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How to maintain your thermal label printer

Maintaining your label printer is key to perfect print results in marking and coding. In addition, a little extra care will save you a lot of money for repairs and replacements. Learn about our 5 quick and easy best practices for thermal label printer maintenance in this blog post!

1. Clean the print head and platen roller

The print head is not only the most important part of any label printer but it is also very delicate. The platen roller sits directly underneath the print head. It is recommended that you clean both components each time you change ribbons or label rolls. An additional step that takes as little as 1 minute and yet has a large impact on your return on investment.

Please do not touch the print head directly as oils and other contaminants on your hands may affect it negatively. Use a suitable cleaning liquid for thermal label printers (> 90% Isopropyl alcohol) and apply with a lint-free and non-abrasive cloth.

Mind that certain materials and environments contribute to residue build up. If you notice the cloth being very dirty, you should clean these parts more often than just in between ribbon or label roll replacements.

The following video shows how to properly clean the print head and the platen roller using the example of a Zebra label printer:

2. Keep interior, surfaces and accessories clean

After you have changed label rolls, quickly check the interior of your label printer. Use a soft brush or an approved compressed air spray to remove any dust, residue or particles from the previous roll of labels or thermal paper. Especially the dust from heat-sensitive paper coatings can contain metal which may cause a short between the print head’s heating elements.

Don’t forget to apply some air blasts to your media sensor as well. The media sensor keeps the space between print media and print head constant to help the printer feed labels properly. Build up of dust and other particles on this sensor can lead to printer errors.

Proceed with cleaning installed accessories (such as a label cutter) as well as your label printer’s outside surfaces by using a soft, lint-free cloth and mild detergent if needed.

Again, you should consider doing these steps even more often, if your label printer operates in a harsh environment.

3. Choose the right label media and check settings

As they come into constant contact with the print head, choose only labels of good quality and matched to your specific application. Poor quality labels will lead to premature print head failures due to adhesive bleeding, increased and unwanted deposits, unfavorable perforation cuts or other things.

Another downside of unsuitable labels is that you may need to use excessive darkness and heat settings to compensate for poor quality. Unfortunately, increased heat and residue will eventually cause damage to the print head’s protective layer, therefore reducing the print head’s lifespan. Furthermore, too high of a heat setting can break low-temperature wax ribbon.

Speaking of: A high quality ribbon protects the print head from abrasion caused by the movement of labels while printing. It is also recommended to use a ribbon that is slightly bigger than the label stock to prevent the print head being directly exposed to the label.

Mind that there are different thermal printing options. Not sure what to choose? As a full-range supplier, Weber Marking Systems will be happy to provide you with the perfect label printer as well as professional labels and premium thermal transfer foils – fully tailored to your needs!

4. Perform a PAUSE self test

Missing print outputs and streaks when printing may indicate a defective or clogged print head. Try cleaning the print head and perform a PAUSE self test. Consult your user manual for the exact instruction. The self test will print a nozzle check pattern to see if the print head is capable of printing across the entire label width. If it verifies a printer problem, it may be necessary to replace the print head. Ask your supplier or manufacturer to send a certified technician who will be able to do this.

5. Set up a maintenance contract

While our tips help you reduce downtime due to label printing errors, we understand that you might have a lot of other machines and projects to take care of. We recommend that you set up a maintenance contract with your printer provider. Certified technicians will make sure to perform scheduled maintenances and necessary repairs according to the manufacturer’s instructions and warranty notes.

Maintenance contracts can be tailored to your individual needs and offer calculable costs for extended services such as: 24 hours support, free substitute printers during repair time, fast replacement delivery and employee trainings.

Weber Marking Systems is an official trade and service partner for market-leading label printers made by Zebra, Epson, Sato and other manufacturers. Contact us for more information about all things labeling and printer maintenance!

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