A few years ago, we never would have recommended a bulk CIS system for ink delivery into any DTG printer. However, with recent advances in ink chemistry stability, many of our users have been switching to bulk systems with great success! It is our goal to provide current and useful information to our entire user base, to ensure everyone has the best tools available for their long term success. Along those lines, we have done extensive testing with a variety of bulk CIS systems and have determined that our preference is for systems which have an air chamber in the actual bulk ink reservoir. Our testing indicates superior reliability with such systems, although we have determined there is certainly a right and wrong way to fill these units!
NOTE: This article comes from KatanaDTG user Knowledge Base.
This tutorial is meant as a starter guide for properly loading a bulk CIS system for direct to garment printing – please note that these systems are designed to maintain a balance of ink and air, so properly managing your rubber plug arrangement is crucial!
INSPECT YOUR CIS SYSTEM
Almost all bulk CIS ink systems are manufactured overseas, and while most are relatively reliable there will be an occasional manufacturing or assembly error which can result in serious problems for DTG end users. Before attempting to load ink into your new bulk system, take a good look from every angle to determine if there are any potential issues with the system, itself. In particular, you want to ensure that the ink line leading out of the reservoirs are routed smoothly along the bottom side of the assembly. This is a major pain point for DTG users – a kinked line can lead to back pressure in the system, which will prevent ink from flowing along a particular path.
NOTE: A kinked line can be deadly for DTG users. The line starting from the Yellow reservoir can be a particularly annoying pain point, as this can sometimes be pinched if it is installed at an aggressive angle. Below is an example of smooth ink line routing in a bulk CIS system!
WHAT THE HECK ARE THOSE RUBBER PLUGS?
The rubber plugs for any CIS system are an important, yet often undervalued asset. These plugs allow you to properly balance the volume / flow of ink and air in the reservoirs. The plugs should be fully closed when the system is not in use, but when performing any functions on the printer which require the positive flow of ink, the Breather Plugs MUST be open! If these plugs are closed during printing, priming or cleaning, a back pressure vacuum will be created as the system attempts to pull a closed ink line.
The Fill Plugs should be closed at all times, except when refilling a reservoir. Before opening any Breather Plug, ensure you have fully closed the corresponding Breather Plug for the duration of the process!
FILL THE INK CHAMBERS
Open the Fill Plug for the reservoir you wish to refill – also ensure that the corresponding Breather Plug is closed. Using a small funnel or syringe, fill each reservoir to an appropriate level. Once completed, close the Fill Plug, ensuring a proper seal.
NOTE: If done correctly, ink should remain in the primary chamber, while air remains in the rear chamber. This balance is important for proper ink flow!
Below is what the system should look like, once you fill each ink chamber – keep in mind the MK is left empty, or loaded with a light cleaning solution. The PK / MK chambers are both routed to the same channel in the print head, and since we don’t switch between the two lines during normal DTG operation, the last chamber is left unused.
NOTE: Remember, the air chambers in the back of the reservoirs should remain empty after filling the system! Make sure the Breather Plugs remain in place before opening any corresponding Fill Plug.
As you fill each ink reservoir, you will hopefully notice ink flowing naturally down the lines until they reach a balance – while they won’t flow completely to the ink cartridges, they should flow easily with the help of gravity.
NOTE: On the p600 print engine, ink is internally pressurized once it is pulled from the cartridge into the printer system, itself. This helps considerably with smooth operation and ink flow!
USE SYRINGES TO PRIME THE CARTRIDGES
BEFORE YOU START
- Make sure you have proper syringes which fit snugly into the bottom of the cartridge.
- Make sure you have properly filled your bulk CIS system, so there is ink to draw into the carts.
- REMOVE THE BREATHER PLUGS ON THE BULK INK RESERVOIRS, PRIOR TO PRIMING THE CARTS!
- If ink does not begin to flow immediately, try shifting your syringe side-to-side, slightly, to ensure you have fully opened the rubber seal – you may also want to ensure you have fully inserted the syringe into the cartridge.
THINGS TO CONSIDER
- Try to keep the opening of the cartridge facing upward most of the time – the point where the syringe enters the cartridge is the last place you want ink to flow.
- Keep your fingers away from the chip on the side of the cartridge, as it can affect the functionality if you get grease or residue from your skin on it.
- Try to ensure the chip on the side of the cartridge is always facing uphill from any potential ink drips or spills.
- While there should be some expected back-pressure, if you feel an extreme amount of resistance you should stop and inspect your system. Look for “pain points” where the ink lines may be kinked, or otherwise obstructed. If everything looks clear, try shifting your syringe slightly until you see / hear / feel the ink begin to move.
Once your CIS system is fully primed, you need to move the ink from the cartridges to the print head. To do this, use the Epson Adjustment Program to run an initial Ink Fill routine, which will subsequently prime the entire print engine!
NOTE: You can only run an Ink Fill routine if the Epson print engine thinks you have brand new cartridges installed. Use a manual chip resetter to fool the system into recognizing brand new cartridges – it can sometimes take several attempts to fully reset some chips.