Resurrecting an Epson Stylus Pro 9600 large format printer

» This is Part 1 of 3 part series. Be sure to check out Part 2 and Part 3.

Epson9600

In NYC we keep our large format printers in the kitchen.

So, what started as a simple desire to enlarge some of my photos ended up with me on Craigslist and ultimately hauling a six foot wide, 100+ lb printer from South Jersey into my one bedroom NYC apartment. Go big or go home, right?

Is it Y2k compliant?

The Epson Stylus Pro 9600 with Ultrachrome ink is a bit of a throwback (mine was manufactured in 2004) but, from what I’ve read, it is still the workhorse of many print shops and photographers. However, the biggest con of buying antiquated (and used) hardware is digging up all the manuals and software necessary to get things running. In my ongoing effort to give back to the internet, I’m documenting my experience and trying to centralize some of the information I’ve found thus far.

One of the more interesting things I’ve noticed is that given that this printer was first introduced over a decade ago, some of the web pages devoted to it (like here and here) look like something you’d find on the Wayback Machine; lots of pixelated gifs and centered white text on black backgrounds, if you catch my drift.

My Mac OS X 10.8.x didn’t recognize the 9600 when I first plugged in the USB. So, my first stop was the Official Epson 9600 product page. Luckily they have drivers compatible with the latest versions of Mac OS X. Not as much luck with the utilities, ICC profiles, and firmware, however.

On the Drivers and Downloads page, there is a link to a set of ICC profiles produced by Bill Atkinson, which are purportedly better than those that come with the standard printer driver. Unfortunately, the files available for Mac’s all have a .SEA.HQX extension which is an ancient compression format (Mac 9 or earlier). You’ll be able to use the standard Archive Utility app to extract the .SEA file from the .HQX archive, but the resulting .SEA file is an executable archive can’t be opened in newer versions of Mac OS (Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, Maverick). If you don’t understand what all that meant, ignore it, and just know that using some Technomancery©, I was able to extract the profiles and a link to a Mac OS X-compatible file containing all the Bill Atkinson 9600/7600 icc profiles is available below. All you need to do is double click the zip file and copy the .ICC files to Macintosh HD > Library > ColorSync > Profiles. You’ll be prompted for your password to copy files into this directory.

Once you’ve loaded the profiles they will appear in the list of the Printer Profiles when you print from Photoshop.

Icc Profile

Moment of Truth

From the previous owner I learned that the printer had been sitting idle for a few months (at least). The first thing I did was to print off a standard test file on a sheet of 8.5’x11″ Epson Premium Photo Glossy paper to see where things stood. First results were promising. No noise from the printer that would imply any worrisome mechanical issues and the print itself was fairly sharp. I was so pleased I even went ahead and shot off a 36″x44″ print using a roll of Epson Premium luster paper.

A second test with Epson Enhanced Matte Paper showed some fairly significant horizontal banding. A post to the Epson Wide Format Yahoo Group told me that this could be resolved by running through the Head Alignment utility on the control panel (details in the Epson Stylus Pro 7600/9600 Printer Guide, page 57). After a few runs, I was able to get rid of the banding. Thanks, jrstewart8.

Getting under the hood

Now you think I’d leave well enough alone, but dealing with the head alignment issue got me thinking about getting ahead any other potential maintenance issues. One of the most common issues cited on the forums was the printer head clogging. First stop, Nozzle Check. Result, not so good. There were very noticeable gaps in the Magenta and Yellow sections.

From a few of the resources below, I understood that I needed to get some windex and clean the printer head, capping station, flushing box, and wiper blade. This page from Northlight Images has a nice set of instructions on how to do this. This video shows how to get the head free and use a saturated paper towel to clean it. This video gives you a slight out-of-focus view into cleaning the wiper and capping station, albeit on a Epson 4600 (I think). The previous videos in conjunction with the repair manual from American Inkjet Systems should help illustrate the process for you (see Figs 2-15 & 2-15 on pgs. 12-13).

When I opened up the front cover, moved the head, and first inspected the station, I was not completely surprised to see tons (probably years worth) of dust and dried ink all over. I saturated a strip of paper towel with Windex and put it behind the head and let that sit while I worked on the rest. Now the AIS manual shows how to take of the whole side to get at the cleaning station, but I thought that would be tempting the Gods. (The Gods and I have have some history when it comes to electronics repair.) So, I left the screwdriver in the toolbox and worked on what I could access from the small opening. I had a syringe that I used to set up the continuous ink system on my Epson 2200 which gave me the reach I needed to saturate the capping station and flushing box. The wiper was a bit more difficult. I was able to reach it with some q-tips but wasn’t able to clean it as thoroughly as I would have liked. I ran through the steps three times with a standard clean (press the control panel button for 3 seconds) and nozzle check after each. (Hint; use plain cheap printer paper for the nozzle checks) It got worse before it got better. At the end however, I still had one tiny gap in the Magenta that would not go away.

I ran a power clean but that didn’t help and only succeeded in killing my Photo Black cartridge. Luckily, I had an extra. That’s the worse thing about using the clean cycles; they consume ink across the board -not just for the nozzle you’re trying to clear — and a lot if it. That gave me an idea (sure enough some others have come to the same conclusion before me) to just print a page of only that color to simulate a clean. An additional suggestion was to use as high a resolution as possible to do this, so I sacrificed a sheet of photo glossy to the cause and printed out a single sheet of magenta. Well, it was a nice idea in theory but in the end I still had that small gap.

I probably could waste more ink, paper, and time on this but, perfection is the enemy of done. So, I decided to let it go and move on. Given some of the severe head clogging posts I’ve read, I’m in good shape and probably approaching the point to diminishing returns. If I ever want to revisit this, it looks like the next option is to purchase cartridges filled with cleaning solution and run that (AbsoluteInkjet, Inksupply , and Amazon have them). Unfortunately, that’s a expensive investment and people seem to have mixed experiences with it.

Future-proofing

I believe the 9600 isn’t officially supported by Epson anymore. If it is, I have to imagine it’s soon approaching end-of-life status. So, if they’re going to stop making parts for it, I wanted to see where things stood with the consumables and hardware. I’ll probably want to stock up on some items now rather than when they become scarce and presumably more expensive. The Printer Status page (see page 131 in the EPSON 7600/9600 Quick Reference Guide) told me that the two motors and head were in great condition (5 stars). Great news given how expensive and difficult to replace those parts are. The automatic paper cutter blade was good (4 stars) but the Cleaner (2 stars) and Maintenance Tank (1 star) less so.

From what I’ve read the paper cutter blade (part # C12C815291) can’t be sharpened, so the only option is to lay down ~$100 for a replacement. Might be worth stocking up on one of these. Though, since this same part is used in the newer 9800, I’m not as worried about future availability. Also, I’ve been know to wield an X-Acto with some degree of skill.

An extra Maintenance Tank came with the printer when I bought it. Even then, this is where are the extra ink is dumped during ink cartridge changes and cleans, which happen frequently. It’s just a plastic tank with some absorbant material to catch the excess ink that somehow costs ~$25-$30. I read more than one forum that suggested reseting the maintenance tank chip and just replacing the absorbant material with .. *ahem* … tampons. For those men wanting to save themselves the awkwardness of buying feminine pads at CVS, you can use the chip resetter that came with the InkOwl Refillable Cartridges I ended up buying. When it gets full, I dump out the contents, pack it with 2 boxes of 2×2 Cotton Squares, and reset the chip.

I had no idea what “Cleaner” meant. Maybe it referred to the cleaner head (a.k.a wiper, part # 1113691) or the flushing box (part # 1112239) or cap assembly (part # 1091110), all of which I had tried to clean earlier. Wipers were hard to find. AIS and Ebay had them for $6 – $20. The other items are even harder to find. The few that google showed where in Europe and more than I spent on the printer itself. This might require more research.

Really though, the biggest concern is the ink cartridges. OEM inks range from $87 – $138. That’s likely to increase if Epson stops producing them. I bought a Continuous Ink System for my Stylus Pro 2200 for exactly the same reason. There are a number of refillable cartridges available at Ink2Image, InkOwl, Inksupply, InkPro2Day, InkJetMall, and of course Ebay. Though, I’m less concerned with the cartridge than I am with the quality of the ink. ConeColor seems to have well-regarded ink that allows people to use the standard Epson ICC profiles, which goes a long way in simplifying my digital workflow. After all this, I’m not investing in printer profiling hardware. (Edit: I ended up buying the InkOwl Refillable Cartridges on Amazon and eventually getting profiling hardware. Read more.)

I’ll follow up with another post when I’ve decided a course of action of these last items. Until then, here are some resources I found very helpful.

Files:

Useful Links:

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26 Responses to Resurrecting an Epson Stylus Pro 9600 large format printer

  1. Santana says:

    Thanks for the info Eric.
    Good old machine.

    Like

  2. spamcrap@telenet.be says:

    Hello, I am planning to get an 9600 from a photographer in my aera. Will there be a way to make it run on a windows 7/8 machine? (or a recent mac)?

    Like

  3. I’m running on a Mac 10.8.5. So, yes, newer Mac is not a problem.

    Like

  4. Chris from 3rd Eye Photo says:

    Bless you Eric!
    I have been grappling with my 9600 for a week! I was about to give up and close shop, I was so frustrated! I knew the profiles weren’t compatable but couldn’t figure out how to grab them to download them manually. Thank you so much, Epson should be ashamed of themselves not telling the old printers that the extension doesn’t work!
    I have loved my old trust worthy printer for 15 years and will keep using her to she drops! I even have a newer Epson that I don’t like as much as the 9600.
    Cheers,
    Chris from 3rd Eye Photo

    Like

  5. Liga Byron says:

    Hi Eric, This is a very interesting read. I run a packaging mock-up business and I’ve 2 Epson 9600’s and don’t want them to ever ‘die’. My main issue is finding print heads for one to get it up and running again also another for a back-up. Have you had the need for one and have you been able to source them? I’ve looked online and there are a lot of F138050/F138020 supposedly genuine Epson print heads for sale. I ask why so many? Do I believe them? And also they’re all out of China and Indonesia (where I had a failed purchase and won’t do that again!)I’d love to hear your comments or anyone else’s regarding this subject. Cheers Liga. Niche Packaging Specialties

    Like

  6. Hi and thank you for this. I have juste resurected a 9600 a few days ago. I have a probleme but nowhere to find the answer then i ask you. In the driver i only have the choice of matt paper, cardboard, watercolorpaper… But it is missing glossy or luster or high hand fine art paper. It is not a probleme for color managment cause i use the one you mention here, but it is a probleme cause all the papers listed allow 1440 ppi max… Then would like to know how to ad media type to the epson driver.
    Thx for everythink
    Sincerly
    Alex

    Like

  7. I equally distrust some of the printheads posted on Ebay. Some may be used/refurbished listed as new or third-party listed as OEM. Impossible to tell. International or domestic doesn’t necessarily mean trustworthiness, but domestic listings do offer more legal recourse if they prove false.

    Like

  8. You can’t “add” media types to the driver. I’m not sure why you cant’ see those choices. Maybe, try the English version of the driver if you are using another version.

    Like

  9. Mike says:

    This post has saved me a world of Grief. I half understand it, but enough to get me through a printing crisis (old computer died that had color burst) and I needed to print dozens of posters for an urgent client need. I am beyond grateful that you took the time to create this post.

    Like

  10. Peter A Curmi says:

    Thankyou for all the manual info, its so very helpful to service the 9600 now by DIY !!!!

    Like

  11. Ann says:

    I bought my 9600 used and have loved it. However I got busy with other things, didn’t print often enough, & the print head gradually clogged. Yellow is the worst offender & magenta second. I bought Jon Cone’s flushing solution which is terribly expensive, but probably worth it. I had a will-not-budge clog in the yellow line which Jon Cone’s solution made quick work of.
    So now my printer is just sitting with the flushing solution in its veins & I’ll put the ink back in for a printing job I need to do on canvas. I use the Jon Cone inks & have been very happy with them. I did buy a kit to profile my own paper, so I feel free to experiment on non-standard paper or those that don’t have a profile because the 9600 is so “old.”
    As for the waste ink tank, I use toilet rolls cut in half. I have to saw them in half, but they are cheap & they work.

    Like

  12. Ann says:

    Forgot to say that the printer works well most of the time with Windows XP & all the Mac OS’s over the past few years. I switch depending on the software I’m using & the results I’m having. Last year it suddenly wouldn’t print past, say, 8 feet, on the Mac OS when it had done a 10+ foot canvas the year before.
    I was lucky to find an Overdrive demo which worked beautifully & saved my project & my deadline. It’s a great printer, very sturdy, but be prepared for surprises!
    I eventually bought a ICC profile kit to handle the papers that don’t have profiles for the 9600 because it’s so “old.” Now I can use just about anything & get good results.
    I hope this printer has a lot more life in it because I have plans to use it until it drops.

    Like

    • paul says:

      Hi Ann, how do you clean the lines? I see in the repair manual ink blowing that needs a draining cartridge (what;s that?) and a cleaning cartridge. Elsewhere on the web I am told to put it into service mode and charge the machine, which doesnt work for me….thanks

      Like

  13. Gerry Waite says:

    I don’t know know bout Windows 7 but not on windows 8 as Epson told me they will not be upgrading the driver for Windows 8. I have two 9600 which run like workhorses. I have a Machine I built specifically to run Window XP (the workhorse) for these two machines.
    I tried 1 on Windows 8 and 8.1 and like epson said, it doesn’t recognize the machine.
    If anyone else has input, it would be muck appreciated.

    Like

  14. Gerry Waite says:

    thanks for all of your info. I am dealing with a serious Magenta clog on one of my machine. I’m not sure which Cleaning Solution would be best and would appreciate any feedback and suggestions.

    Like

  15. Gerry Waite says:

    Sorry, forgot to say the machine is a 9600. I also have a 7600 which I have not used for a number of years and am thinking about bringing it back to life. Any input?

    Like

  16. Peter Houk says:

    Love the article on resurrecting a 9600. I’ve been trying to resurrect one, too. I use it for printing black film transparencies, and looking for decently dense blacks. It used to work fine. Then I let is sit unused for a couple of months. Recently I started getting very regular, like 1/16″ wide, horizontal banding on all my prints. I have cleaned the print head manually (with paper towels, etc) and using the control panel, and aligned the print head. None of this seems to have helped. In fact, the banding problem seems to have gotten worse. Nozzle check prints look fine. I don’t get it!
    Could it be a driver issue?
    Any ideas?

    Like

  17. Paul R. says:

    I have two Epson 9600’s and one 7600 that I plan on running until the wheels fall off. I too wondered about the print head issue. Seeing that new print heads for these printers run between 400-500 usd, I wanted a cheaper solution, so I created one for myself. I’m not too worried about buying used print heads, so long as they’re coming out of a well cared for machine, which typically, 9600 and 7600 printers are not. Turns out, the epson 2200, a smaller version of the pro that can sit on a desktop and prints 13″ wide, utilizes the same print head as the 7600 and 9600, so I snatched a couple up on Ebay/Craigslist that were barely used for about 100 usd a piece. I’ve replaced the head on one of my 9600’s with perfect success, but while the head was out, I made sure it went through a thorough cleaning by soaking the head in warm distilled water and then gently purging the nozzles with a syringe filled with the same until only clear water streamed through the pinholes. Printer is working flawlessly for very little $$$. But, proceed at your own risk. This project is not for the faint at heart.

    Like

  18. Robert says:

    Hi, I’m looking for some of the files that you shared, but Epson doesn’t have any of that info anymore, and most of your links 404’d.

    I am also wondering if there is any windows Drivers. I’m trying to connect this printer to a windows computer and share it over the network, but I can’t seem to find the drivers.

    Thanks!

    Like

  19. Steve Hole says:

    Hi we have an error code 0088 on our Epson 9600 looking at your references it says RTC Battery, can you tell me where the RTC Battery is located, if its a small battery, or is this something else

    Like

  20. Hi Eric,
    I’m loving this wonderful resource you have going here to keep our 9600s alive.
    I have a couple questions I would love to ask you about the banding.
    I can’t find a contact page on your site, and I don’t want to share my email through comments. Is it possible you could contact me through my contact page? http://www.taylorshep.com is where it is!
    Thanks Eric, Hope you can help!

    Like

  21. DA says:

    Hi Eric,

    If you weren’t aware, the Epson 7600 and 9600 are a cherished breed of legacy printers amongst the screen printing community, used for printing film positives as part of our process. Since parts have become more scarce, many of us in the industry have been forced to move on to newer models. Some have had success, but there are some downsides to using newer models, some of which many of us would rather avoid in favor of sticking with the old, trusty x600 series.

    I’ve been using various 7600s and 9600s for the past 7 years now, and while I’m aware of most of the resources you’ve mentioned and linked to, it’s great to know that someone else has a strong enough desire to keep it all in one place for others to benefit from. Hopefully, this page will help others in my industry find the best information and resources to keep the x600 dream alive.

    Something that could be a nice addition to the information here would be a list of reputable dealers/ebay sellers that sell some of the parts (namely the print heads). AIS is of course one, but I’ve noticed that their parts availability has become sparse over the last couple of years, so we’re forced to seek out other sources. Thanks to the commenter that posted about the Epson 2200 kinship. I wasn’t previously aware of that.

    Anyway, thanks again for logging your experience and providing a place for information to aggregate.

    Like

  22. Floyd says:

    so i have Epson 9800 given to me. The issue is the printer performs the print sequence but no ink is printed on the paper. i have checked the power supply and the output is correct. when i say ink is released i mean none at all, none of the colors, i am looking for some direction to what is the best area to check to repair this printer. i have a great deal of experience in mechanical and electrical repair.

    Thanks for any direction and help to get this plotter ruining.

    Floyd Brooks

    Like

  23. Scott Stewart says:

    Hi Eric,
    We are trying to setup the epson stylus pro 9600 which my dad bought from an auction. It didn’t come with the driver software, and we are having trouble finding it online. Do you know where we can get said software.
    Cheers
    scottie

    Like

  24. Doug says:

    Cleaning the print head after a long period of inactivity (up to about 8 months in my case) is better if you fold the paper towel until it’s just about the same size as the pad that the print head rests on.
    Get the paper wet but not quite soaking, move the print head to the left of the machine, put the paper onto the pad (it’s just to the right of a hole that the printer squirts the ink down when it’s cleaning itself) then put the head back onto the paper.
    Leave for about 20 minutes then remove the paper and turn on the machine.
    Print a test sheet – it should be perfect, if not then repeat the process. I’ve never had to do it more than twice.
    I created an A4 test sheet using the nearest pure colours to each of the printer inks, these bands of colour are about an inch wide. It wastes a bit of ink but ensures that the nozzles are cleaned out well.
    I print out the test sheet at 2800dpi, finest detail.
    I bought the printer about 12 years ago when I had greater aspirations about selling my work, that didn’t go too well so now it only gets used for personal projects. As there aren’t too many of these it often sits unused for many months at a time – just turning the printer on uses about $8 of ink so I only use the machine when I have a batch of stuff I want to print out.
    Thanks for the other tips on here, particularly the replacement print head.
    Another tip you may find useful – the machine wastes about a film canister worth of ink on the 110ml cartridges and twice this on the 220mls. It just says the ink is out, when it isn’t. So get a chip re-setter – I use the YXD368-II. Costs a couple of dollars and saves a fortune in inks. Just make sure you use it the right way round or it blows the chip and the cartridge in unusable.
    You can also take the cartridge apart and insert a wedge under the ink container to get the last drop used. Cartridges cost over $100 each in the UK so I don’t want to waste anything!

    Like

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