This guide is intended to provide you with knowledge on how to get the best performance from your thermal printhead and includes care, maintenance and replacement.
The Printhead is the most critical component of your thermal printer that affects print quality and also one of the most delicate components. They are considered a consumable part of thermal printers that wear out over time. Much like the brakes on a car, they require proper installation and ongoing maintenance to ensure a long life and quality performance.
Maximising printhead life is important to users of thermal printing technology because it reduces printhead replacement costs and increases productivity. With proper installation, ongoing careful attention and maintenance, you can maximise the life of a printhead.
Below are photographs of three printheads in various conditions.
1. New Printhead
2. A properly maintained printhead having printed over 1 million inches and still in good condition.
3. A poorly maintained printhead that has printed less than 1 million inches but is already showing significant signs of damage.
Your printhead has a protective layer (top coat). Excessive abrasion will cause the top coat to wear prematurely and expose the heater element and this is bad news for print quality and safety.
Two common causes of abrasion which are relatively easy to avoid are:
Simple steps to avoid these issues include:
Critical to the life of your printhead is maintaining the protective coating on the heating element.
When operators see buildup on the printhead, it’s tempting to scrape it off with something sharp (screwdriver, pocket knife). DON’T DO THIS! It scratches the printhead and causes irrepairable damage. See page 3 for advice on how to best clean printheads.
Impurities can open and/or short circuits in your printhead (creating dead spots on the head).
Often the impurity is introduced when something other than pure (99%+) isopropyl alcohol is used. Isopropyl alcohol is the only cleaning product that should be used when cleaning thermal printheads.
What is overdrive?
Overdrive is when your printhead does not make proper contact with the print media. When this happens, the printhead element can’t dissipate its energy as desired and shortens its life. This shows up on the printhead as white lines or dots on the element.
What causes overdrive?
Three common causes and preventative steps are:
ESD (Electro Static Discharge)
“Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is the sudden flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects caused by contact, an electrical short, or dielectric breakdown.”
ESD protection is a must when:
Wedderburn recommends the cleaning of the printhead regularly, either after every roll of thermal transfer ribbon or after every roll of direct thermal labels.
Additional cleaning may be necessary based on the application and environment.
If you need help with printer maintenance or replacement parts, call your local Wedderburn team. We stock a vast range of printer spare parts and also provide preventative maintenance and fix-on-fail technical services.
Thermal Printhead Cleaning Kits are available from all Wedderburn New Zealand branches. Order Code BL0606.
When replacing your printhead, be sure to follow the directions in the maintenance manual for your printer model. The correct maintenance manual should always be consulted for any printer servicing.
Generally speaking, printhead life can be maximized by using a blended combination of darkness settings and head pressure forces to achieve the desired label print quality for your specific application.
You should avoid using just the darkness settings or just the head pressure to achieve your desired print quality. Refer to the maintenance manual for your printer model for more information on this subject.
Printing in direct thermal mode may contribute to shortened printhead life due to the potential for increased abrasion. Thermal transfer label and tag materials are coated with a special top-coating and the thermal transfer ribbon provides an extra layer of printhead protection.
For further assistance on new equipment, spare parts or technical servicing, contact your local Wedderburn team.
Download Wedderburn Guide to Printhead Care Maintenance and Replacement v2PDF 333KB