Your thermal transfer printers print head is usually the most expensive consumable part so looking after the print head can save you hundreds of pounds, clean your print head regularly and extend the life of the head, often by more than 50%.
Printer manufacturers will provide information about cleaning cycles and most will recommend supplies and tell you that you must use specific cleaning items. In truth, a tub of cleaning wipes placed handily next to the printer will encourage regular use.
1. Clean The Whole Printer – Dust On The Platen Roller
Simply wipe over the whole print head area including the platen roller and carriage assembly – it’s best to do this whilst the printer is switched off. Some thermal transfer papers cause dust to fall onto the rollers and surrounding area which can be picked up and transferred onto the head. This dust is visible and a quick wipe over to remove this can make all the difference. If dust bakes onto the print head it can be difficult to remove – resist the urge to scrape or scratch at the print head, this will cause irreparable damage.
2. Clean Properly – Contamination
Labels need to be clean and free of contaminants. Using only blank labels from trusted suppliers and printing in clean environments will mean less chance of contaminants getting to the print head. Where this isn’t possible try and make sure the printer is cleaned more regularly, ensuring the machine is never left open in a dusty environment.
Using a cleaning solution not designed for a thermal printer, for example using a paper towel and water, or washing up liquid is likely to leave unwanted contamination or chemicals that will cause damage. It will likely also leave moisture that will also cause damage. Use a cleaning wipe instead.
3. Only use high-quality ribbons and labels – Don’t be cheap
If the ribbon and label price you are offered looks too good to be true it probably is! Whilst some compatible ribbons are made in the same factories to the same standards as the branded “original” product there are some truly cheap and nasty consumables out there. Ask your supplier where the ribbon is made and insist on a proper trial to check print quality and any build up of residue. Saving a few pence on a ribbon at the expense of poor print quality, label rejects and unwanted printer damage is a reality with some ribbons and labels offered for sale at crazy prices.
4. Handle With Care – Fingers off
Handle the print head as little as possible ensuring all contact is with a print head wipe or soft cloth.
5. Running too hot – Don’t risk burnout
When the residue is left to burn onto the print head it often leads to poor print quality. The default setting for many operators is to turn the print head temperature up to the maximum. Whilst this can occasionally give a temporary fix the end result is overheating and eventual burnout. Check the ribbon and label stock is compatible with the printer model and gently clean with a wipe until the head is visibly clean and free from marks. If this is not possible, it’s probably new print head time.
6. Maintenance – Do it regularly
For best results get an on-site maintenance contract with your printer supplier and get them to visit regularly to keep the rollers and drives in tip-top condition. A bit of regular maintenance can save £100s in lost downtime and expensive replacements.
Readability ensures no harmful chemicals are placed on label stock and that they are kept in clean environments. The thermal transfer ribbons we supply are made to the highest standards and trusted by the largest brands in the UK.