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Stratasys hack, legal??

Hi , I  think of making an instructable about how to hack  3D printer cartridges, so they can easily be refilled with cheap material.
I got an old Stratasys Dimension BST 3D printer from 2005 or something and these printers need chip protected filament cartridges to operate- and these cartridges are
quite expensive (~200$ per kg filament...)
There is a way to hack these cartridges using a small arduino based programmer to refill them with generic ABS and HIPS, each about 20$ per kg. So its 200$ vs. 20$ , and 15 minutes of work. And I would like to make a small instructable about how to do that.
But I don`t know whether this is legal.
My question: whats the policy of Instructables here?
And if Stratasys starts legal action (I seriously doubt that, because the printers are out of production) who is liable, would that be me or Instructables?

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Vyger9 months ago

This is a question that has been around for a number of years due to the outrageous price of printer ink. People started refilling the ink cartridges as soon as ink became available. Then the printer companies went to putting chips in the ink cartridges so they couldn't be reused. But clever people found a way around that also. Ultimately it ended up in court when printer companies sued the makers of generic cartridges. These were not refilled but basically made to fit the printers complete with chips that the printer would accept as a good cartridge. The courts sided with the people on this one. I forget the reasoning and the exact case info, but in a nut shell you can't patent generic ink unless it has some extraordinary property that makes it really different from everybody else. Putting it in its own special container does not make it any different from all the other ink. So refilling, re-inking, remanufacturing, or making a generic equivalent is all legal. I would assume that the same principle applies to 3D printers since it does apply to laser toner which is not ink but is included in the decision.

I used to buy ink in bulk and refill my ink tanks. Then some of the Chinese companies started selling new generic cartridges for less than ever. When a generic ink tank sells for less than $2. there was no point in refilling anymore. Now I buy generic in bulk. It is also possible to refill laser toner but that can be REALLY messy so the generics for that are a lifesaver.

As I recall some of the printer makers tried to get around this ruling by declaring that putting generic cartridges in their printers would void the warranty. I believe they got sued for that and were told they had to honor the machine warranty no matter what ink was in it.

Vyger Vyger9 months ago

I forgot to answer the question--- Go for it. Nobody has grounds to sue anybody.

Buy the way I just read about a method some guys developed to reuse 3D filament. They melt printed stuff down and turn it back into filament and put it back into the printer. There is a downside to this though. All the colors start blending and you end up with nasty colored brown. I think they also said that after many remelts the plastic started to deteriorate. You should be able to Google it, and all the rest of my comment also to get the good details instead of just my memory.

ralph124c (author)  Vyger9 months ago

Thanks for your reply. I already knew about the inkjet case. Maybe I got confused while browsing 3D printer forums to gather information, everyone makes a big fuzz about this, and you cannot find a complete set of information ( at least I didn`t), its all bits and pieces hidden somewhere. But there are even companies selling hacked chips, so yes, shouldn`t be a problem.

Reusing filament: my printer is a picky eater when it comes to consumables, I am glad I found a brand he is happy with. But by only changing colour- same brand, same material- the resulting print can be different. Water content, small differences in diameter, impurities- there are many factors that affect the result. But I know what you mean, and if you take it one step further, there is an unlimited supply of plastics around you- might be worth a try .

I have a complete writeup on refilling Stratasys cartridges here:

http://haveblue.org/?p=1988

The simple point is that you interfer with a product that is secured by some sort of copright and more.
Here the manufacturer start with the legal stuff like you loosing the warranty, you damaging the machine by not knowing what you are doing and so on.
Simple fact is: Once the cartridge is empty it is considered runnish and what you do with your rubbish is totally up to you.
If this "fixed ribbush" will cause you any trouble with the machine it is of no concern to the manufacturer.
So if you have a reliable way of re-using these cartridges and want to make an Instructable out of it then go ahead as I think other users will like it.
The worst that will happen is Strasys complaining about it or leaving bad comments - which you can delete ;)
I posted how to get rid of a dongled controller on the cheap for a laser cutter, so I really think you need to go ahead here :)

ralph124c (author)  Downunder35m9 months ago

Hi downunder35m, thanks for your reply. Makes sense what you are writing. I`ll let you know when the instructable is online- and whether there are any consequences :)