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Thread: How To: re-ink dot matrix printer ribbons

  1. #1
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    Default How To: re-ink dot matrix printer ribbons

    After trying to hunt down what it turns out were non-existent replacement ribbon cartridges for a Tandy DMP-106, having received some re-inking tips from Druid6900, and reading some recent posts about ribbon re-inking, I thought Id give it a shot on a couple existing cartridges I had.

    The ribbon cartridge for a DMP-105/106 has an ink pad/sponge that stores the ink, and deposits it onto a roller, which then comes into contact with the ribbon. The cartridge itself is only about 2 x 1 x .

    Druid6900 provided the following directions (with my comments/experiences in black):

    Re-inking cloth ribbons is fairly simple. After youve done it once or twice.

    I used to use ink in the bottle (for fountain pens) in either blue or black.As fountain pen ink is water based, I used the dot matrix printer ink from Computer Friends Inc http://www.cfriends.com/macinker/inks.htm, (Chuck(G) posted previously about this stuff) and some of their diluter, which looks, feels, and smells just like sewing machine oil. I used roughly 15-25% diluter with the ink, which is actually somewhat thick.

    Set the cartridge right-side-up on a table, on some paper, in case, like me, you are sloppy J. The joint is just below the top of the cartridge and, if you stick a thin blade in there, you can go around the perimeter and pry the top off. Its just press-fitted in. Keep it in an up-right position so the ribbon doesnt fall out.

    Now, on the side of the cartridge where the ribbon advance knob is, you will see what looks like a little black wheel. Its actually a round sponge and thats the inking sponge. It should be, well, sponge-like. If it is hard, you will have to do the following first. Mine were definitely not sponge like. They were the consistency of an old blueberry muffin. Just touch them, and they fall apart in chunks. See the photo below what look like droplets of ink, were actually hard, dried droplets of ink. I had to make another sponge out of some foam. Once you get the cylindrical shape cut for the sponge, you need to drill a hole in the center of the sponge (easier than it sounds), and then impregnate (good choice of words matches what youre doing messing with these old ribbons) the sponge with ink.
    Tip: youll need less ink than you thought youd need.

    Take a re-inking syringe (or any old syringe you might have laying around) (not too sure what Druid is insinuating here) and fill it with rubbing alcohol. Inject it into the re-inking sponge (half-way in from the edge to a depth half-way into the sponge) until you see it coming out on the surface. I got a syringe from the pharmacy at the local supermarket. Youll need the diluter to thin the ink or it wont flow through the needle. Stuck it into the sponge, and the sponge broke apart. Impregnated the new sponge with ink. Tip: syringe needles are very sharp and pointy.

    Leave it for about 5 minutes then stick the syringe back in and draw out the (now black) rubbing alcohol. Repeat a couple of more times.

    Repeat with the ink (inkjet ink might work, Ive never tried it) but, when you see the ink coming out on the surface of the sponge, pull the plunger back out a little and remove the syringe. You dont want the sponge dripping, just saturated. Replace the cartridge top.

    Now, when you put the cartridge back in the printer, there are 3 ways to wind the ribbon through the cartridge and past the re-inking roller;

    1) Turn the little knob on the cartridge for about 10 minutes pretty hard on the fingers.
    2) Print something long and it will, eventually, drag all the ribbon through the cartridge noisy. One does not want to print with a DM printer if one doesnt have to. I went outside for a Bass while the printer ran this is my preferred method.
    3) With the printer powered off, grab the print head and slide it all the way from side to side for a few minutes and this will drag all the ribbon through and passed the rollers/sponge preferred method.

    Now, it will probably take you less time to perform the whole operation than it did for me to type out the instructions LOL. Not a bloody chance! I could have typed (the old fashioned way without cut & paste) these instructions 50 times, while I did the first cartridge. However, Druid was probably right for the amount of time it took to do the second cartridge.


    Re-inking the ribbon cartridge really is quite easy, its just a little messy.

    Tip: wear some latex gloves when I finished re-inking the first cartridge, I looked like Id been arrested and then fingerprinted by a cop who didnt know how to fingerprint someone properly. It was on my prints, fingernails, palm, and the side of my face (because I had an itch that needed scratching).


    Original cartridge opened up:

    Cartridge opened up.JPG

    Dried ink droplets on sponge:

    Dried ink droplets - big.jpg

    Broken sponge, spare sponge and new re-inked sponge installed:

    Old sponge, spare & inked sponge.JPG

    Before and after print samples:
    (I dont remember them being this dark, even in the 1980s after purchasing a brand spanking new ribbon)


    Printing - before & after.jpg



    Next up: a ribbon cartridge for an IBM 5152. These ribbon cartridges come in all shapes, sizes, and designs. The 5152 has no ink pad/sponge, and is way different.

    5152 ribbon cartridge opened up:

    IBM 5152 cartridge.JPG

  2. #2
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    I wonder if you would have an easier time of carving the sponge if you soaked it with water and then froze it hard before drilling. Heck, if it was frozen enough (use dry ice?), you could turn it on a lathe.

    The continuous ribbons are easy if you have a MacInker.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    I wonder if you would have an easier time of carving the sponge if you soaked it with water and then froze it hard before drilling. Heck, if it was frozen enough (use dry ice?), you could turn it on a lathe.

    The continuous ribbons are easy if you have a MacInker.
    Freezing it - good idea. It was certainly tough enough carving a circle from dry foam. I had to use a Dremel stone the same diameter as the cylindrical sponge, press down hard on it and cut around it with an X-Acto knife. Freezing it should make that easier (although I was hoping this would be the last time I'd have to do it).

    Hey: that MacInker isn't cheap. Might be easier on the 5152 ribbon though - I'll know soon.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lorne View Post
    Hey: that MacInker isn't cheap. Might be easier on the 5152 ribbon though - I'll know soon.
    Just gave one away here a couple of weeks ago (with ink)...

    There's not much to a MacInker. A slow-speed synchronous motor (you can salvage one from an old microwave oven turntable). The ink is dispensed through a plastic tube (you could use a hunk of PVC pipe, with a few small holes drilled in it, with what resembles hose washers on the pipe serving as guides. The ink is pulled out by the ribbon rubbing over the holes and the motor turns the ribbon advance.

  5. #5
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    I don't need a MacInker, or pipe and a motor.

    I first tried spraying the ink onto a IBM 5152 ribbon. The ink clogged up the sprayer, so that doesn't work.
    Then I tried pouring the ink over a 5152 ribbon while it was still stuffed in the cartridge. I used too much, and that doesn't work either. It's a mess. The whole ribbon is oversoaked with ink. It's not getting anywhere near a print head until I can soak it all off with paper towels.

    I did however, come up with another idea.

    The 5152 ribbon cartridge seems to be a one time deal. The ribbon is soaked with ink when you get it, and with every page you print, the black ink gets used up.

    (that reminded me of something I said to a buddy back in the early eighties; "the real money isn't in the computers, it's in the consumables - with what they're charging for tractor feed paper, and ribbon cartridges, it's a ripoff")

    Chuck(G)'s MacInker idea made me realize that they weren't made to be reinked, but you could do it with one of those MacInker things. Then I thought about the Tandy cartridge with a reinking sponge. I looked at the 5152 cartridge, and the ribbon comes in one end, gets stuffed, and goes out the other end. On the way out, all the stuffed ribbon passes the same place.
    I figured, why not put a re-inking sponge in there?
    So I did.

    5152 with sponge installed.JPG

    5152 re-inking sponge.JPG

    I glued a small sponge at the end of the cartridge, and injected it with ink.

    5152 - re-inking sponge.JPG

    I drilled a small hole in the top of the cartridge, so I could simply inject more ink as it was used up over time. I gave the spindle a couple turns and as you can see below, the left half of the ribbon is nice and black having passed the sponge, while the right side that hasn't yet passed the sponge, is still brown.

    5152 re-inking hole and black vs brown ribbon.JPG

    And here is the result:

    5152 print - before & after.jpg


    I think this is better than IBM's ribbon, and it only added about 1 cent to the cost.
    This was a very easy modification, and nowhere near as messy as the Tandy ribbon.

  6. #6
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    Actually, that's not too messy. Try untangling a shredded ribbon from a high-speed line printer print train. Now that's messy.



    There used to be a predecessor to the daisy wheel printer made by Friden. The typewheel was on a spinning shaft so that it was perpendicular to the page. It started at the left side and marched steadily (I think via a threaded rod mechanism) across the page. When a character needed to be printed, the whole assembly would tilt and strike the paper. Anyway, this thing didn't use a ribbon, but rather a felt pad soaked with ink that made constant contact with the spinning typewheel. You had to start every print job with a page eject because the thing would leave a big stripe on the current page as the ink flew off of the typewheel.

    Carriage return was with a big spring. Brutal in its simplicity. Does anyone still have one of these?

    But your idea sounds like it'll work just fine, Lorne.

    (I prefer film ribbons myself. Better print quality)

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lorne View Post
    After trying to hunt down what it turns out were non-existent replacement ribbon cartridges for a Tandy DMP-106, having received some re-inking tips from Druid6900, and reading some recent posts about ribbon re-inking, I thought Id give it a shot on a couple existing cartridges I had.
    Lorne: I have 2 of those ribbons still in the unopened package.
    I used to own a COCO III setup. My ribbons are also labelled as for
    the Smith Corona Fastext 80

    If you want these - let;s figure out how tro touch bases privately,
    & whatever the cost of postage is - I'm in Canada - West Coast.

    Smoggy

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by smoggy View Post
    Lorne: I have 2 of those ribbons still in the unopened package.
    I used to own a COCO III setup. My ribbons are also labelled as for
    the Smith Corona Fastext 80

    If you want these - let;s figure out how tro touch bases privately,
    & whatever the cost of postage is - I'm in Canada - West Coast.

    Smoggy
    The ribbon for the DMP-106 is also supposed to be a Smith Corona part # 15826. Is that listed on label?
    I've sent you a PM anyway - its sounds like those ribbons are what I need.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lorne View Post
    I don't need a MacInker, or pipe and a motor.

    I first tried spraying the ink onto a IBM 5152 ribbon. The ink clogged up the sprayer, so that doesn't work.
    Then I tried pouring the ink over a 5152 ribbon while it was still stuffed in the cartridge. I used too much, and that doesn't work either. It's a mess. The whole ribbon is oversoaked with ink. It's not getting anywhere near a print head until I can soak it all off with paper towels.

    I did however, come up with another idea.

    The 5152 ribbon cartridge seems to be a one time deal. The ribbon is soaked with ink when you get it, and with every page you print, the black ink gets used up.

    (that reminded me of something I said to a buddy back in the early eighties; "the real money isn't in the computers, it's in the consumables - with what they're charging for tractor feed paper, and ribbon cartridges, it's a ripoff")

    Chuck(G)'s MacInker idea made me realize that they weren't made to be reinked, but you could do it with one of those MacInker things. Then I thought about the Tandy cartridge with a reinking sponge. I looked at the 5152 cartridge, and the ribbon comes in one end, gets stuffed, and goes out the other end. On the way out, all the stuffed ribbon passes the same place.
    I figured, why not put a re-inking sponge in there?
    So I did.

    5152 with sponge installed.JPG

    5152 re-inking sponge.JPG

    I glued a small sponge at the end of the cartridge, and injected it with ink.

    5152 - re-inking sponge.JPG

    I drilled a small hole in the top of the dell ink, so I could simply inject more ink as it was used up over time. I gave the spindle a couple turns and as you can see below, the left half of the ribbon is nice and black having passed the sponge, while the right side that hasn't yet passed the sponge, is still brown.

    5152 re-inking hole and black vs brown ribbon.JPG

    And here is the result:

    5152 print - before & after.jpg


    I think this is better than IBM's ribbon, and it only added about 1 cent to the cost.
    This was a very easy modification, and nowhere near as messy as the Tandy ribbon.
    I'm not able to find the drivers for EPSON LQ-1070+ Dot Matrix Printer to be installed on my Ubuntu 10.10 Operating System

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