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Everything you need to know about a Continuous Ink System (CISS)

What is a Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS)?
A continuous ink supply system (CISS) is a device used on inkjet printers that increases the capacity of ink a printer can hold.
They consist of 4 to 9 bulk ink tanks that each holds 100ml of ink and sit at the side of a printer, 4 to 9 dummy cartridges that sit inside of the printer, and a set of silicone or PVC rubber tubes that link the two parts.

How does it work?
Printers use pumps to pull ink from cartridges onto the print head. From here this ink is sprayed, heated or pressed onto the page being printed to give you an image. As ink is pulled out of the cartridge air displaces the ink, eventually emptying the cartridge. Once empty the cartridge is replaced and the process starts over.
With a CISS this process works on a larger scale. The printer pulls ink out of the dummy cartridge onto the print head. Instead of air being pulled into the cartridge to displace the ink, more ink is pulled through the rubber tubing from the external tanks. This means the cartridge never actually empties. Instead air is pulled into the external ink tanks and the level of ink in the tank drops.
Once the tank starts to get low more bulk ink can be poured into the tank to top it up, saving you from ever having to buy another ink cartridge.

What are the benefits?
Simply purchasing an ink system can save you over £400 in ink!
As an example we will look at the Epson T1285 ink cartridges that fit a range of Epson SX series printers:
Each cartridge holds on average 7.5ml of ink.
An original Epson T1282 cyan cartridge costs £11.46. That works out as £1.53 per millilitre of ink.
An alternative compatible T1282 cyan cartridge costs £3.95, making a millilitre of ink 53p.
A 100ml refill bottle for a CISS costs £4.95. This cuts the cost of ink to 5p a millilitre!
Multiply these figures out and 100ml of ink from Epson Original cartridges costs £153, and compatible 100ml costs £53. Multiply this by 4 to get an entire cartridge set and original cartridges would have cost you £612! Compatibles would have been £212. The cost of a completely full ink system for the T1285 series? £48!

Not only are you saving money by buying ink in its raw form, you are also saving the environment. For every bottle of ink purchased you are saving up to 15 cartridges from going into landfill. Going green has never been so appealing.

Will my print quality suffer?
The short answer to this question is no, not in the slightest.
The long answer is as follows…
Our inks are developed to match OEM inks in quality and longevity. This means you will get the same colours and life from your prints that you would were you using originals.
All of our inks are tailor made for the machines they are meant to be used in. We only sell Epson inks for Epson’s, Brother ink for Brother’s and Canon ink for Canon’s.
No universal ink will ever touch our shelves.
Not only that but we will only sell the ink made specifically for your machine. If your machine takes a dye based Epson ink, we supply a dye based Epson ink, if it takes a pigment Canon ink, then a pigment ink for Canon is what you will receive.
Special exceptions can be made if you seek a custom finish. In these situations we recommend calling our offices to discuss your needs.
The reason behind this is not only to ensure your machine operates as it was meant to, but also to ensure the quality of your prints stays high.
In the cases of high quality photography printers, ICC profiles are provided with our CISS to get the best out of the printer and its inks. For more information on ICC profiles and what they do visit out ICC explanation page here.

I’ve heard ink systems can block up your print head. Is this true?
Ink systems are not the reason for blockages in inkjet printers. Printers that use liquid inks are susceptible to ink blockages if not used for long periods of time; whether using OEM / compatible cartridges, refillable cartridges or continuous ink systems.
After a period of 2 weeks without use, ink can start to dry on your printer head. As time goes on this ink solidifies until it eventually blocks your printer head, meaning prints come out with distorted colours, lines through the image (banding) or images simply refuse to print at all.
Your average printer head clean maintenance can usually rectify this issue; that is if the printer has not been stood for too long, but it is always recommended to never let your printer get to this point.
Ink Express recommend printing something in full colour once a week, or once every 2 weeks to ensure your printer never requires a head clean. If you can follow that simple rule you will never have a problem with blockages.

What’s the catch?
Some manufacturer’s warranties are voided by the use of 3rd party consumables (compatibles, refillables or CISS). This means they won’t honour repair or replacement agreements outlined in the warranty.
The details of this vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. For example, it is stated in Epson’s warranty that the agreement is only invalid if the body of the printer is modified, or if the 3rd party ink is proven to have caused a fault in the machine,
“We will not repair or replace products if, in our opinion, the problem is due to:

(i) externally caused damage;

(ii) use outside specification (as defined by the product manufacturer, whose decision whether a product is used outside its specification or not is final);

(iii) accessories, parts or consumables which are not Epson branded or approved; or

(iv) modifications made to the product as originally supplied by Epson;

We have yet to find a case where the supplied inks have caused a fault in the printer.

All of the continuous ink systems Ink Express sell have undergone strenuous testing in the machines they are built for. Before a product is even considered for selling it has to undergo a rigorous stress test to ensure the end user gets a quality product. If a product does not meet out requirements it will never be sold by us.
If ever you find that a manufacturer is unwilling to repair your printer we offer a repair service in store. Our success rate with printer repairs is above 90% so you can rest easy when buying a CISS from ourselves.
Why is my printer not listed in your CISS category?
As stated above, all of our products are tested thoroughly before becoming available to purchase. Testing can take up to 6 months before we deem a product ready for sale, so it may be the case that your printer is still in the testing phase.
If we find a certain type of printer to be too inconvenient for the end user when fitted with a CISS, or simply not fit for purpose, we will refuse to sell a CISS for it.
This does not mean that your printer cannot use alternative inks or bulk inks. Nearly all printers work exceedingly well with refillable cartridges, and if we don’t stock the CISS for your model we will more than likely stock its refillable counterpart.
Which printers work best with a continuous ink system?
The best models to use with a CISS tend to be Brother and Epson printers. Due to the print heads fixed position in these machine and their durability, CISS tend to work considerably well in both manufacturers models. There are some exceptions to this rule, but these exceptions will not have a CISS listed on our website.
Canon, HP, Lexmark and other manufacturers’ printers tend to be more difficult to fit with a CISS. The cartridge design on these machines makes it near impossible to build a reliable continuous ink system.
Refillable cartridges work extremely well in Canon machines, but HP and Lexmark printers can be rather troublesome.

How do you get around the recognition chips placed on some manufacturer’s cartridges?
In some cases a chip is required to be placed on each cartridge to verify it is present in the printer and also to record the ink level in the cartridge.
In these cases a special auto reset chip (ARC) is developed to replicate the OEM chip and replace it with a reset function.
How do ARC’s work?
When a printer uses ink from a cartridge it records how much ink it has taken from that cartridge, and stores the data on the cartridges chip. The chip starts at 100% (full) and eventually runs to 0% (empty).
At this point a regular cartridge would become disposable and the printer would require a new cartridge to continue printing.
With auto reset chips, taking the cartridge out of the printer when it registers as empty (0%) will cause that chip to reset back to full (100%). When placed back in the printer the machine will continue to function as before and the cartridge that registered as empty will now display as full again.
It is important to note at this point that only the cartridge that registered as empty will reset. The other cartridges will stay at the level previously shown on the printer.
This is how a CISS fools a printer into thinking it is using a regular cartridge, and also why it will register as empty when a standard cartridge capacity is used.
Even though the ink tank has 100ml of ink in, and the cartridge never actually empties, the chip has to fool the printer into thinking it is using a standard capacity cartridge in order for it to function.

Will my CISS ever need replacing?
Parts of your CISS will deteriorate over time. The seals inside the cartridges are made of a durable rubber that does become worn after prolonged use. Luckily it is very easy and cheap to replace.
To keep on top of this we recommend servicing your ink system once every 18 - 24 months. This usually involves replacing the dummy cartridges and little else. These cartridges are available for as little as £1.50 each and replacing them ensures the quality of your prints does not deteriorate.
Sounds great! Is there anything else I need to be aware of before purchasing a CISS?
That is everything. You now know all you need to about using a CISS and hopefully we have persuaded you to go green with your printing. If you do have any further questions please feel free to contact us on 01902 307111 and we will talk you through anything else you may wish to discuss.
Thank you for visiting Ink Express. We hope to receive your order soon.