Thursday, May 05, 2016

Brother HL6180DW laser printer: manufacturing defect in foam roller in @ 2003 printers?

This post is based on my two star Amazon review of our 3yo paper-jamming Brother HL6180DW:

We've had this printer for 3 years.

Early on this printer had sleep/wake issues with our Mac. Sometime in the first year or so of use software updates fixed those.

After almost 3 years of regular home printing use it began jamming. The Drum was also due to be replaced. We replaced both the drum and the toner cartridge, but the jamming worsened until it became unusable.

Since this happened I’ve been in contact with Brother support. They requested photos of a key foam roller and they wanted the printer serial number. Even though the printer is 3 years out of warranty they said they'd mail me a refurb. Problem is -- they don't have any refurb devices, they've all been shipped out.

I think my year of this product had a manufacturing problem with a foam roller. It's visible when you open the rear port and flip out a plastic guide. It should be crinkled at the margins and smooth in the center. Ours has linear striations. There are blog posts about this problem. I think Brother offered the out-of-warranty refurb because they know printers in my model year are failing. They're unwilling to announce this however. This probably also explains the lack of refurb machines.

I'm actually ordering a new one. If they send me a refurb in the next 30 days I'll return it (so Brother will have another refurb to distribute!). If they send me a refurb 4 months from now I guess I'll have two. I'm ordering a new one because I have toner and drum components already.

If you have an older HL6180DW do these things before you order a new Drum for an old printer.

1. Check the foam roller and make sure it looks like it should (When you get a new one, photograph the roller.)
2. Check the Fuser lifespan remaining. After 3y we had 71% left. (it's in the manual).

I’ll add photos of the current foam roller condition and the new one once it arrives.

The last really good printer I owned was an Apple LaserWriter Select 360. Printers have not really improved since the early 90s, scanners stopped improving around 2000, dSLRs stopped around 2014, smartphones around 2016.

Update 5/6/2016: Very much to my surprise Brother phoned to say they were unlikely to get any more 6180DW, but they’d overnight ship me a HLL6200DW along with a toner cartridge. That’s the 6180 replacement.

Update 5/10/2016: I received my replacement HL-L6200DW. I can’t tell if it’s new or a refurb. The test print is vastly better than my aged 6180DW, there was more wrong than the paper jams. Installation was straightforward, save that one Mac gave me an annoying “unable to communicate with the printer art this time” over the WiFi interface. I reset the OS X print system then restarted the Mac and the printer and it worked.

I didn’t bother with the directions, I used the USB cable and OS X printer page to get  it on the WiFi network.

Some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. Think very carefully about replacing the Drum Unit on a 3yo printer. The Drum Unit was half the price of a new (toner-free) printer. If I hadn’t bought the Drum Unit I wouldn’t have bothered contacting Brother on an out-of-warranty device, I’d have just bought a new printer. Faster and less trouble.
  2. Brother is pretty serious about service. It took a few days of back and forth tech questions, but their responses were never unreasonable. Probably best to say you use paper they recommend when asked (in fact I did, but only by chance).
  3. I was a bit annoyed when Brother said to wait for a refurb — I pointed out I’d have to buy a printer while I waited. So that wasn’t stellar, but they then phoned and said they would send a newer model. So there’s that.
  4. It’s really dumb to think that a Drum Unit will help with paper jams if the paper isn’t jamming in the Drum Unit. Duh. I wasn’t thinking very clearly there. In my defense the Drum Unit was end-of-life, so I figured it was problem. It wasn’t.

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