Individual ink cartridge series printer models, for example all inkjet printers that contain 4, 5 or 6 ink cartridges, have an electronic PRINTHEAD (separate ink and silicon electronic assembly) located within the base of the carriage assembly. The PRINTHEAD is responsible for pulling ink from all the ink cartridges and then firing the ink droplets onto the paper – this semi-permanent or permanent electronic assembly will eventually fail, over time, depending on print usage type and printer duty cycle [i.e. while some are rated for up to 40,000 printed pages (i.e. HP OJ PRO L Series models), others are rated a few as 3,000-4,000 printed pages (i.e. HP Deskjet 3520 model)].* The PRINTHEAD may or may not be customer replaceable – check your User Manual. If replaceable, a new PRINTHEAD may be orderable from the printer manufacturer (or third party sources such as Amazon.com or Alibaba.com). Some of the more common replaceable consumer inkjet PRINTHEADs are pictured below….
HP 564 PRINTHEAD
HP 940 PRINTHEAD (Yellow/Black or Cyan/Magenta)
EPSON PRINTHEAD (NOT easily customer replaceable!)
For an ‘Unrecognized Cartridge’, ‘Missing or Damaged Cartridge’ or similar cartridge failure detection alert message (i.e. Red X displayed, etc.), if the problem cannot be resolved by replacing the ink cartridge with a different cartridge or manufacturer’s new original/genuine ink cartridge, then typically there is a connectivity problem between ink cartridge and the built-in PRINTHEAD (i.e. cartridge smart chip contacts, printhead electrical contacts or carriage electrical contacts are dirty with ink residue and/or dust) or the PRINTHEAD has internally failed*. If cartridge replacement does not remedy the issue, then it is suggested to remove all the ink cartridges and PRINTHEAD. Thoroughly clean the electrical contacts on the PRINTHEAD assembly (i.e. gold contacts) along with the gold electrical contacts on the carriage assembly.
How the Printhead Functions:
Missing Colors & Poor Image Quality:
To help overcome severe print quality performance, it is suggested you activate the printer’s internal printhead/nozzle clean procedure. It may also be necessary to perform a hot-water flush of the built-in PRINTHEAD (semi-permanent or permanent). Refer to links below for your manufacturer/printer type.
Printhead Cleaning & Flushing:
HP Printhead / Printer Diagnostic Tests:
To troubleshoot PRINTHEADs found in HP printer models, please refer to HP Printer Diagnostics (otherwise refer to ‘Solve My Problem’ for all other printer models):
Ink Cartridge Refilling & Care Tips (INK TANKS) — HP, Epson, Canon:
*Typically the average manufacturer’s PRINTHEAD should not reach it’s end-of-life until after a minimum of 8 or more complete sets of cartridge changes. The printhead will eventually fail in time due to an internal micro-electronics failure, due to the following leading factors: general customer print usage and printer care, printer duty cycle (i.e. # pages printed per month), printing frequency (i.e. time between each print job), print mode (i.e. draft vs. normal), type of content printed (i.e. photos vs plain pages) and print color mode (black and white only vs. color/greyscale printing). Paper types used (i.e. plain paper, photo papers & matte/heavy bond papers) and paper edge curl (i.e. duration in printer and/or exposure to low relative humidity) can also quickly lead to premature printhead failures due to physical ‘head strikes’ of the paper edges making repeated contact with the printhead nozzle plate surfaces. Only use manufacturer recommended paper types and thicknesses (i.e. most A4 inkjet printers support up to 20lb plain bond paper) with your printer.
When refilling your ink cartridges it is advised to only refill with reputable sources. Based on 3rd party testing, incompatible ink formulations have been found to cause permanent damage to the built-in PRINTHEAD.