Bits Falling out of My HP B9180 Should I be Worried?


Scenario
First of all I should say I am currently making an edition of 15 books and need to print endpapers and book cloth. I am using some lovely cloth from Falkiners which you can print on. I have tried a few test prints and the results are great. The main problem is that because the cloth has been on a roll the book cloth is curly and even 2 nights in a book press couldn't flatten it!  I am printing both sides of the cloth. The book cloth has a paper backing and to save time I am printing the book board layout on the back. The printer is having problems feeding through the curly paper, but that is not a fault of the printer.

The Build Up
Last night I was printing some book cloth. The printer decided to have a hissy fit and although it had printed one side perfectly when I turned it over to the print the other side it said that the "paper size was too small".  A common error message when there is a mis-feed with custom paper sizes. Tried the usual switch it of and again but then it started doing ludicrously long cleaning cycles and print head servicing. Normally I would persist determined to print but would most likely end up having a hissy fit myself. I am not sure if its my age but I decided I would walk away. So I switched the printer off for the night and decided to cut some book board instead.  Later in the evening I heard a little noise come from the printer like something very small dropping down inside but thought it was my imagination.

The Event
Today I decided to clean the NEDD (New Electrostatic Drop Detector!) as is recommended when you have excessive cleaning cycles. It was indeed filthy and looked like there was a small hair stuck in it. After I had cleaned it I decided to be safe and print my endpapers using the main tray (I didn't want to stress myself out printing curly book cloth). I put the paper in the main tray and found a teeny little spring - the noise I had heard last night. That's odd I thought, I was a little worried but decided to continue on. I printed the first page and along with the page out came the first tiny little cog wheel. Oh dear. I opened up the top of the printer to look inside and saw another little cog wheel just sitting on top of where the paper feeds through. I removed it.

Diagnosis
I found out where these bits came from. The little cog wheels are what is commonly referred to as the pizza wheels and these help feed the paper through. If you do a Google search on 'pizza wheel marks B9180' you will find that these are the bane of many a photographer for marking their prints. However, I have never had any problem with this. Basically the 2 little pizza wheels sit either side of the spring and form part of the rollers that feeds the paper through. I now have one of these missing.  I dread to think what would have happened if I had not opened the lid and removed the second cog wheel - if this had fallen into the printer's workings anywhere I am sure it would be end of it .

Conclusion (sort of)
Should I be worried that my printer is falling apart? I managed to print 15 pieces of book cloth using the speciality media tray after this. The wheel that is missing is close to the edge where the paper feeds through and it was occasionally making unpleasant clicky and grindy noises!  At them moment I have printed what I need for my current edition of 15 books so that's all I care about for now, but long term I don't know.  HP discontinued this printer at the end of 2010. That's the end of support and any new drivers.

When will this post end?
I have a love hate relationship with this printer. When it works well I get the most beautiful prints, not only are they exactly as they are on the monitor (with a colour calibrated set up) but they look as I want them to look. I have tried on a few occasions to take my work to have it printed elsewhere but the prints were awful.

Is she still talking?
I should be looking at a replacement but the main option would be an Epson (I haven't read any good reviews for Canon). I have been 'scarred' by a previous experience with an Epson which was a complete ink guzzler and they were very lax about providing good Mac drivers. So the answer is - I don't know :-) I use a very good printer forum and website and have always good advice on help from here - but if anyone has any recommendations for a good A3 Pigment Ink printer let me know :-)