Epson 3880 print head dead again!

Unfortunately, I just had another occurrence of a dead printhead with my Epson 3880, which manifested itself in an identical way to that of my Epson 3800 about 4 years ago.

While I decided to trash the previous 3800 printer by sending it to an electronics recycling company, this time I decided to get it repaired. I knew that changing the printhead would cost about $500, so I thought it would be worth going this route…

Not so fast! The Epson recommended repair shop first replaced the pump assembly, which together with labor, cost $240. I thought that it was the end of the story and was happy to end this with a rather inexpensive repair. Unfortunately, as soon as I brought the printer back home, it was showing the same leak symptoms (leaky Photo Black nozzles, emptying the PK cartridge in less than a day simply in standby mode !!) I brought it back to the repair shop, which acknowledged that the problem was not as simple as initially thought (duh). On my side, I knew all along that the nozzles were irreparably damaged, and yes, they admitted that a new printhead had to be ordered. I went along, but soon regretted going through the whole thing because the total for replacing the printhead was not only $463 (without labor, which they gave for free), but I had to give them several new ink tanks at my cost to refill the lines and printhead. Overall, the total cost was $1,110. A new printer as of 8/7/2014 is $1,129, but there is a $200 Epson rebate for this printer right now!

Clearly, this shows that it makes absolutely no sense to repair your printer if your printhead shows the same symptoms. From the start, I had already wasted 2 ink tanks on it by not seeing the problem right away (each tank costs ~$55). If you get this problem, you might as well say goodbye to your printer!

Finally, this problem appears to be a general one with all inkjet printers using pigmented inks, according to my contact at Atlex. The Epson 4900 is even worse, and the Epson 3880 seems to be relatively reliable. Canon printers have similar and other issues, but the printheads of those can be changed by the user, although they do not come cheap either. The technology behind the nanosized ink particles in all pigmented inks is amazing, but these  inks are prone to dry in the nozzles when the printer is not used at least once a week. This can irreversibly damage the print nozzles. For this reason, make sure to run a weekly printout through your printer to keep the heads clean and the cartridge tanks shaken, which avoids the pigmented inks from settling in.


6 thoughts on “Epson 3880 print head dead again!

  1. Epson has an interesting set of videos on their latest printhead technology, showing how they are fabricated (their newest PrecisionCore™ technology is similar to previous printhead fabrication methods). The whole set of movies can be found at:

    If you are not familiar with the term “MEMS” (, it stand for “MicroElectroMechanical Systems” and is simply a standard way to fabricate devices from silicon chips. This is why inkjet printheads are so fragile, because their nozzles are tiny and can be easily destroyed upon bad handling.

  2. I had a similar problem with a 3 years old Stylus photo R3000 printer. I won’t have it repaired, instead I ordered a new 3880 and received today. I hope I won’t regret it.

    • I think that you will enjoy using your 3880 printer, it is certainly much more sturdy than the previous models. However, inkjet technology is not a simple problem, and I am not surprised that nozzles can be so fragile. Hopefully your printer lasts longer than the 3-4 years mine has…

      • Thank you Paul. What’s really frustrating us that any of the repairs costs essentially the same as purchasing a new printer. Epson could really do something about it, frankly. They are discouraging their customers from buying their products.

  3. Pingback: Epson 3800 print head problem | The smiling gecko

  4. I have recently experienced the PK ink tank draining and spoke to a repair tech. He said it was most likely a failure of the valve that switches from matte to photo black ink. Cost of repair about $850. They have seen a number of this kind of failure.

    I’m curious how pervasive this is and would like to hear from others that have had this problem.
    This seems to be an inherent issue with the 3880 and Epson seems disinclined to address it.

    Please send a simple reply to

    Thanks, Paul

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