A thermal printer printhead is the most important – and the most delicate – component of a thermal printer. It isn’t designed to last indefinitely—technically, a printhead is a consumable just like thermal labels and ribbons. But like any product that requires care and maintenance, it can and should deliver consistent quality and performance over time, provided that you and your team use it properly and maintain it with diligence and forethought.
What contributes to printhead wear and tear, and early printhead failure? There are seven primary factors:
- Corrosion. Your printhead’s protective coating can become damaged if substances which contact it are themselves corrosive. To prevent this, avoid physically touching the printhead surface itself; printing on substrates or media that are not recommended by the printhead or label manufacturer; or using cleaning agents that aren’t specified by the printhead manufacturer.
- Contamination. When thermal labels or other media come in contact with abrasive materials and then pass through the printhead, they can cause contamination. As a result, this can scrape or cut through the printhead’s protective coating and lead to premature failure. Again, it’s wise to consult with the printhead and/or thermal label supplier up front to determine the proper materials for use with your printhead.
- Abrasion. Abrasion is most often caused by friction. In particular, paper dust can collect on the platen toward the outer edges of the media or ribbon and, in turn, abrade the printhead glaze. To minimize it, you can regularly clean paper dust buildup on the printhead as per manufacturer instructions. You should also keep sharp objects (e.g., razor blades, screwdrivers, knives) away from printheads to avoid scratching the delicate surface.
- Residue buildup. Buildup of thermal ribbon or media coating on the printhead can cause overheating and eventual failure. While the volume of residue can vary based on label media, ribbons and external conditions (see below for more on environmental factors), it’s important to make sure you institute proper and regular cleaning and maintenance.
- Printhead pressure. Related to abrasion, excessive pressure increases friction on the printhead assembly. This, in turn, can cause wear and tear and ultimately, premature failure. To avoid this, utilize a balance of darkness and pressure.
- Electrostatic discharge. Characterized by a sudden, unexpected electrical flow between two electrically charged objects, electrostatic discharge can cause significant damage to a printhead’s internal circuitry. Factors that often lead to electrostatic discharge include static buildup and non-specified or improper maintenance. To minimize this, work to ensure that any static brushes and/or printhead mechanism wiring are properly secured.
- Environmental factors. The environment in which your printer (and by extension, your printhead) operates plays a role in how long that printhead can last over time. Additionally, the area in which label media and ribbons are stored can cause printhead damage. In both cases, it’s wise to minimize exposure of thermal label printers and printheads to water, excessive temperatures and external contaminants. An established and leading label converter can consult with you on additional operational and storage strategies for your facility.
To avoid these and other thermal printhead issues, and prolong the life of your thermal printhead, we recommend five basic tips:
- Follow consistent and proper cleaning and maintenance protocols as specified by your thermal printhead manufacturer. Many manufacturers recommend cleaning a direct thermal printhead and platen roller after every ribbon or media change.
- Use the highest-quality thermal media – notably, direct thermal labels and thermal transfer labels and ribbons – from the commercial label printing industry’s leading manufacturers.
- Again, avoid directly touching the printhead surface. If doing so is absolutely necessary, only use manufacturer-recommended materials and clean the printhead surface afterward with an approved solution.
- Set the printhead pressure correctly and utilize the print speed you need to get the job done right.
- Cover your printer when not in use.
When Thermal Printheads Are Ailing, Expert Thermal Printer Support Is Key
There’s good reason why OMNI Systems is the thermal labeling industry leader in price, quality and service—our company’s dedicated account representatives, expert application analysts and world-class research and development engineers will ensure valued end-user and channel partner customers always receive the highest-quality labeling solutions and services required to meet any labeling challenge at the lowest possible price.
We also offer nationwide on-site thermal printer technical support, as well as thermal printhead replacement services.
For thermal printhead repair, our factory-trained technicians will troubleshoot your equipment on-site, within 150 miles of an OMNI Systems location. They’ll also provide preventive maintenance and operator training to extend product life. Our specialists are factory-certified experts in on-site repair, as well as installation and training support. They’re available 24 hours a day, seven days a week from service locations throughout North America.
With OMNI Systems’ thermal printhead replacement program, you have access to high-quality top-coated labels and high-quality printheads, which reduces costs in two ways:
- We receive distributor pricing from a variety of thermal printhead manufacturers to provide significant savings to you. Moreover, as the largest privately owned thermal media company in the U.S., our high-volume purchasing power enables us to pass the savings directly to you without sacrificing quality or customer service.
- Our top-coated labels enable you to print high-quality images at lower temperatures, which extends the life of the printhead.
Additionally, as the industry leader in price, quality and service, OMNI Systems works closely with many of North America’s leading thermal transfer ribbon manufacturers to stock a wide selection of the most popular ribbon sizes for any application, including:
- Wax ribbons
- Wax/resin ribbons
- Full resin ribbons
Our close relationships and high-volume business with thermal ribbon suppliers mean we can deliver significant savings to our customers. All of our thermal transfer ribbons are engineered to provide optimum print quality at lower temperatures, which reduces wear on printheads for lower overall lifetime costs.
We hope this blog helps you understand the causes of premature thermal printhead failure, and some basic steps to prolong the life of your thermal printer printhead. We welcome the opportunity to discuss how OMNI’s leadership in price, quality and service can help you save 15-40 percent on your label spend over current costs and make your job easier.
Do you have questions about prolonging the life of your thermal printhead, direct thermal labels, thermal transfer labels, water-activated tape or other labeling needs? Please contact OMNI Systems at 216-377-5160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.