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Epson says ink pad saturation behind 'end of service life' warning on inkjet printers

Directs customers to Maintenance Reset Utility so they can continue to print

Epson has clarified the dread "end of service life" inkjet printer warning with an updated support page directing users to its Maintenance Reset Utility after critics complained about repairability.

At issue are ink sponges within the printer that soak up ink that gets squirted out during processes such as cleaning cycles. According to Epson, these sponges can get saturated over time. "Depending on the level of use," the company stated in a support page updated last week, "the product may reach a condition where satisfactory print quality cannot be maintained, or components have reached the end of their usable life."

It's a bit less blunt than the company's previous attempt to explain the message and sudden refusal of its products to print, where it said: "This message is a warning that certain parts have reached the end of their usable life and that your printer will no longer work until it is serviced."

Naturally, Epson would be delighted to recycle the old printer and sell customers a new one, but those same customers are understandably a little disgruntled, judging by threads on Reddit and Slashdot.

To make matters worse, the manner in which the hardware measures the saturation of the pads appears to be little more than a counter, which can be reset to extend things a little using Epson's Maintenance Reset Utility (for Windows only – no macOS version is available) before the hammer blow of "Service is required" comes down.

Epson's original support post advised getting the printer serviced at an Authorized Customer Care Center, but warned: "It may be more economical to purchase a new Epson product."

In its update, it advises users to contact it about its "low-cost ink pad replacement service" or cart the device off to a local certified technician to replace the ink pad "and extend the use of the printer."

Certainly, there are no end of online guides on how a user, armed with a screwdriver and a bit of courage, can switch out pads themselves. Resetting that counter, however, can be a little trickier. We'd be surprised if there aren't some lawyers looking thoughtfully at products that render themselves unusable after a period of time, and (initially at least) suggest buying a replacement.

It wouldn't be the first run-in Epson has had over the ink in its printers. A class-action lawsuit was lobbed at the company in 2019 after it was alleged a firmware update stopped printers using third-party ink. There have also been problems reported with its ink subscription service.

Breaking an entire device because some sponges might be saturated is an impressive move, even for an inkjet printer manufacturer. While Epson has taken some steps to calm customers, the core issue remains: even if a user manages to change the pads, resetting the magic maintenance counter within should either happen automatically, if the printer is indeed measuring saturation, or via a simple, repeatable utility.

We have contacted Epson for comment. ®

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