Welcome to Tech Tips section of our web site.  Here we offer tips for end users to use in the quest of keeping that tech away from your office, your home and your life for as long as possible.  Not that you have anything against printer or photocopier engineers, but they do tend to leave just before it goes wrong again.  I’m not suggesting that we (Field Engineers) are all incompetent, it’s just that there are some things you can do yourself.  If the engineer arrives to repair your photocopier and there is nothing really wrong with it apart from a minor setting in the paper cassette (that you should have noticed), he may start trying to look busy to justify his existence and get carried away!  Then, oops!  That delicate lamp he was just cleaning because he was bored whilst chatting on his mobile phone just snapped.  “I’m afraid, because of the error caused by you sir, there has been a short circuit as a result ...causing the lamp to blow.  Now you can’t use it until we order the part in from Japan via Munich, on the slow train - at you expense.”

 

Anyway, this is the famous A3 colour printers review site and this is section where we offer advice on printers and photocopiers in general.    

Things to Consider When Buying a Printer or Photocopier

 

Whether you are a large company owning many A3 colour laser printers, a mid-sized company with the odd inkjet printer or laser printer connected to each workstation or just an ordinary person at home with  your all in one printer that can print, scan, fax, copy and scratch your back, there are ways to cut down maintenance calls.  Doing some DIY maintenance on your printer, fax or copier not only cuts down maintenance calls and save you money on call-out charges (if you don’t have a maintenance contract) but can save you a lot of money over the years on cartridges wearing out before their time, cartridges discarded wrongly because you thought that the cartridge was the cause of an irritating problem, but wasn’t!  Also, a printing device out of action for any length of time can have a huge impact on your business, as it sits there in the corner sobbing, awaiting the technician who decided to go home early that day, leaving your call until the following day!  That’s assuming he doesn’t get drunk that evening and call in sick the next day!

 

I know, you’re thinking “How does this guys mind work?”  Well, as you may already know from our A3 colour printers review, I have been a technician for over 23 years.  I started out as a trainee fax engineer in 1986.  Back then there were only the thermal fax machines that appeared to be filled with heat sensitive toilet paper.   They used a crude heating element to heat the paper in the right places to create the image.  Well, they worked ok and the image was ok, but upon storing your curly-copy, you would notice the image started to fade and of course would go dark if you left it in sunlight!  So working on a beach in the Bahamas was a bit of a no-no.  I can just picture all of you around my age reminiscing the years when all office equipment used to turn yellow with the nicotine in the air.  Keyboards dusted with cigarette ash!!  Bring back the glorious past!!  Yeah right!  

Anyway, back to the matter at hand.  Then, as inkjet (according to HP) and bubble jet (according to Canon) became a more popular technology, thermal faxes and printers began to decrease in popularity.  At this point it became necessary for faxes to become printers and printers to become faxes, and while they were at it, somebody decided to also cancel the need to find a spare port for the scanner and glued one on to many printer/fax devices.  Wow, brilliant, we all thought.  Not so!  It is great when all works fine, but if your printer stops working, so does your copier, fax and possibly even your scanner if it’s an electrical problem.  Now, we have a multitude of products each designed to meet a need relating to usage volume which would vary from business to business and from business to individual to individual (wow, I’m even making up my own language!).

The First Mistake People Make is Buying the Printer in the First Place

 

What do I mean?  If you over spend by buying a printer or copier that has functions you will never use.  If you buy a printer designed for high volume and then under use it – you can actually cause some faults related to mechanisms that need to be active regularly to keep functioning effectively.  Of course, the same is true for buying a printer purely because it was the cheapest.  I’ve met thousands of people who have done this or at least had this done to them by unscrupulous sales people.  Check the manufacturers “duty cycle” recommendation.  All printers and copiers should quote clearly somewhere in the specification a duty cycle, which is the number of copies the printer was designed to print monthly.  With further investigation you should be able to find out the recommended life of the machine.  My advice on the duty cycle and my experience is that the manufacturers tend to over exaggerate in their claims.  If you used the machine at the quoted duty cycle amount, the machine would not last half of its recommended life.  

Also, the duty cycle for printers and copiers are quoted based upon the production of an image as little as 5% black page coverage.  This is also true for the cartridge life and scan or print speeds.  If they claim that a £50 inkjet printer can print 33 pages a minute, you would probably come closer to this speed if you only had one short paragraph of text.  But for a full page of text with graphics and pictures, you’d be lucky to see one page fall out in the quoted time.  This would also depend on the printing technology.

 

If colour is not important to you, then go for a laser printer over an inkjet.  The only problem is that laser printers are harder to find in an “all in one” product.  Laser printers also tend to be more expensive but well worth the extra money.  I don’t actually like all in one products because they tend to do one thing very well and the rest at a push.  This is mostly true of the low volume and home products.  The high volume business models tend to combine all technologies very well.  That is, those manufacturer’s that are good at those technologies in the first place!  I must stress that!!  Remember:  DO NOT BE SOLD PRODUCTS BASED ON FEATURES THAT YOU DO NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND.  You will live to regret it.  Many listed features are irrelevant to be honest but designed to get you buying.  “Eco-friendly web product support.”  What on earth is that?  “Stylish space-saving design” What, are they calling you blind?  You can see the printer, if you don’t like how it looks, you don’t like it! Them telling you its stylish won’t make it so to you!

 

NOW TO THE DIY MAINTENANCE PART

 

Sorry, you came here to pick up some tips on do-able maintenance you can perform on your printer/copier and so far I’ve been ranting on about everything else but the weather.  Here goes:

Firstly, and I know this is pre-purchase advice but important.  If you want a multi-feed document scanner on your device, lift up the feeder cover and check the size of the rollers.  There should be a rubber pad and at least one roller to feed.  Sometimes there are 2, 3 or 4 rollers (the best system but hard to find on home products).  If there is just a pad and roller and the roller is less than about half an inch, it will be more likely to malfunction. Particularly with multiple documents which is why you bought it.  To download service manuals and have a go yourself click here for copiers and here for printers

PREVENTING DOCUMENT AND PAPER JAMS

 

If you have a document feeder then periodically clean the pad and rollers either with WD40, soap and water or a standard rubber cleaner.  Soap and water is safe and will not harm the rubber but do not make the cloth soaked.  Just a damp cloth will do as you don’t want to damage the electrics.  To be safe unplug the device from the mains.  But always use the on/off switch before unplugging it.  Similarly, make sure the machine switch is switched to “off” before switching it on from the mains.  A voltage surge on power up could damage the power supply unit, or more.  This procedure can only be done if you have a machine with feeder access.  So try to buy a machine that has or you will need to pay £60 - £80 for someone to come and clean your rollers.

 

Similarly, the paper used for printing has rollers that pick it up.  Try to find a machine where these paper pick-up rollers are accessible to the user and perform the same cleaning on them too.  Generally, the rollers will become dirty before wearing out so try cleaning them before replacement.  Many printers have user serviceable parts where you can change the rollers yourself.  They would normally have a blue or green handle or markings to indicate this.  Also, damp paper can cause paper jams.  If your machine is frequently jamming, try removing the paper stack and flipping it over so it prints on the opposite side.  This tends to affect the higher speed machines where timing is crucial.  I’ve solved many jams just by doing this – that will be a hundred bucks please!  In the document feeder previously stapled documents can be a nightmare to many feeders, try feeding the paper from the opposite end to where the staples were and please, make sure the staple have actually being removed!! They can seriously damage your machine in so many ways.  

 

Make sure you fan out fresh paper before loading as well because it helps remove any static causing the paper to stick together and resist separation in the machine causing jams.  If you’ve just printed some documents  out try to let it cool down (if they came from a laser machine) before fanning if you want to scan them using a document feeder.

 

 

LINES ON COPIES

 

Your scanner will most likely have a glass bed as well.  Clean this with a glass cleaner to prevent unsightly marks on your copies.  To one side of the main glass bed, you may see a small strip of glass known as a “slip glass” perhaps because the documents from the document feeder need to slip across it to be scanned individually.  If there is even the slightest mark (sometimes not visible to you in the case of glue) then you will see a line down your copies.  Clean the slip glass with a glass cleaner as well before calling out anyone.  If there is no slip glass visible then don’t worry, it’s ok, it just doesn’t use one.  Remember, if your device has a fax machine, the scanner glass being dirty will send faxes with lines on them.

 

If your printer is a laser printer/copier this line can be caused by the cartridge or drum.  If your machine has a drum and cartridge it would be the drum.  If it has just a single cartridge unit then the drum would be an integral part of the cartridge.  Read the manual in the problem solving section where it will tell you how to remedy such problems.  There will most likely be places also marked in green or blue that you can move in order to clean something.  

Usually, there would be a handle that you pull out.  There would be some type of cleaning pad attached that you may not be able to see, that cleans a roller or wire as you pull it out.  If you’ve tried all those things and the line is still there then, if you are shrewd enough to have another cartridge around, install it to see if the line disappears (this is often what the engineer that you called out may do in his elimination process!). If it works you’ve found your problem.  If it doesn’t re-package the spare cartridge making sure it’s back in its foil wrapping with as many of the things that you pulled off of it, back on it as possible.  If you have a inkjet or bubble jet printer then feint lines can be cause by the individual print heads located on the cartridges themselves or the combined print head used in machines where the cartridges just store ink with no pint head on them.  Print heads are also referred to as “Nozzles” and most inkjet machines have nozzle cleaning programs in them.  Some are more effective than others.  If your individual cartridges have the “copper coloured” print heads on them then you can try to clean them with an alcohol based cleaner if the cleaning program does not help before replacing them.

 

POOR COPY QUALITY

 

Copy quality can be affected by many preventable issues.  A common one, for printers and copiers, is damp paper.  Paper should be kept in a cool, dry place.  Not flung anyhow under the copier.  Not only does paper collect moisture from the environment, it also can become malformed if stored incorrectly.  Ideally, if your machine takes a full ream, wait until the paper tray is empty before refilling and then empty a fresh ream of paper into the machine.  If it does not then try to make sure you keep the paper in its original wrapping as this has protective elements in it (if you purchased a good quality paper).  Damp or malformed paper is also a common cause of paper jams too.  Of course, poor quality consumables is a common cause of poor copy quality.  Ask others who may be using a similar machine to yours for advice on what cartridges they use and their performance.  Cheap is not always best and if cheap cartridges leak inside your machine, they could cost you the whole printer.

 

GENERAL TIPS

 

If your printer suddenly appears to die on you, powerless, then check to see if your machine has a circuit breaker close to the power switch.  This may have just tripped off.  This is quiet common for the larger office machines and most low volume printers/copiers do not have circuit breakers exposed in this way.  Also, your machine may have just entered sleep mode and any button pressed may wake it up.  Otherwise, there is a sleep button somewhere on the keypad.  Unfortunately, this button is not always marked so find out where your sleep button is, if there is one.  Your partner may also have a sleep button and this could be really handy.  Double check that the cable is properly secured and is not snagged under a table leg.

If you are using a laser printer or photocopier and the toner runs out, you may be able to buy some time by removing the cartridge and giving it a shake.  If it has an electronic counter within it this will not work but hey, it’s worth a try.  

As you may have gathered by now, dirt and dust are enemies of anything electro-mechanical.  Especially where there is the need to scan an original document or form an image.  Clean your printer removing dirt and dust.  No, don’t put it in the shower but dust it regularly.  Anti-static cleaners work well to repel dust and can also help to reduce paper jams! So, clean inside the paper cassettes and the document feeder floor.  If you dust it regularly, then a puffer brush is good, but not if it is very dusty because it may just force the dust deeper into the machine.  

Any questions you have, or advice you’d like, please email me anytime.  Maybe you’d just like to ridicule my hairstyle, that’s cool too.  If you would like us to review any printing products and publish our results I would be glad to consider it.  Johnston Otaigbe

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Download a printer or copier manual and have a go yourself.  Great for minor faults and could save you lots of money!

Download a printer or copier manual and have a go yourself.  Great for minor faults and could save you lots of money!

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