News: Epson Says Hack This! T069/T068 Refill Prevention

More Bad News For Epson Refillers/Remanufacturers:

(see update at bottom) We cracked open some cartridges yesterday and have more bad news for refillers/remanufacturers. There is an easily findable internal Cartridge World document floating around on the web that corroborates our findings.  It appears the rumors are true, and Epson has deployed a second chip embedded inside the cartridge,  behind the outer chip in another effort to make the cartridge un-refillable.

Epson double chip cartridge makes refilling almost impossible.

Epson double chip cartridge makes refilling almost impossible.

Hidden Chip Inside Cartridge:

In addition to the chip on the end of the cartridge that monitors your ink usage, there is a second chip embedded inside the cartridge that is not user resettable.  While the chip on the outside of the cartridge can easily be reset, the internal chip cannot be reset and communicates with the outside chip.  If this internal chip becomes dry “due to ink depletion” the main chip on the outside of the cartridge is written to as permanently empty and the cartridge becomes forever useless.

Clever Design:

Close-up of the internal ink sensor chip on the T068/T069/T088 cartridges.

Close-up of the internal ink sensor chip on the T068/T069/T088 cartridges.

Epson has cleverly incorporated this second chip into the cartridge, and we doubt most people even know of its existence.  What the chip does is not exactly clear.  However, you can tell from the cracked open cartridge picture below that the Epson ink cartridge has two distinct ink channels or chambers that meet at the internal chip (which is placed right above the egress hole where the ink hole is).   When compatibles (copies) from China were available for the T068/T069 and T078/T077 series inkjet cartridges, it was simply a copy of the Epson cartridge shape, sans the internal chip.  Now that no more compatibles (copies) are making it into the US we are not sure how to get around this one.

2nd Chip Complicates Remanufacturing or Refilling:

Epson ink monitor chip on all currently shipping Epson inkjet printers.

Epson ink monitor chip on all currently shipping Epson inkjet printers.

In a pre-litigation world, some 3rd party company would have developed copies of the chips and made them available to remanufacturers, and refillers. This second chip is a new development (the second chip was not present in the last pre-lawsuit set of cartridges from Epson T048/T060/T044) and it takes time for the aftermarket to catch up. Combine that with Epson’s recent victories in preventing the importation of compatible cartridges (exact copies), and we have a cartridge shortage on our hands. To exacerbate the problem, Epson has recently released a new cartridge series (T098/T099) along with some new printers, and you can expect more new cartridges in the very near feature as Epson tries to get way ahead of the aftermarket competition.

Lots Of R&D Money To Design Un-Hackable Cartridge:

We must say, it is a very clever design.  Makes most cartridges impossible to refill.

Also mentioned in the Cartridge World internal document is the requirement of refilling the cartridge before the “low ink” warning comes on.  How one is supposed to know when a cartridge is 1/4 full  we have no idea.  The document goes on to say that if refilling is not done when the cartridge is at least 25% full, the chip embedded in the cartridge will write to the outside chip that it is – empty – rendering the outside chip un-resetable.  Maybe it cuts off the flow?  Who knows, but this would explain what the two distinct ink chambers are for.  All we know is there are no remanufactured T068/T069 series cartridges currently available (if you live outside the USA, the import ban obviously does not effect you).

Are There Still Compatibles Out There?

There were some compatibles available right before the import ban (so we know it is easy to make a copy), however Epson was changing the outer chip design every month or so, therefore the compatibles that were available did not always work properly.  Before the importers from China could work it out, the cartridges were cut off.  There may still be some of these cartridges out there, but they are getting old.  Import ban was effective October of 2007.

Epson's clever two chip designed inkjet cartridge.

Epson's clever two chip designed inkjet cartridge.

We assume that this dual chip design is also incorporated into the T078/T077 series, T098/T099, as well as other newly shipping Epson cartridges. Epson has brought a sledgehammer to the aftermarket fight, and it will take some time for 3rd party cartridge remanufacturers to catch up.  So to review, this is what Epson includes as “refilling-deterrents”:

  1. Chip on outside of cartridge (ink monitor) – must be reset
  2. 2nd chip inside the cartridge – ?
  3. Black tape over the clear plastic covering to prevent one from seeing the inside of the cartridge

In the mean time, find those cheap cartridges wherever you can, and stay tuned for updates.

If you would like to see the Cartridge World internal document, it is still available in PDF form here: