SS Technical Article: Prolonging the Lifespan of your Thermal Barcode Printer Printhead

by ScanSource Technical Services on June 16, 2011

in Barcode Printing,ScanSource POS & Barcode,Technical Knowledge Portal,Technology

Post image for SS Technical Article:  Prolonging the Lifespan of your Thermal Barcode Printer Printhead

Variables for Printhead Life Span

Since the printhead is considered to be a consumable, customers often want to know exactly how long they can expect a printhead to last. The lifespan of most printheads are measured in millions of linear inches printed. The more you print, the quicker the printhead will wear out. Print volume is just one variable determining the printheads life span.

Environment and Cleaning

The single most important variable in how long a printhead will last is cleanliness. Performing basic preventive maintenance and keeping the printer’s environment clean goes a long way to extending the lifespan of the printhead and guarantees the best print quality.

The printer’s user guide will provide some guidelines for how often preventive maintenance needs to be performed. But a good rule of thumb is to clean the printhead after every couple of rolls of media changed, or each time you change the ribbon. The printhead will also need to be cleaned after any event that could cause material to build up on the printhead, such as a ribbon melting, or a ribbon being installed upside down.

Another best practice is to remove the entire outer layer of labels before installing a new roll, especially if the labels were stored in an area where dust or dirt could accumulate. Due to its abrasive qualities, even a small amount of dirt and grime can cause wear on the printhead and affect its lifespan.

Heat or Darkness Value

The higher the darkness the more energy is being sent to the printhead. The more energy the quicker any given heating element is going to give out. The darkness setting should be set as low as possible to maintain acceptable print quality.

The darkness value has a wide range because there are a wide range of material and ribbon combinations available to run through a barcode printer. Some media or combinations require significantly more heat to get a clean image or transfer than others. However higher values do not always result in a better image. The lowest setting for acceptable print quality is always the right value.

Printhead Pressure

Just like the darkness value printhead pressure needs to be set as low as possible to still provide acceptable print quality. The higher the pressure the more wear on the printhead. Printhead pressure is usually adjusted to accommodate media of different thicknesses. Most light industrial printers and up have the ability to adjust printhead pressure, giving them a wider range of media thicknesses they can use. Most desktop’s printhead pressure is fixed which can limit the types of media that they can use.

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