My adventure with the evil overlords of Lexmark

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My adventure with the evil overlords of Lexmark

Postby Wraili » Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:34 am

This isn't actually a complaint post. I'm posting this so people know there is a resource out there to assist. I've been very pleased with the final outcome, and I figured I'd share.

So three years ago I became the Communications Director for a long-time pagan organization (http://www.harmonytribe.org) in the Twin Cities. Every year this group puts on an outdoor, week-long, camping retreat in southern Minnesota for people who are interested in or who practice an earth-based spirituality.

The tree that you see on here as my avatar is actually the emblem of the organization, and was designed by my roomie Justin. As part of my duties for the position, I am responsible for all the print material related to the festival. This includes all the posters, flyers, registration forms, waivers, brochures, and the program of events for the festival itself. The program, or Village Guide, is a 10 page booklet (8 1/2 X 11, folded in half with two staples) with a cardstock cover, and attendance at the festival is usually 300-400 people.

Previous to me, all the printing was done utilizing Kinko's. This means that the programs would usually run the organization about $500 to print, as we (the shoe-string organization) knew an employee and got a discount that way. I immediately figured that if we could do the printing ourselves, we could save some money by spending the time instead. We have volunteers that will do the collating and stapling.

The first year, I managed to print the Village Guide on a Lexmark laser printer for about $450. I knew I was on the right track, but the toner was the cost issue. At $70 each, the 6 toner cartridges I needed ate a lot more or my budget than I was willing to deal with. Now, Lexmark does have a cartidge return/recylcing program (and you can get a discount if you use it) but I don't print the Village Guide over a two month span of time. I need to have all 6 cartidges in the span of 4 hours.

So I started shopping. It turns out the cartridges I was buying from Best Buy were actually cheaper than the ones available online from Lexmark itself. The Treasurer for the organization suggested we purchase the cartidges through Ebay, and we did manage to get one through that source. But it was still running between $25 and $50 for each one.

So, one Saturday afternoon, I decided to see how difficult it would be to refill the 10 cartridges I had sitting in my office. I started looking through online sites for self-refill companies. Most of them describe using some kind of heated drill to poke a hole in the housing of the cartridge and refilling them through that hole, plugging it up after. Messy.

Not only that, but I found out something about Lexmark in general: They're bastards.

On every toner cartridge from Lexmark, there is a little chip (about the size of a nickel, but square) that feeds information to the Lexmark printer software you have to install in order to use their product in the first place. It sends information about how many pages you have printed, so your computer will tell you (if you are not paying attention to the idiot lights on the printer) when you are out of toner. In fact, if you go too far beyond the special number the printer will refuse to print so you don't damage it by running the toner dry. The chips (and the software) are propietary to Lexmark, so they are the ONLY SOURCE for those chips. Go ahead, buy toner from another company. Without a replacement chip, you will only get about 50 sheets out of that refilled cartridge before the whole thing locks up on you.

Well, the toner refill companies created a chip to bypass the Lexmark software (fooling it into thinking that it was a new cartridge), and Lexmark sued for copyright infringement.

:lol: :lol: They lost. :lol: :lol:

So I ordered a refill thingy, the toner, and a chip from this company: https://cfriends.com/laser-model_Lexmark%20E340n.htm Just to try it out and see if everything worked correctly. Not only did everything go correctly, but the toner that used to cost me between $50 and $70 now costs me a whopping grand total of $18 per cartridge. The Lexmark toner cartridges actually have a taped-off plug that the company uses to refill their own stuff, so there is no drilling holes or anything like that. The company I ordered stuff from has been excellent.

And this last summer I printed 400 copies of the Village Guide for $143.
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Re: My adventure with the evil overlords of Lexmark

Postby Melodius » Mon Dec 17, 2007 3:30 pm

Wow, very nice Wraili. I'll definately have to look into that. Usually I buy a cheap $10-$20 printer, print what I want until it dies, then purchase another printer. I've heard that the stock ink cartridges come half filled out of the box, but it's still cheaper to buy a new one than a replacement cartridge. You must have a very nice printer to be willing to go thru all that hassle.
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Re: My adventure with the evil overlords of Lexmark

Postby Wraili » Mon Dec 17, 2007 5:52 pm

It's decent. It's an E340n. Just b/w printing, but pretty fast. Ran me about $300 when I got it two years ago. There were two main reasons I went with this one: 1) I can fit almost an entire ream of paper in there at one time. 2) It can do 28 ppm, at 1200x1200 dpi. Not exactly the fastest out there, but I was more interested in a reliable workhorse than speed. And toner doesn't run when it gets wet. The programs for the festival are used by people camping, so it's rather necessary to make them somewhat weather resistant.
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