Continuous Ink Systems Come of Age

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Continuous Ink Systems (CIS) originally started as a novelty among the DIY crowd who were willing to rewire their their inkjet printers. The concept is simple. Instead of ink cartridges or ink in sponges, why not connect the printhead to reservoirs of liquid ink? But despite the simplicity of the concept, no major printer manufacturer wanted to slay the cash cow of single use inkjet cartridges. Therefore, CIS fans had to modify existing inkjet printers. And this meant installing dummy cartridges, which in turn were connected to reservoirs of liquid ink. Over time, CIS components such as special cartridges, ink reservoirs and tubing began to be sold over the Internet.

CIS have come far since then. But they still aren’t mainstream. And they are unlikely to be, given that no printer manufacturer is willing to make a printer dedicated to CIS. But the niche continues to grow.

There is a learning curve when choosing CIS. CIS adoptees are usually those who have already experimented with refilling inkjet cartridges, and are aware of the limitations of this approach (The tiny size of the ink reservoir within the cartridge means that this messy task has to be repeated a regular basis).

Reviews are mostly favourable for CIS. And some reviews recommend one particular CIS provider, Cobra Ink Systems. For some reason, Cobra Ink Systems sticks to retrofitting EPSON printers only. EPSON is a Japanese brand well known for its robustness. But it is also the most nasty in enforcing customers use its cartridges only. But I suppose its superior quality still makes it most well suited for CIS adaption.

My experience with an EPSON CIS provided by Cobra Ink Systems has been favourable. And I have recouped the cost of the investment several times over. The only minor annoyance I have with it is that sometimes the printer cannot recognise a cartridge or two. But a simple reboot fixes it.

Tips for CIS adoptees as well as existing CIS adoptees

There are a few pointers that potential CIS adoptees as well as existing CIS adoptees should bear in mind.

  1. Unless you really know what you are doing, it is better to get a printer (or an all-in-one) retrofitted with a CIS, than buying a CIS kit and trying to fit it onto your existing printer.
  2. CIS means that the manufacturer’s warranty on the printer is void. However, some CIS providers like Cobra Ink Systems are kind enough to provide their own warranty as a substitute.
  3. It is best to get a CIS all-in-one device versus a CIS printing only device (check your needs, as CIS will likely serve/replace all your printing needs).
  4. Avoid CIS that use pigment based inks and instead chose CIS that use dye based inks. Pigment based inks may be prone to sedimentation.
  5. Avoid any firmware updates from the manufacturer, as these may interfere with the CIS. Program your printer software to prevent updating.
  6. Although CIS will allow you to use the printer manufacturer’s software, you may have to use certain colour profiles. Cobra Ink Systems provides such profiles.
  7. Make sure the CIS is used every month.
  8. If you are ordering a CIS from an American maker like Cobra Ink Systems and you reside outside America, you may incur customs and duties.
  9. Make sure that your CIS provider is “in business.” Otherwise you may incur difficulties when you try to order ink supplies.
  10. Make sure that your CIS provider answers the phone and is in a position to provide technical support (I required some, and I did get it).
  11. A CIS printer needs to be unpacked and set up as soon as possible. It cannot be left in its package like regular printers.

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3 Responses

  1. Carleen says:

    I had an older model hp C5180 that someone installed my cis, worked great for many years, appears now the colors have faded some i’m looking for another system. I use it for printing on photo transfer paper and I don’t use it often, just need vivid colors. do you think the epsonWF will suffice, is it 4 color, or what do you think I should look for, cobra doesn’t have a lot of inexpensive models. thanks.

  2. Robert says:

    You get what you pay for with Cobra Ink. The owner Richard tinkers with things all the time; from the CIS system to the ink he sells. If you want consistency then use someone else. I have had ink from him completely clog my print head and after buying his “clog buster” had the same results. And you will be surprised how quickly his attitude changes when you call for support and blame the problems on his products. You will get the same results with Chinese ink and paper but pay a lot less.

  1. November 23, 2012

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