Cartridge Refill Machine

The purpose of this product is to reduce the carbon footprint of printer ink cartridges. Not commonly know, the average ink cartridge manufacturer can leave a carbon footprint comparable to 500 U.S. homes per month. Me and a team of three other engineers decided to tackle this problem by building a machine that would allow consumers to refill and reuse their cartridges.

Finished Product

One of the roles I played was designing and wiring the hardware systems. We decided to use a hypodermic needle to pierce the ink cartridge. I used a linear stage to bring the needle down, which was controlled by an L298N driver. In order to fill the cartridge, we chose a peristaltic pump and used a mechanical relay to control it. I incorporated a load cell to determine the amount of ink needed to refill different cartridges.

Sample of Arduino Script

The other main role that I played in this project was coding the C++ script that allowed that machine to work properly. This script was uploaded to an Arduino MEGA. The program allowed for an easy-to-use UI that only required the push of a button. When the user pushes the button the needle penetrates the cartridge and the refill process begins. Once finished refilling, the user opens the drawer and removes his/her refilled cartridge. A sample of the script is shown on the right.


The majority of the hardware system is illustrated in the image on the left. This includes the pumps, drivers, relays, linear stages, and Arduino MEGA.

Load Cell Drawer

This image shows the load cell used to determine how much ink is needed to refill a given cartridge. The weight of the empty cartridge is stored, which is used to calculate the appropriate pump duration. I calculated this value from the flow rate of the pump and density of the ink. The user can access the load cell by opening the drawer.

Needle Insertion

The clip on the left shows how the refill needle pierces the ink cartridge. It is done by lowering the linear stage until the needle has successfully broke the seal of the cartridge. Then the relay turns on a peristaltic pump, which fills the cartridge with ink.