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Problem:

I have done a bit of research and noticed a lack of this feature in the official software by the major inkjet printer manufacturers to measure and record the amount of ink used in each print job.

This is useful for home users and critical for commercial users to find out the true cost for each print job.

I found one by Epson(official software).

Software: https://www.epson.eu/lfp-ink-cost-calculator-app

Review of the software: https://imagingspectrum.com/blog/2016/07/track-the-cost-of-print-jobs-on-epson-p-series-printers/

However, it is closed proprietary software and device dependent, Ie, only meant for Epson printer.

For printer companies are widely known for their excessive ink profiteering, it is very hard to imagine that they would open their platform(API) for third-party developers.

In the spirit of the maker movement, I would like to gather more information around this area and hopefully hack out a solution for any chosen printer.

Ideal Solution:

1) Before Printing: To anticipate the amount of ink to be used for the print job.

2) After Printing: To record the actual ink used for the print job.

3) The amount of ink used/to-be-used to be listed by their colors(refer to screenshot in the review link).

Implementation Options:

a) Hacking the printhead driver.

This method mainly revolves around messing with the software(driver). It also takes a lot of time in codes digging and writing the hack. But to do it at the driver level, it could potentially accomplish all #1, #2 and #3. However, this method may not be even possible as drivers for non-Epson printers may not be addressing ink usage at the get-go.

b) Adopt an ink tank system and attach a "valve meter" on the tube connected to each ink cartridge.

This method is more of a hardware/electronics implementation. It may involve a microcontroller/sensors at the "valve meter" level to monitor ink flow and record ink drawn from the tank. Data will be saved, manipulated and displayed on an external dashboard in whatever way we want it. It seems like a neater solution in theory. However, it wouldn't be able to accomplish #1 (which is not a bad trade-off). But this creates a one-off solution that is device independent, Ie, virtually works on any printer with ink tank system. Huge plus!

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If you have any suggestions and/or know-how, I would be delighted to hear from you and love to see this project through.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ If you have an image that needs to be printed surely some software that can process the image could tell you the various measures of colours the job needs. If the printer used this as the basis for charging you that would make sense. Measuring how much ink was put on the paper appeals to nobody except the printing company in order to ensure their process is efficient. \$\endgroup\$ – Andy aka Jun 12 '19 at 9:03
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I think you are on a thinking track that is a non starter. Trying to make something like this is so printer product dependent that you will never be done. Printer manufactures are coming out with new printer models all the time and new technologies are constantly being added.

If your idea really does have merit, I have my doubts, you would probably be best off seeing if you could partner with a printer manufacturer to productize your ideas in their next line of printer models. Marketing could be leveraged to capitalize on the feature's value.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, I'm pretty sure the printer companies actually omit all that stuff on purpose. Even their own devices to flag empty cartridges are inaccurate, unreliable and probably inexpensive, by design. I've heard at least one story of the ridiculous (thousands of percent) mark up on ink/toner and for salespeople to push it whenever possible. But if you want to monitor actual ink usage I would think a scanning it (or a dedicated canning device if you really wanted to) and writing software to pick apart the darkness and all the colors might be the easiest and most printer independent method \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Jun 12 '19 at 5:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DKNguyen - Even if you could pick apart the print content at the OS print driver level you still have the job of calibrating that information to each printer (maybe by model number is possible but I have my doubts) any you still need to understand the actual ink front end cost which is potentially different for every user. And you face the fact that there now a plethora of OD platforms interfaced to such printers that you would have to deal with. \$\endgroup\$ – Michael Karas Jun 12 '19 at 5:23
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelKaras I am not intending to make this as a one-size-fit-all product for sale. I look at it as more of an open source "hack" on current printers to unlock the ink measure feature. If it is made possible and adopted commercially, one of the applications that we may start seeing is forward thinking companies to charge their customers by true ink used instead of aggregated cost for each print job. Ie. "Hey customer, your concert poster is $2.13 based on actual ink used", instead of, "Hey customer, it costs $5 as there are 3 colours within a A3 space regardless of total ink used". \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Oat Jun 12 '19 at 6:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DKNguyen could you elaborate more on the scanning and dedicated canning device pls? Sounds interesting. \$\endgroup\$ – Jack Oat Jun 12 '19 at 6:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @JackOat You've never heard of a scanner? \$\endgroup\$ – DKNguyen Jun 12 '19 at 13:48

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