My almost 4-year old HP B9180 printer is giving up on me. It started making loud grinding noises, and now the print heads are clogging. I partly took it apart on Sunday: sometimes the problem is fixable, but I am probably giving up on it. It is no longer under warranty and HP has actually stopped making A3+ pigment-based printers for the high-end photography market. Owners of HP B9180’s appear to be migrating to equivalent Canon and especially Epson (market leader) printers.
Notes on taking it apart
There is a rough stepwise description by in Google Groups for “hp9100Series”.
An even rougher description:
- remove the paper feed unit in the back. This is harmless and requires no tools. You are also instructed to do this when the printer (thinks it) has a paper jam.
- remove plastic panel – front panel on which it says “HP PhotoSmart Pro B9180″. Unclick the top first. Below it is a torx screw that needs to be removed for the next step (right panel removal).
- remove right and left side panels. One screw each (top, front), plus lots of clicking plastic. The right panel contains an optical sensor to see whether the cover is open. There is a connector to unplug the 3 wires to this optocoupler. When you leave the connector unplugged, the printer thinks the top cover is closed, so you may prefer leaving it unplugged when you reassemble. The alternative is to block the sensor or LED (it’s one U-shaped part) with masking tape.
- remove back panel. Once it gets slightly loose, you can remove the hinging top panel. The back panel is held in place by 5 screws. The back panel is the toughest to remove and put back – I damaged the clicking plastic when putting it back together (but I was not particularly motivated to be very careful on the return trip).
- According to you can/should remove the front cover. This is tricky because of the wiring to buttons and LCD display. I just left the front in place. Note that the printer’s front cover is very flimsy at this point: essentially everything is screwed to a heavy-duty base plate.
- If you want to operate the printer “naked”, you can insert the rear paper feed unit in the back. The printer now thinks it is running with all covers in place (thanks to the electrical connector on the rear paper feed unit and the disconnected optical sensor). You can now watch the printer do its thing up close – for what that’s worth.
In my case I could actually see occasional mist of ink vapor come out of the printer’s right-hand side when it tried to unclog its print heads, but the appropriate sponges were presumably misaligned. Keep in mind that this may not be particularly healthy to breathe.
What was broken
In idle mode, the HP PhotoSmart Pro B9180 print its carriage with the 4 print heads all the way to the right. Below the print heads there are 4 soft sponges (when the printer discharges its ink to clear any blocked nozzles). Interestingly HP never tells end users how to maintain this: it is in my opinion a flaw in the printer’s design that it contains something that becomes very messy (especially when the heads are not doing so well), but cannot be serviced by the end-user.
There are also 4 hard sponges with soft rubber seals. These are to cap the 4 print heads.
The soft and the hard sponges can be swapped by a motor with a worm wheel. The control of this motor failed somehow. I didn’t have the courage or skills to dismantle this part further. See reference below and find the original text by <ralphfcooke> if you need encouragement to go beyond the point I got stuck.