We interview Ron Ardito, who has been installing and servicing Epson printers since they started printing color, and ask him about best practices for buying a used printer.
Is it safe to hit up eBay? What are some warning signs that a used printer has been poorly serviced? Find out on this episode of #AskBC.
- Ron’s preferred methods for finding the right used printer
- Buying new vs. used: benefits, drawbacks
- What to look for when shopping for a printer in person
- Used purchase horror stories
- What tests to run on your newly purchased unit to ensure it’s in fully working order
Listen in to learn about how to find and purchase a high quality used printer
- For more information about Ron you can visit Arditos.com
- Love the show? Have some feedback for us? Leave us a review on iTunes.
Prefer to read over listen? Want to save this conversation for reference later? We transcribe all of our shows for these reasons! Download this episode’s transcription below:
Or, to view a web version of the transcript:
Justin: Hey you guys. This is your host Justin, and today’s episode is a special tools-of-the-trade edition. And we have a special guest here, Ron Ardito is joining us from Arditos.com. And on this episode we’re going to discuss buying a used printer and what to look out for, what to do, and what not to do.
Ron, how’s it going?
Ron: It’s going very well Justin, and how are you?
Justin: I’m doing great, thank you. Let’s give our listeners some contacts since they have never heard your name before or been to your website. Why don’t you tell us just a little be about what you do every day?
Ron: Every day I repair Epson printers and [00:00:38] service Long Island and Manhattan and Brooklyn and Queens. I personally from my company do the Epson wide-format pro graphic models. The full spectrum up to the 11880, and that’s what I do. I’ve been doing it for about 15 years. I’m pretty good at it. People like us, and it’s a great job.
Justin: Perfect. Well, it sounds like you guys have a lot of experience in this field, so I’m sure you have a lot of valuable insight for us on this topic. So, why do people consider buying used printers, whether it be Epson, Cannon, etcetera, to save a little bit of money or whatever the reason might be. [00:01:06] So, we’re just going to talk about what to look for, where to look, what to avoid, and different things like that. So let’s jump into where would you recommend starting to look for a used printer? Would you just go to Ebay?
Ron: No! That would be the last place I’d go.
What I would do is I would try to find people within the immediate area who are advertising printers for sale. Needless to say, you’re not going to go out looking for a lower-end machine. You’re going to be looking for a pro graphic model of sorts, a larger Epson because you need the ability to print wide. You need output quality. That would bring us to a Cannon. In Epson, my expertise, again, is with Epson.
But when you’re buying a used printer, across the board the things you have to look out for are pretty uniform. [00:01:54] You would never want to buy a machine from somebody many, many states away who’s going to ship it to you and hope for the best. They don’t ship well. They don’t ship well in the original containers if they’re handled incorrectly.
So, if the person you’re buying from does not have the original shipping container, packaging, and usually, on a 79 or a 99, any large machines, they’re not going to have that. The machine was installed. The packing was taken away and thrown in the dumpster down the street. They’re not going to have it. Not purchasing a large-format printer from somebody where they have to ship it to you.
I have a lot of customers that will come in. They bought the machine on EBay, 4880s, even 4900s at this point, and when I get to see the machine, it’s in pretty bad shape because of the shipping damage. And what they paid and what they ended up with are two different things.
Justin: Yeah, you can almost just look at buying a new unit instead of repairing a used broken one that you received.
Ron; Absolutely correct, unless you’re getting a real deal. Like a lot of people, one of the most sought after machines is the 4880. A lot of screen printers will use that machine to print on [inaudible 00:03:01] because the software is out there for it, and the ink is out there for it, and it’s a great machine for that that application as long as you maintain it. And people will go all over the country looking for those. And again, they’re subjected to shipping damage. You’ve got to be careful.
Justin: Yeah, I imagine something like the 4880 is bound to be substantially easier to deal with than something like a 44-inch wide 9900 or something like that though, right?
Ron: Without a doubt, yeah. The mere physics of it. The weight, the size, the length of the machine, all contribute to being more apt to get damaged during the shipping process.
Justin: But you still don’t want somebody just throwing it in a box and sending it your way. That’s for sure.
Ron: No, you really don’t. The perfect way is actually to be able to go see the machine in operation. Because usually people will get rid of the machine, especially the higher end machines because of one of many reasons, but mostly they have an issue with the machine. They don’t want to spend the money to get it fixed.[00:04:00]
Now if they’re honest, they’ll tell you, “Yeah, it’s a print head.” And to put a print head in a 9900 can be expensive, like up to $2600 if you’re replacing the head, the pump, which I recommend sometimes doing them together. Then you look at what a new machine costs, and sometimes it makes more sense to buy the new machine versus the used machine because you’re getting inks with the new one. Even though they’re starter cartridges, you’re starting out with an operating machine.
Justin: Yeah, and typically a warranty right?
Ron: Yeah, and you get a one-year warranty, and you’re getting the ability to extend the one-year warranty with Epson’s Extra Care program to two additional years. So that gives you three years of trouble-free, maintenance-free, coverage. You’re not going to worry about having to replace $1600 print heads two weeks after you bought the machine.
Justin: Right. Good things to consider for sure. So if you can, buy locally, same state or even the same city, where you can just go drive and check it out. If possible, do a print on it or something.
Ron: Yeah. Let’s go over what the machine should like when you do go.
Say you get to see a machine. [00:04:57] You don’t want to see any ink leaking out of the machine. You want to hear the machine operate, and you want to hear a smooth machine. A noisy machine usually indicates that the carrier bearings are worn out, and the machine has got a tremendous amount of usage on it.
Some people I deal with when I sell used machines always ask me for the page count. Page count is absolutely meaningless because a machine that’s printed a million sheets can be in better shape than a machine that printed a thousand sheets. There’s a lot that goes into why a machine wears in one location versus not wearing that great in other locations.
Justin: Yeah, I’ve heard that measurement a lot myself. Page count.
Ron: Yeah, it is. A lot of people just read it on the internet and they say, “Oh God, what’s the page count?” And I tell them the page count is irrelevant because we’re replacing the head. We’re replacing the pump. We’re replacing the bearings, and we’re going to reset all the counters. You’re going to get a new machine, basically.
Justin: Yeah, good point.
Ron: So they have to be aware of that. So you don’t want a machine that’s got any kind of cracks on the casing. Hopefully, you see a machine with the original included OEM inks in it because of course they’re going to do less damage in a machine. [00:06:00] Which we mentioned a second ago, you don’t want to see ink leaking out of the machine.
You want to see an output if possible. You want to see a nozzle check. And if it breaks in the nozzles, and the guy’s asking X amount of dollars, and it’s not a full nozzle check, you know right off the bat that the machine needs a head.
Justin: Yeah, good point. That’s a great way to ensure what you’re paying for, I guess.
Ron: Without a doubt.
Justin: Do you have any stories on top of mind that you might tell about, maybe like a disaster story or two?
Ron: I do have a customer that bought a 9900 from out of town who had it serviced by another company. And they put a selector unit in. The selector unit on Epson printers on a later models, starting with the 3800, allows the end user to switch from matte to photo and back from photo to matte. That’s why they call it a selector unit.
We used to call it a damper unit because in the selector unit are the ink dampers. The ink comes out of the cartridge, through the ink lines, into the damper, which adjusts for barometric pressure and things of that nature. [00:07:02] Even on the machines that are pressure fit air-pressure wise.
The selector unit, when it does fail, when it fails like on a 3880 or a 3800 or a 4900, and any of the machines, two things happen. It empties out the ink cartridge that you had selected, either be it the matte or the photo, because the selective out has failed, and now it’s open all the time. And even when you turn the machine off, the pressure does not release on some of those machines, and it just forces the ink out of the cartridge into the waste tank.
And the customer will say, “My machine stopped printing photo black.” He says, “It’s full,” but in reality the cartridge is empty. No ink in it.
And the other thing that you’ll see is blobs of ink down on the paper because it’s being forced through the system.
But getting back to what I was saying, this servicer put the new damper selector unit into this 9900. There are two connections on the hoses on the unit and they’re O-rings that are supposed to be there. [00:07:59] Either he didn’t know the O-rings were to be there or they fell off, but the machine charged up, the ink ran out of the machine onto their brand new carpet.
Justin: Oh, man. That is not good.
Ron: An ocean of ink.
Justin: Geez. That sounds like a mess.
Ron: It was. I went there to correct the issue, and it took me almost two hours just to clean the ink up in the machine. I don’t clean carpets, so that wasn’t my problem. But the machine itself, it was flooded with ink.
Justin: Oh, my gosh. Well, just goes to show how you really need to know what’s going on inside of these things before you start messing with them, I guess. Like, shouldn’t that be something that you should catch and prevent? As far as the ink dumping out all over the place?
Ron: Well, you wouldn’t see it happening because it’s happening at the tapping station, and you don’t see the print head on these 9979s. It’s over there. It’s hidden on the right side of the machine. So you don’t know it’s doing it until, two things, the cleaning process, the start-up process takes much longer because now the system is not pressurizing fully. [00:08:57] And then the obvious part is you see the ink pouring out of the bottom of the machine.
Justin: Oh, gosh. That sounds like a mess.
Ron: I laughed. They didn’t think it was funny.
Justin: I’m sure they didn’t. They had to replace their carpet afterward.
So what about these customers that bring printers to you every now and again that have bought them used. Are there any common trends that you see in terms of things that are wrong them that you have to repair for these guys?
Ron: Sure. Usually when somebody brings them in and they got it at a decent price, it pays to put a new head in it. If required, a pump unit. Not an expensive piece, but a very important piece of the machine. Reset the print adjustments fully, go through the whole sequence, service the paper feed assembly, and do test prints to make sure everything is working the way it’s supposed to work. That’s usually what happens when [inaudible 00:09:42].
Justin: Okay. Not too bad. What about the visual aspects of the machine? The external covers and things like that? I’m sure that tends to break during the shipping, and people don’t tend to worry about that as much.
Ron: Some do. It really depends on the person. Some of the machines can scratched up and dented and still do a beautiful print. [00:09:58] Some machines can look great, yet the damage is internal, and you really don’t see it until you start working on the machine.
Once a machine gets bent, or racked, it’s very difficult to get the machine back to a situation where it’s going to work correctly, especially on the 48s, 4880s, where you have a platen gaft shaft which adjusts for paper thickness automatically. Once that gets bent, it’s game over.
Justin: Oh, wow. Yeah, that doesn’t sound too good at all.
Ron: No, it’s not good for them, and it’s not good for me.
Justin: Yeah, definitely. I can imagine. So once somebody receives a printer, they take delivery of it or, I guess, they unbox it or take it off the pallet, what are the first few things they want to do? I imagine running a nozzle check is one of them if they didn’t have the privilege of doing that before they bought it, but what else?
Ron: Same thing as a new machine. You want to unpack it, make sure visually it looks good. There’s no dents, cracks, dents, damage, anything like that. Then make sure you got a waste tank, and you got ink cartridges, put them in, turn it on, and see what happens.
The display is going to tell you quite a bit. If the machine comes to ready, and it didn’t ask you to run a power-cleaning at that point, you can do a nozzle check. Because during shipping, the ink will come out of the head back into the damper unit, and you’re not going to get a full nozzle check. So if the machine comes to ready, you’re doing okay.
Put some paper in the tray, or a paper roll in the back if it’s the bigger machine, and then do a test run. Do a nozzle check. See what it looks like. If it doesn’t look good, then you want to go into the maintenance and run a power cleaning. And then if after one power cleaning, it still doesn’t look good and full, run one more. If you run more than three power cleanings, and you don’t get the nozzle check back, you have an issue.
Justin: Makes sense. It seems simple enough.
Ron: It is simple.
Justin: Well, I think we’ve pretty much covered the buying process, what to look for in the used large-format or medium-sized digital printer, so I don’t have too many more questions for you, but we mentioned your website at the beginning. But if people are interested in finding more out about you and maybe they’re in the New York area and they need some service or consultation or something, where can they go to get your contact info?
Ron: Once again they can go to my website. Arditos. A-R-D-I-T-O-S dot com, and all my contact information is up there.[00:11:57]
I am a pretty busy guy, but I will make an attempt if you email me to get back to you and answer any questions you may have.
Justin: Sounds great.
Hey, Ron, I appreciate you taking the time out to give us some of this vital information. And as always it’s great talking with you.
Ron: Justin, nice talking to you again.
Justin: Thanks, Ron.
Ron: You’re very welcome.
Justin: Well, that’s it for today’s episode, guys. Thanks so much for joining us. And I want to thank Ron Ardito again for joining us to talk about what to avoid and what to look for when buying a used large format or a small format ink jet printer.
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