Saturday, January 05, 2013

Using Old Printers

Brother MFC-7420 Fax, Copier, Laser Printer
Laser and ink-jet printers are now available for under $50. However the low cost laser printers typically come with less than full toner cartridges and new new high capacity cartridges cost around $100. A $100 color laser will cost you $400 for new cartridges.  The ink-jet printers have cartridges which cost $10 to $30 and can't be refilled. An alternative is an older printer with refillable and lost cost supplies, or better still a free one which is already full. Older printers are available second hand at places like  The Bower in Marrickville in Sydney and Tiny's Green Shed at Mitchell and Symonston in Canberra.
I picked up an ink-jet printer left near the bins at my apartment block. This had ink in it which worked for a few dozen pages. The cartridges are easily refilled with low cost bulk ink and do not have an anti-refill chip which prevents reuse.

In need of a printer in Sydney I found a discarded Brother MFC-7420 multi-function copier, fax, laser printer, on top of a recycling bin. There was a toner cartridge box next to the printer, indicating it may have a new cartridge in it (the cartridges are good for about 2,000 pages). These printers can have problems with paper jamming, but work well using the single sheet feed slot.  The simplest way to get it to work with Linux is to choose a compatible per-installed driver, such as for the Brother MFC- 9600 Foomatic/hl 1250. Assuming this printer has a full cartridge, printing a couple of pages a week, it would last about 20 years.

Perhaps there is scope for retrofitting older large capacity laser printers for a longer life. One way would be to modify the printer firmware, or the printer driver, so that only one sheet of paper is in the paper path at any time. Another way would be to slow down the printer, so paper travels through it more slowly. More radical engineering, perhaps by the "Maker" community, might see simpler mechanisms around commonly available laser printer mechanisms.

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