Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Barcode Label Printers - Premature failure of thermal transfer print heads

Some of our customers are seeing a spate of early failure of printheads in their barcode label printers at the moment and this prompted me to discuss what the reasons might be for the failure and how best to maximise printhead life.

Firstly, its important to say that all thermal printheads fail! Printheads are a long life consumable item, like tyres on a car and just like tyres on a car, the further you drive and the faster you drive, the sooner they wear out.

Common print head issues are shown here, some can be fixed, some are terminal and some are adjustments

  1. Very thin, feint white lines vertically down the length of the label
    = Pixel failure - its the end of the line for your printhead, failed pixels cannot be recovered.
  2. Thick, white lines vertically down the length of the label, often with blurry edges
    = Dirt or a residue built up in the head - often at the location of heavy print. Can often be recovered if early action is taken, clean with a thermal cleaning pen and printhead polishing sheet.
  3. Faded print on the right or left of the label                                                                                          = Printhead balance adjustment is incorrect - the label width adjuster is badly set, if the label is faded on the left or on the right, the printhead balance is incorrect. Different printers use a variety of knobs and slides for this adjustment, normally its green plastic.

But there are things that will improve printhead life - some things are obvious and others are not. So here are some do's and don't's for the care of thermal printheads:

Do Not:

  • run the printers with the cover open
  • allow dust and dirt to build up inside the printer
  • run the heat or darkness at more than 75% of the maximum setting for your printer
  • clean the head with ANY none approved fluids or materials!
  • use the wrong ribbon / label combination
  • run at very high or very low speeds, unless you know what you are doing
  • forget to change the ribbon if printing on special labels
  • twiddle with knobs or adjusters if you don't know what its for
  • clean the head correctly on a regular basis with a polishing sheet
  • take care to use the correct ribbon for the label material
  • set the labelling software to control the heat (darkness) and speed of the labels
  • read the manual or arrange printer set-up and best practice training for a super-user
  • use special cleaning pens every time you change the roll of ribbon or labels.

    Special printhead cleaning pen

    For more information on how to keep your barcode label printer in good working condition or to arrange a technician to fix a printer fault, call Laura on 01200 441977 or go to the Barcode-IT maintenance web page 

    Cleaning pens and printhead polishing sheets for all makes and models of printer are available from the printer maintenance team at Barcode-IT.

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