a link to the german version of that youtube video from arte:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tI798T2tRrQ

  • Dec 30, 2011 at 19:22

    The Trick with covering the holes did not work for me but it helped to reset the Cardridge Toner Counter.

    I wrote it down on my Blog : http://www.nrdy.ch/2011/05/07/printer-hacking-101-reset-your-toner-counter/

    For me it worked perfect. I use the cardridge i got with the printer and printed more than 3k pages with a 1.6k cardridge.

  • Alex
    Dec 30, 2011 at 19:39

    Here is english version
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv9MyB0hbI4

  • James
    Dec 30, 2011 at 21:49

    I think what you've shown here is that there ISN'T any planned obsolescence in your printer. The toner "window" you blocked off was trying to let you know the toner was low before print quality began to suffer. I will grant you that it doesn't work very well, but I'll also bet that you don't get another 1500 pages out of that cartridge.

  • Lex Ein
    Dec 30, 2011 at 22:23

    Thanks for the info: I'd like to send my brother more details:
    - Which model of toner cartridge? TN330 (1500) or TN360 (2600)? I suspect TN330, of course.
    - Is the hole you blocked below the gray embossed "Brother" logo on the end, between the silver screw and the "may void your warranty" label?
    - Did you block one end, or both?
    - What happens if you now remove the blockage? If @James is right, it's a level sensor, and the printer won't print a page. But if the blockage is a "I'm a new cartridge" signal, then no blockage now will allow printing until the next multiple of 1500 (for your cartridge). I could be wrong.

  • Dec 30, 2011 at 22:44

    @James : a "ink low" warning is very different from actually PREVENTING you from printing any page. The 1500 limit is just stupid : if you print 1500 white pages without using any ink I bet your toner will prevent you from printing more while your ink is FULL. That's planned obsolescence.

    @Lex : that's a TN2110 (only black, since I also hate printers that ask you for toner replacement as soon as one of the color is empty). And yes that's the actual hole and I blocked both ends.

    If I remove again the blockage it seems that I can print again, but there might be a software-level block every 50 pages or something like this, I'll try to continue printing without blockage until I get the error and block again to see what happens.

  • scythian
    Jan 03, 2012 at 19:51

    well, there really weren't everlasting light bulbs in Soviet Union ;)
    they say that to increase working time you have to reduce brightness, so the same brightness lamps will consume more money for electricity, than for bulb replacement

  • Jens
    Jan 04, 2012 at 10:16

    On my Brother multifunction colour laser printer, I bought a new set of toners, put them in, put all the old ones back, and it works like a charm! I have printed more than two times more prints, than it had printed when trying to con me.

    The new toners seem to have "reset" the printer... taking the old ones out and putting them back in is not enough.

    All colours are still perfect.

  • Jan 06, 2012 at 14:37

    Nicolas great post. I couldn't agree with you more. I hate printers. Once in a while I have to print documents, and it doesn't take long to bring me on the verge of throwing the damn thing from the terrace.

  • Jun 09, 2012 at 11:31

    6 months later... Still printing :)

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