Review small size refillable Epson Pro 3800/3880 cartridges

Started Aug 18, 2012 | Discussions
Apotheker Regular Member • Posts: 494
Review small size refillable Epson Pro 3800/3880 cartridges

I finally sold my 4 years old Epson Pro 3800 and bought a new Epson Pro 3880 printer. To lower the purchase price I have sold the original cartridges and I was searching for a good alternative refill system.

Until now I have used the very good Inkrepublic I-refill system with large but very well-built cartridges, which were very easy to refill and to maintain and are very reliable. Despite this, not everybody wish to use these large cartridges due to the size/accommodation problems this. However: these cartridges are the number one for heavy duty printing, because of the ease of refilling and resetting and the fact the maintenance cartridge is reset too by the advanced two master chips.

I have purchased a set of these smaller size refillable Epson Pro 3880 cartridges from a Chinese manufacturer ( and also the’s Pro 3880 I-refill system, which I will review in my next topic.

I had some problem at first, because the normally only sell to refill companies….but I could convince them to sell me just one set for testing. These cartridges are similar to the ones sold by, (small foot) and many other refill companies. Have a look at these cartridges:

These cartridges are the same size as the original ones and works with a master/tuning chip combined with the original OEM chip, which must be seated into a cradle underneath the tuning chip. Together the cartridge will become auto-reset. Just removing the cartridge and reinstalling, will reset the ink level back to 100 % full.

Now because I have sold my original Epson Pro 3880 cartridges, I did not have the necessary Vivid Magenta and Vivid Light Magenta chips to fire up my printer. I still do have a set of original Epson Pro 3800 chips, but with the normal magenta and light magenta chips included.

What should I do: try these “old” chips for the Epson Pro 3800 chips into my new Epson Pro 3880 printer and pray it will work ?

First time refilling the cartridges:

-Remove the colored rubber plug with the flap on the back of the cartridge and inject the ink into the cartridge. It can accommodate about 60-70 ml’s of ink only, despite the claim it can hold 80-90 ml. But I discovered the reason for this. Have a look at the picture of the yellow cartridge I have filled the very first time with ink. Notice the 2 empty ink buffer compartments:

-After the first refill, you will need to prime the cartridges with a syringe without needle to remove the air from the cartridge:

-The priming procedure will fill the 2 ink buffer compartments and this is how the cartridge should look like after priming. Most refill companies do forget to mention this necessary step, because otherwise you will pump up a lot of air into the internal tubing system and your print head, causing massive banding and “clogs”, caused by printing air bubbles onto your paper surface:

-Installing the refillable cartridges into your printer:

Now the big test into my printer….Because I do not have the original Epson Pro 3880 Vivid Magenta and Vivid Light Magenta OEM chips to drive these refillable cartridges, I substituted these with normal magenta and normal light magenta.

After several minutes of pumping to prime the internal tubing system and print head, I have a look at the printer LED display panel, this is what my printer says:

A dramatic drop in the maintenance cartridge level to 55% and most importantly….The printer is accepting the normal magenta and light magenta chips. This is rather a surprise to me, but I suspect the reason is that for Epson it was cheaper to alter the physical indentation of the cartridge for the M/VM and LM/VLM position than redesign a new chip and thus alter the whole logic board of the Epson Pro 3800, which is actually the same printer as the Epson Pro 3880 with some modification in the print head.

-Printing properties of the refillable cartridges:

After this ink gushing initial charging/priming operation I printed a manual nozzle check and it was perfect. So I printed several printer targets to profile my refill ink. Meanwhile I also tested my resetter for the maintenance tank, which does not seems to work directly. The printer must be powered down before resetting, otherwise the ink level is not reset. This is the resetter I used for resetting the maintenance tank:

After a few days of printing, the printer suddenly executed a full print head cleaning cycle and the reset maintenance tank dropped from 100 % to 94 %....I decided to execute an automatic nozzle check and this is the result:

My next review is the Pro 3880 I-refill system.

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Crazy about printing, profiling and refilling printer cartridges

OP Apotheker Regular Member • Posts: 494
Please see more of this review here...

Because of the 6000 characters limit at dpreview, I could not write too much in one topic, so decided to go back at, where I can write down more details:

It is topic number 150 at the bottom of the page.

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Crazy about printing, profiling and refilling printer cartridges

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