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Clean Thermal Label Printer Printhead

Clean your thermal label printer printhead?
by Timmy Thermal

You know I’m always advocating for the proper maintenance of your thermal label printers, but it occurred to me that some of you may not know exactly how one does that.
Today I want to focus on the printhead, specifically how to clean it. Among the different consumables that go with a thermal transfer printer there is the label, the barcode ribbon and the printhead. A new printhead can be quite costly (sometimes thousands of dollars!) if you end up having to replace it, so cleaning it on a regular basis is a good idea if you want to save time and money.
Why is it exactly that printheads need to be cleaned in the first place? Over time, residue builds up from the barcode ribbon and the adhesive from labels. That residue clogs the printhead and forces the printhead to work harder. If it isn’t cleaned, it can cause serious problems for your printer and your business. For example, a printhead that is designed to print one million labels might be rendered useless after 100,000.confused about thermal printhead
When do you want to clean the printhead? In the case of a thermal transfer printer, it is a generally accepted rule of thumb to clean the printhead every time you replace the ribbon. For direct thermal printers the rule of thumb is to clean the printhead when you change a roll of labels.
Actually cleaning the printhead is fairly easy, too. Look for a release that enables the printhead to open. The simplest way to clean the printhead is with a rag and alcohol. Pour a small amount of alcohol on the rag and wipe the printhead clear of any residue. It’s a good idea to wipe the platen roller, too. Replace your labels and ribbon, put everything back in place and you’re good to go.
Cleaning kits that come pre-soaked in alcohol can also be used and are even easier to use than the rag and alcohol solution. Just place the alcohol-soaked pad that comes in the kit in the open printhead, close it and then feed the pad through, cleaning both the printhead and the platen roller simultaneously.
Interesting fact: if you are noticing that your labels have a line running through them, it could be a result of a scratch in the platen roller. While cleaning the printhead and platen roller, you might want to check for scratches. Here is a video on cleaning the printhead for a Zebra Xi4:
Simple as that, your printhead is clean, and you’ve extended its life and saved yourself money and downtime. However, even the most diligent of printhead cleaners will one day need to replace their printheads. That’s why MIDCOM is here. Give us a call at (800) 643-2664 to set up a service call for all of your industrial printer needs. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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