How to choose a scanner

13. December 2011 14:21 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Canon PIXMA MX700Consumer scanners have progressed dramatically in their capabilities and image quality over the last decade. Now, affordable scanners may be purchased as stand-alone machines or as part of multi-function document solution. Choosing the right scanner does require a general understanding of the varying capabilities that are prevalent in today's machines, which begins with a broad introduction to what is out there.

All consumer image scanners can be divided into a few categories. Flatbed, sheet-feed and duplex scanners are the most common choices that meet the needs of most consumers. Specialty image scanners such as drum and wide format scanners are specifically targeted toward industry professionals that require immensely high resolution scanning and other necessities of the professional market. For most consumers, the three listed scanner types from above will meet all of one’s productivity requirements.

Many consumers are choosing to purchase a multi-function machine that has an incorporated flatbed and sheet-feed scanner, like the Canon MX700 ink. These scanners represent significant improvements over the included scanners of a few years ago, but the specific qualities can vary. A dominant variable in these types of scanners is the color depth capabilities. Color depth refers to a measurement of the number of tonal differences a scanner can produce in a digital image. Common color depth measurements include 8, 16 and 24 bit depth. There are machines that are advertised at 48 bit color depth, but these are rare and not widely practical due to incompatibility with many current image programs. The basics of color depth are that higher bit depth offers greater subtle tonal representation within hues. This allows for greater fine tuning of color to more accurately represent images as the human eye may have perceived them originally.

Interpolation is another frequently touted specification by manufacturers because of the high resolution numbers it is usually represented with. However, the true functionality of a scanner is most accurately represented by its optical resolution. Interpolation is a digital way of increasing the size of a scanned image beyond the capabilities of its optical parts. A simplified explanation of how interpolation works is that the machine will actually replicate the pixels of an image to create larger images. This function produces varied results because some firmware is better than others, but ultimately it is only a useful function if one's output needs to be significantly larger than the original image being scanned.

One of the greatest distinguishing specifications among scanners is speed. High speed scanners use various techniques to accomplish faster scan times. The difficulty can be in determining what a scanners speed is at a desired resolution as many scanners will list their faster speeds that are typically associated with lower resolution images. Sheet-feed scanners are faster overall than flatbed scanners because they greatly reduce the time needed to change the page. Duplex sheet-feed scanners reduce speed even further by incorporating two single-pass optics capable of scanning both sides of a page simultaneously.

Ultimately, choosing the right scanner will depend on your resolution, color depth and speed needs.

How to clean the drum in your printer

8. December 2011 14:07 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Often, people are quick to replace their printer drums when they quit working properly. However, this isn't always necessary. Given the cost of drum units, wouldn't it be great if there was a way to extend the life of one? There is. If prints start coming out with lines, streaks, blotches, or other defects don't toss that drum unit just yet. All it may need is a thorough cleaning. Luckily, with a little effort and a few supplies, a person can easily get a drum unit back into good working order saving themselves the cost of a new one.

To clean a drum unit, a person needs to gather a few supplies. Q-tips, tweezers or small needle-nose pliers, a soft cleaning cloth, some paper towel, and rubbing alcohol should suffice. The first step is removing the drum unit from the printer. Follow the manufacturers instructions to avoid damaging the printer or drum unit. Exercise care when handling the printer drum. Fingerprints on the roller surfaces may affect printing and it is possible to spill toner making a huge mess. This is where the paper towel comes in. Use it to provide a clean surface to place the drum unit on and to catch any spilled toner while cleaning it.

After the drum unit is successfully removed, inspect it for any obvious damage. Sometimes the drum is connected to the toner cartridge, but it can also be a separate assembly, like with Brother toner cartridge printers.  If there is any damage, stop here and replace the unit. If not, look for any large chunks of toner on the drum unit. Remove them with the tweezers or needle-nose pliers. Most manufacturers recommend against using sharp or hard objects to remove bits of toner. However, using tweezers is quite effective, so exercise caution and don't rush it. Next, dip a Q-tip in rubbing alcohol and use it to clean any oily or dirty areas visible on the drum. If the drum unit itself appears dirty, apply rubbing alcohol to the cleaning cloth and thoroughly wipe the unit down. Give the drum one more thorough inspection to ensure there are no more obstructions and that all dirty areas are clean. Then, replace the drum unit and perform a test print to see if it is working properly.

Next time a printer starts printing with blotches and streaks, don't run out and replace its drum unit quite yet. Pop it open, and take a look at the drum unit; a good cleaning may solve the problem.

Common Lexmark Optra printer error codes

5. December 2011 09:00 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Lexmark printers are considered to be very reliable printers and can withstand the rigors of daily print jobs. However, every printer will experience an error at some point during their service lives, so knowing what each message means can save money by helping to avoid unneeded repairs. Here are several common Lexmark Optra printer error codes, including instructions on how to clear these errors.

Error 200 & 201 – Paper Jam
An error 200 message appears if there is paper blocking the pathways of the printer. If there are no blockages in the printer, the sensors(s) could be blocked. Removing any jammed paper from the printer often clears this error.

An error 201 is an indication that paper is jammed between input sensors: between the front and back input sensors. This error can often be cleared by removing any paper that has jammed inside of the printer.

More information can be found by reading our blog post how to remove paper jams.

Error 80 – Scheduled Maintenance
Modern Lexmark printers contain a counter that alerts a user when the printer should have maintenance performed. The counter records the amount of pages printed, and the error message signifies that the maximum number of pages have been printed. Several parts may need to be replaced periodically to ensure reliable printing.

Error 900 – Service Error
An error 900 can occur due to a problem with the hardware in the printer, or due to a connection problem between the printer and a device. If the error occurs while the printer is communicating with a computer or network, the problem is network or connection related. If the error occurs while the printer is not in use or not connected to a network or a computer, the hardware could be the culprit if not the connection itself. Checking the printer and the connection to the printer often remedies this problem.

Error 901 – Engine Flash Error
This error often occurs due to a temporary engine glitch. To clear a 901 error, simply turn off the printer for at least five minutes. If the error doesn’t return after powering on the printer, a temporary glitch was the issue and shouldn’t require any further troubleshooting.

Error 902 – Service Engine Software
An error 902 is an indication that the software in the engine board has failed. If turning off the printer for ten minutes or longer doesn’t clear the error once the printer has been turned back on, performing a NVRAM reset on the printer may clear the message.

Error 903-906
Errors 903, 904, 905 and 906 are all indications of a failure or fault of the printer’s system board. Turning off the printer for ten minutes or longer should clear the error. If the error returns after powering on the printer, resetting the NVRAM could clear the error message.

Error 929 – Toner Sensor
An error 929 occurs when there is a problem with the Lexmark toner sensor, as well as several other components. Checking the toner cartridge first can help rule-out the possibility of other culprits causing the error since defective toner cartridges often cause this alert.

Why you should not use inkjet refill kits

2. December 2011 09:00 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

No Inkjet Refill KitIn the quest to cut costs and save time, it is tempting to use an inkjet refill kit. These kits are sold at many popular stores and claim that a person can quickly and easily refill an empty ink cartridge at home. Advertisements show happy customers demonstrating their ease of use and impressive results. It is true that they do work. In fact, they work well for many people. However, what many consumers don't realize, is that there are hidden risks associated with inkjet refill kits.

Almost all new printers come with a manufacturer's warranty. The maker covers any defects, damage, and other problems that occur through normal use. Given that inkjet refill kits don't come with a warranty covering their use in a printer, this leaves the consumer liable should their printer get damaged using the kit. The average home user isn't an experienced printer tech, either. Their knowledge of refilling cartridges is probably limited to the instructions provided by the maker of the refill kit. It is very easy to damage a cartridge. Couple this with the now lack-of-warranty, and trying to save money by refilling an ink cartridge at home may end up costing a lot more than originally planned.

The other problem with refilling a cartridge is assuming the print head does not need to be replaced.  Many times, the print head becomes clogged with ink.  You can run the cleaning function built into your printer, but the function isn’t designed to clean old cartridges and cartridges that have been used many more times than designed.

Remanufactured inkjet cartridges typically cost 30 to 50 percent less than new ones and don't have any of the hassle associated with inkjet refill kits. Remanufacturers inspect, clean, and refill empty cartridges with the right type of ink. Typically, they offer a warranty and guarantee their product won't damage printers. Not to mention professionals do all the work. Given the choice to do it at home with a questionable product, or have a professional refill it and offer a warranty, most people should go with our remanufactured inkjet cartridges or use a solid ink printer like the Phaser 8560 ink printer that has no cartridge.

Canon BJC-85 and BJC-55 ink cartridge configurations

30. November 2011 08:28 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Canon BJC-85 ink printerThe Cannon BJC-85 and BJC-55 printers are lightweight, portable printers that offer convenient printing options for the traveling business person. They are capable of printing in both monochrome and color. Both printers do well when printing color documents, charts, graphics, and photographs. The Cannon BJC-85 and BJC-55 use the same Canon ink cartridge, and there are three different ink cartridge configurations for the printers. The type of print project is the determining factor in which configuration a person uses. While having to change ink cartridges depending upon the task may seem bothersome at first, it is actually quite easy and is the tradeoff for such small printers.

The three ink cartridge configurations available for the Cannon BJC-85 and BJC-55 printers are the BCI-10 cartridge for printing black and white, the BCI-11 cartridges for color printing, and the BCI-12 cartridges for printing photos. The BCI-10 configuration requires only one ink cartridge and prints only in black and white. It is possible to use the other configurations for printing black and white, but is recommended against. The BCI-11 configuration for printing color requires two separate ink cartridges; the BCI-11 black and the BCI-11 color ink cartridges. This configuration is ideal for printing all color documents including charts, graphs, etc., but is not intended for printing photographs. The BCI-12 cartridges are for this purpose. Again, this configuration uses two separate ink cartridges; the BCI-12 black and the BCI-12 color cartridges.

Canon BJC-55 ink printerChanging the ink cartridges is easy and only takes a second. First, the user should remove the new cartridge from its packaging, including any protective packaging on the cartridge itself. Next, open the top cover and turn the printer on. Press the "cartridge" button and position the cartridge holder in the middle of the printer. Align the ink cartridge with the holder, there are guide marks, and then press down at a slight angle until the cartridge locks into place. After this, close the cover and press the "cartridge" button again. The printer is now ready to go.

To accommodate every printing need with BJC-85 and BJC-55 printers, a person needs all three ink cartridge configurations. This means having 5 ink cartridges on hand that need changing depending on the project. This may seem inconvenient at first, but is the tradeoff for the lightweight and compact size of both printers. Swapping out cartridges only takes a second and is a small price to pay for a quality portable printing option.

What is a printer driver?

28. November 2011 10:18 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Printer driverA lot of people may decide to change operating systems on their computer at some point of time, while others may have some type of issue with their computer's USB port(s). Most people really do not think to much about it, but these issues can actually make it to where the computer does not recognize the printer any more. When people see the prompt on their computer that it cannot recognize the device, they will know that it is an issue with the driver. Now, people know that they need to get a driver to allow the printer to work; however, most people probably think that a driver is some external hardware that needs to be plugged into the computer, which is a good guess, but not quite the right answer.

A driver is actually a type of software that allows the computer to recognize what is hooked up to it. The driver is extremely important, because the computer cannot give the appropriate commands if it does not know what is connected. The driver will essentially allow the computer to translate data into codes that the printer can actually understand, thus allowing it to print. People can find the proper printer driver by searching the brand and model of the printer. If they cannot find the exact model, they will likely be able to use the driver for the same brand of printer and achieve the same results.

A printer driver is something that every printer needs to function, but it will not require a visit to the office supply store to buy, in fact, it will not cost them anything at all. People will be able to change operating systems without every having to worry about the stress of their printer not working. The installation of a printer driver only takes a few minutes at most.

Why you should upgrade your printer memory

25. November 2011 10:08 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

When people are printing documents, especially large documents or graphics, they will notice that the printer seems to take forever. This is essentially because a stock printer does not have a lot of memory, so it can only process so many commands at once. Most people assume that there is nothing they can do about the issue, aside from buying a new printer, but they actually can upgrade the memory of their printer.  Now, most people are probably thinking that they have only heard of upgrading the memory on their computer, and this is probably the case since it is not a highly discussed procedure. Most laser printers can be upgraded, however ink cartridge printers typically cannot. There are several advantages to upgrading a printer's memory.

HP LaserJet 2300The first advantage is that the speed of prints will speed up substantially. When the computer tells the printer what to print, it will be able to process more commands in less time than a stock printer. In addition, a memory upgrade can actually allow users to print more complex graphics and texts. A typical laser toner printer simply cannot remember everything the computer tells it on complex projects, which can lead to a very low-quality print. In fact, the printer may simply give the user a message that the printer is not even going to print the document, which is extremely frustrating.

People can upgrade the memory in their printer by taking it to a computer store, or if they know a fair amount about electronics, they can attempt to complete the process on their own. People will also discover that memory upgrades really are not very expensive, especially considering all of the advantages they offer. Now that people know they can upgrade their memory, they will not have to wait several minutes for their prints, nor will they have to buy a new printer.

Instructions for installing the Lexmark P915 software

23. November 2011 08:05 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Lexmark P915 inkWhen people purchase a printer, especially a used or refurbished model like the Lexmark P915 ink cartridge printer, it may not always come with the proper software. Many people do not really think about this being a big issue, because their main focus and excitement is driven by the savings they received. The problem occurs the second they get ready to hook-up their printer, only to get the stressful message that the device cannot be recognized by the computer. At this point, people are ready to throw the printer across the room or call the seller to inform them that the printer does not work. Fortunately, people can save themselves the hassle and embarrassment of confronting the seller by downloading the software online.

When people go to the Lexmark P915 support site, they will be able to find the software they need. They will find that the software will not cost them anything, because Lexmark understands that people do not always buy the product when it is new. In addition, if someone has to reformat their computer, which most people do, Lexmark realizes that the person may have lost the disc. People will also be able to download the driver for every Lexmark printer from the Lexmark site. The driver is essentially what converts the computer's codes to codes that the printer can read. People will see a menu bar at the top of Lexmark's home page that includes a software option. Upon scrolling over the software option, they will see a drop-down menu that lists drivers and software. Once they click the driver or software link, they will see their choices to download from. They will want to select the 'save' option during the download process, and it is important to remember where the files saves.

By downloading the Lexmark P915 software, people will save a lot of time and stress. They will find that the process does not take any more time than it would to install the software with the regular disc. In fact, people may find that it is easier to install the software from Lexmark's site, because they will not have to worry about losing the disc. The next time people begin to stress out over the computer error message, they will know how to fix the problem.

Common toner cartridge problems

21. November 2011 08:00 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Printer problems are an unavoidable reality when owning a printer. New printers can have problems out-of-the-box as well as older printers with many hours of usage. Many people are unaware of the fact that most printer problems are not caused by the printer at all, but are caused by the toner cartridges. Fortunately, these issues can be easily fixed with just a small amount of knowledge on common toner cartridge problems.

Printing Failure – “Unidentified Cartridge”
Oftentimes when a printer fails to print it will cause an error message reading “unidentified cartridge” or “unrecognized cartridge.” This can be caused by an incompatible toner cartridge being installed into the printer or a defective chip on a compatible cartridge. Compatible LaserJet toner cartridges usually have a chip on the cartridge that registers with the printer.  If the chip is defective, you typically get the unidentified cartridge message.  Many times, powering off the printer, unplugging it and waiting for 15 minutes will resolve this issue.

Additionally, printing failure can be caused by a cartridge that isn’t fully seated in the printer. Sensors inside of the printer may fail to detect the cartridge if it isn’t seated correctly. Removing the problem cartridge(s) and reseating could also fix this issue.

Printer Toner Readings Incorrect
Failure to use the correct printer drivers and failing to install drivers at all can cause problems that resembled printer toner issues. For instance, the print maintenance utility included with most printers can possibly read that the toner is low, or the toner is empty, or that there is no toner cartridge at all. If there is no actual problem with the cartridge(s), the printer driver might be the culprit.

When an incompatible printer driver or an outdated printer driver is installed on a computer failure to print can result, with error messages that point to “driver” problems as well as incorrect toner readings. Drivers are software programs that hardware depends on to function correctly or at all. Most computer operating systems will automatically install the correct printer drivers during installation, but many instances occur in which the driver can’t be found for a particular operating system or computer. Searching the manufacturer’s website online usually helps to locate the correct driver for the printer model that you own since all companies have technical support teams to contact for further assistance.

Failure To Print Due To Firmware Problems
Manufacturers release “firmware” updates for printers which can be downloaded to fix bugs, increase functionality and improve features. Printer firmware updates can be found by visiting the website of your printer’s manufacturer and searching under “downloads.” In rare cases printer problems such as incorrect toner cartridge errors and incorrect printer status readings can be fixed by updating the firmware.

How to correct ghosting on prints

17. November 2011 11:26 by Calvin Yu in Troubleshooting and Printer Tips  //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)

Ghosting on printsGhosting is defined as slight images of previous print jobs that are embedded in newly printed pages. This occurs during the printing process and can be caused by several different issues. Ghosting is visually described as multiple images and text that is printed onto a page when there should have been one of each printing. There can possibly be a problem with the toner cartridge needing cleaning, a problem with the power supply connected to the printer, bad drums or imaging kits and other scenarios.

For instance, ghosted images will appear lighter than the relatively darker areas of text and images found in the newly printed page. Fortunately, there are several simple and relatively inexpensive solutions for a ghosting printer, without the need to buy a new unit. Here are several troubleshooting tips to correct ghosting on prints, which requires little to no prior technical experience.

Lowering Humidity
High-humidity environments can contribute to a ghosting condition in printers that would otherwise have no such problem. It is best that printers are operated in rooms with relatively low humidity to prevent ghost images and text.

Imaging Drum/Imaging Kit Failure
Depending on how many pages were printed using the printer, limited-lifetime parts such as the drum or imaging kit could be approaching the end of their life spans. Every printer is tested and rated to print a certain amount of pages before vital components start to fail. If the printer has printed more pages than it was rated to print, the imaging drum and imaging kit may need replacing.

Cleaning Cycle Needed
Nearly all modern printers are included with software or built-in firmware that allows cleaning of the toner and fuser rollers. Excess toner that has been building up on the fuser rollers can cause ghosting. Using the cleaning cycle normally found in the printer software utility (or the printer LCD panel) can sometimes correct ghosting issues.  Many printers, like the Konica-Minolta toner printers, do a self-cleaning during startup and therefore do not have the option in the software.

If cleaning the printer components using the utility isn’t effective, or if there is no cleaning utility available, try manually cleaning the printer using our best practices for cleaning your laser printer.  If physically cleaning the printer does not stop the ghosting, the fuser assembly in the printer will need to be replaced. When toner is not fused properly to the paper smudging may occur while the paper passes through the fuser roller, causing ghosting and smudging of toner. 

Testing the Printer
An easy test can be performed to narrow down the ghosting problem to the fuser or another culprit. First, a test print will need to be printed while paying close attention to the sound of the paper moving through the printer. Next, open the front door of the printer while pulling the page away from the printer, before the paper reaches the fuser. Afterwards, open the printer door and remove the sheet of paper. If the toner smudges on the paper after gently placing your finger across the page, the toner is not properly fusing to the paper, thus causing the ghosting effect.

Pinpointing the reason for ghosting during printing can be an easy process as long as the guidelines explained above are used diagnose and repair the problem. Regular maintenance of printer components and proper cleaning will ensure that your printer has a long life with few to no incidents of ghost printing.

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