Epson Printers Are Bricking Themselves, Is It Planned Obsolescence?

epson ecotank printers
A couple of weeks ago, University of New Haven lecturer Mark Tavern tweeted about the death of his wife's Epson inkjet printer. The tweet went viral, and has since sparked an online discussion about the reliability and repairability of inkjet printers. Epson is at the center of this discussion, of course, but it's hardly the only vendor at fault.

In the case of these Epson printers, it seems that there are ink pads inside the printer that, after extended use, can become saturated with ink. When this happens, the printers will display an error message that says "parts inside the printer have reached the end of their service life," and then completely cease functioning.

mark tavern epson printer tweet

Because the message doesn't explain that there has been any actual failure—and because the printer will have been printing flawlessly moments before—this message seems to the unaware user to be an arbitrary lifetime limit placed on the printer by Epson. The company's response to the controversy didn't help, either: either pay to have us fix it, or buy a new one.

The ink pad concern is a fairly legitimate one. An ink spill could stain furniture, or even cause an electrical short, which could result in property damage. In its support document on the issue, Epson says that "most print users will never receive this message under intended use scenarios," and that the message is mostly seen by very heavily-used printers, such as using a home printer in a commercial environment.

epson explanation ink pads
Epson's explanation of the source of the error.

It's still pretty crappy that its printers will essentially brick themselves, with absolutely no warning, over what is fundamentally a very fixable issue. There are all kinds of tutorials on YouTube that show users removing and cleaning the ink pads to resolve the problem, and while it requires a modicum of mechanical skill, it's not a difficult operation. It's certainly not something we would pay a repair shop a hundred bucks to do.

As we said above, Epson is not the only printer company engaging in shady shenanigans to shift more printers. We've reported before on HP's poor behavior, and earlier this year, Canon got hoist by its own official-cartridge-lockout petard. While smartphones, game consoles, and laptops have been the big headline items for the right-to-repair movement, printers—especially inkjets—definitely deserve some attention from that crowd, too.