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Epson 3880 Black Ink Leak Repair

Discussion in 'Member Introductions' started by A. Wulff, May 13, 2019.

  1. May 13, 2019
    A. Wulff

    A. Wulff Printing Apprentice

    May 11, 2019
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    Printer Model:
    Epson Pro 3880
    Epson printers will leak the black ink from the channel you have not been using. Yes, you can repair the printer yourself. The information is collected below. But first let’s understanding what we are dealing with.

    Epson makes great printers but if you must not leave an ink line unused for a long period of time, it needs to be exercised. Epson switches between the MK and the PK black ink lines, the unused line sits idle. When you switch to the unused black channel, if the line has become blocked by stale ink, the pressure on the line will press ink out through one of the connection points in the ink line and once a seal has been broken ink will continue to leak out until repaired. Here is the path: Ink flows from the cartridge through the line (the 8 tubed ink cable) with a connection to the foil manifold on the Switch Damper Assembly then out of the foil manifold via a connection to a damper which sits on top of the black ink selection switch via another connection. The black ink selection switch, in the damper assembly, sits on top of the print head.

    Usually when there is a leak it starts when you switch to the unused black ink color, MK or PK. When you go back to the normally used line the leak goes away but may not entirely. So where is the leak? It is not at the connection at the exit of the black ink switch into the print head. If it were you would be leaking on both channels. The print head is clean and does not need flushing. The blockage is probably either in the black ink selection switch or in the damper above it. Wherever, pressure on the line has voided a seal upstream, most likely at the switch damper connection or at the damper foil manifold connection, but maybe at the 8 tubed ink cable into the manifold.

    So to repair the printer you must remove the blockage and must clean the connections in the line to restore the seals. Can you do it yourself successfully? In many cases yes, in some cases no if the seals have deteriorated beyond where cleaning will provide a repair. If you work carefully you may solve the problem simply by removing and flushing out with warm water the existing switch and damper. Do a final rinse with an 80% blue Windex 20% isopropyl alcohol solution. Blow air through the switch and damper to make sure the path is clear. You will also have to have carefully cleaned all the connection points at the foil manifold as well. If you need a new switch and damper the repair will cost $20 to $40 from Sdott Parts china. As tools you will need a medium size thin, long shaft magnetized philips screwdriver, a small flat head screwdriver and some cue tips and ink cleaning fluid, i.e, Windex/isopropyl alcohol.

    When you have flushed the dampers and cleaned the connection points you do not have to put the case back on to run and test the printer. On the right hand side just reattach the metal bracket and then the control panel with the buttons and LCD to the panel and carefully connect the multi-pin ribbon cable that plugs into the control panel module. Run a print head cleaning cycle from the control panel to get the multicolored checker board test pattern on the channel that was not printing and leaking before. You may have to run it a few times until the black ink line refills the empty damper and switch assembly.

    If the printer is still leaking then the printer may have aged to the point where the ink delivery system – cartridge carrier and damper assembly – needs to be replaced. But you by now know how the system works and the disassembly and assembly process. Order the Ink System Assembly, Epson part number, Parts Diagram Number 511, from Compass Micro and get the genuine Epson part. For this do not go to China. Yes, now you will have to spend some money, $176 for the ink system and $150 to $200 for the ink needed to recharge all the lines in the system. But the service bureau, if one is handy, will cost all of that plus another $200 for labor. Even at $400 spent it is much cheaper than buying a new 17 inch printer of whatever brand. You will in effect have a new 3880. And you will know that you need to exercise that unused black ink line every two months with an 8 x 10 image to keep it clear. Your new printer will now last another 10 years.

    By the way, you may have experienced the ink leak even though not changing ink channels. This is because the printer is programed to automatically switch and operate both black ink channels every 6 months. While you were not looking the printer ran its own test and encountered the blocked line and violated a seal. And now you have the leak without a clue as to where it came from.


    Before undertaking the repair view the following information sources that will guide you in removing the printer case, the damper system which sets on top of the print head and installing the full ink system if necessary.

    Let's get the case off. Follow this video. Removing the case takes about 40 minutes. You are only going to go to the removal of the Ink Damper Assembly, do not remove the brackets that hold the print head. The print head is calibrated and working fine, do not upset it. As you remove the case put the screws in a series of separate, numbered containers. Some screws are long, some short, some fine thread, some coarse thread for plastic. Make a note for each container indicating where the short plastic vs the long plastic screws go and which metal thread screws go in which location so you can put them back properly. This is especially important with the screws that hold the damper system cover in place and the damper assembly itself. A magnetized philips screwdriver will make things easy. Note: when replacing the case cover the front screws on each side panel is left off until the front panel has been installed.

    Here is how to dissemble the Damper Assembly. Follow this video. What you are most interested in is the black ink switch on the end and also the damper which sits on top. You are also concerned about the connection between the black ink damper and the foil ink manifold which sits on the side of the damper assembly. You are not only going to clean or replace the ink switch and its damper but you must carefully remove and clean the little rubber O rings at each junction. Carefully remove them with a toothpick. Use a cue tip and the Windex solution for cleaning. Make sure you are leaving no cotton fibers in the assembly. Soap and water will wash the ink off your fingers. The ink switch and individual dampers are available from Sdott Parts if you need new ones.

    After careful cleaning, reassemble the Damper Assembly and carefully place it down on the print head. You can test your work without replacing the case as noted above. If ink is still leaking, since you have cleaned the Damper Assembly, you may be able to see at which seal the ink is leaking. Don't forget that the connection between the foil manifold and the black ink damper may be the culprit. Also look carefully at where the 8 tubed ink cable connects on the other end of the manifold. Go back and clean again. If still leaking, It is time to replace the whole ink system assembly from Compass Micro. If you need just a damper or the switch, Sdott Parts is a place to start. There are other Chinese suppliers. Get a new, not a refurbished part. I do not suggest just replacing the whole damper assembly, it costs as much as the whole ink assembly and is a Chinese aftermarket part, not a new assembly from Epson Japan.

    If you are replacing the whole ink system assembly, here are the instructions from the Epson Maintenance Parts Manual. The link is to Sdott, scroll down past the pictures for the installation instructions. You already are experienced on the damper end. The manual will tell you how to replace the ink cartridge cage.

    If you are concerned to clean your print head, here is a video to do that. But remember, your print head has been printing correctly with the other black ink so it is not the problem. Nonetheless, you have the cover off and it is a good time to clean the head wiper blade assembly.

    Resolving the Epson ink leak has been vexing I know. Hopefully the above provides some understanding and guidance on how you might deal with the problem and keep your printer working.
    lolopr1 likes this.
  2. Jun 25, 2019

    lolopr1 Print Addict

    Mar 17, 2006
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    Printer Model:
    Epson 4800,R3000 & 9600
    You are correct, the actual problem is not just the ink valve selector it also comes with a bad ink damper. I guess the rubber seal or the one way valve on the ink damper goes bad after a while. Strange that it only affects the PK/MK. A while back I replaced the ink valve selector on my 3800 and R3000 and to my surprise the problem was still present, then I replaced the ink damper and no more ink leakage. In my opinion the problem in reality comes down to a dirty ink selector valve and a damaged ink damper. Your suggestions on how to fix this problem are 100% on the money!

    The Hat likes this.

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