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Blog posts of '2020' 'August'

Caring for your thermal printheads

Whether you’re a logistics professional, a warehouse professional, a distribution center professional or have any other of the myriad of titles and job descriptions that routinely rely on thermal printers to get your job done and keep your business moving, it really is so important that you know how to care for your thermal printheads.

Here at Gulton, we’re very aware that the entirety of this information isn’t something most thermal printhead consumers are familiar with.  We want our customers to be happy with our products, of course, but as the experts in the industry, Gulton also wants to make sure that our customers are educated on how they can get the best performance out of our products.  It’s important for us to share our knowledge with hands-on thermal printer users.

The average lifespan of a thermal printhead is 1 million inches. That’s an agreed upon statistic across the industry.  Depending on how you care for your printhead, that lifespan can be either greatly extended or greatly reduced.  And while printheads are meant to be replaceable components, it can be very frustrating to be running your printer to find light streaks running down your labels or printing gaps long before you were expecting to.  And if you weren’t expecting to, you may not even have a replacement printhead waiting in the wings.  So what can you do about it?  We’re glad you asked!

Know and understand your printer settings
Print speed:
  Your printer should be set to the lowest possible print speed that still provides you with good results.

Contrast:  Set the contrast to the lowest possible setting.  This setting is responsible for heat application and you want to make sure that it’s kept reasonably low to avoid printhead burnout.

Temperature:  Your setting will depend completely on the type of printing material and ribbon you are using.  Guidance for this should be provided by both the ribbon and medium manufacturer.  And that guidance should lead you to the lowest possible temperature setting that will minimize the buildup of heat.

Printhead Pressure:  Low pressure means low friction and low friction means longer printhead life.

Make sure you’re cleaning your printheads regularly
Regularly means often.  It would be advisable to clean a printhead every time you change a ribbon for thermal transfer printers or every time you change a roll of labels for direct thermal printers.  Gulton sells Eco-Friendly Printhead Cleaning Wipes that can make this task much simpler.  If you don’t have cleaning wipes created especially for this purpose, you should be using isopropyl alcohol on a lint-free cloth.  There are cleaning kits and cleaning cards available as well.  This must be a habit to be effective so creating a schedule around a ribbon change makes sense.  And it really will make a difference to the life of your printhead.

Use high quality ribbons
Not all ribbons are created equal.  Some are of a higher quality than others.  That’s not to say that every low-priced ribbon is of poor quality – or that every higher-priced ribbon is excellent.  Choose a ribbon that is as wide or wider than your labels or paper.  If a ribbon is too narrow, the printhead can be scratched.  A poor-quality ribbon can result in the use of more heat and pressure which will degrade the printhead further.

Gulton wants you to get the most out of our thermal printheads.  We’re confident that if you incorporate these steps into your maintenance routines, you’ll extend printhead life and enjoy less down time and be even happier about the quality and durability of our products!


Thermal Printheads … the small and mighty workhorses powering your thermal transfer printer

As a purchaser of thermal printheads, Gulton knows you’re aware that the average size of a printhead is about four inches long.  There are some that are three inches, some can be six inches, and some can even measure as long as eleven inches. As a general statement though, a thermal printhead is a small electronic component.

Don’t be misled by size though.  In terms of importance and power, a thermal printhead is a small and mighty component.  Printheads have the awesome job of making a thermal transfer printer print.

That’s right, without that small, inconspicuous component, your thermal transfer printer would not be able to function.

Thermal transfer printers create images by melting a wax or resin-based ink onto paper.  That ink is purchased in the form of a ribbon (ink spread evenly across the surface of a thin polyester film).  After it’s loaded into your thermal transfer printer, the ribbon is run through the space between the printhead and thermal paper.

The printhead is the literal brain of the printing operation.  It contains numerous resistive heating pins that melt ink from the ribbon onto the paper upon contact.  A microprocessor determines which heating pins are heated to form the image.  The size of the printhead will match the size of the printing medium being used, as the printhead must span the whole width of the medium.

You can see why quality is such an important consideration when purchasing printheads.  Your printer is relying on this small and mighty component to run the show, making sure your barcode labels, clothing labels, receipts, shelf labels, card printing, ticket printing and countless other thermal printed materials are durable and long lasting, as well as the highest possible quality.

Gulton manufactures all our thermal printheads to OEM specifications.  We’re the experts and can answer any questions you may have about thermal printing.    Give us a call at 1.800.356.0399 or email the President of Gulton, Inc., Joseph Digiovanni at jdigiovanni@gulton.com … we’re always available to help out!

Laser Printing vs. Thermal Printing … Here’s what you should know

For years now, Gulton, Inc. has received inquiries daily regarding printheads for laser printers.  We’ve always directed those making the inquiry to proper sources.  But we’ve come to realize that for quite a few people, a thermal printhead and a laser printhead may as well be the same thing.  They aren’t though.  So, we thought it might be a good idea to take a little time and provide some education regarding the differences.

Laser Printers
Laser printers are popular choices for any number of printing applications.  Because of their wide marketplace acceptance, they were adapted for label printing.  Many companies make the decision to use laser printers for label printing for the simple reason that they may already have a laser printer in house that they can dedicate for this application.  That seems to make sense on an immediate basis. 

Designed for cut-sheet paper, laser printers weren’t designed to handle adhesive backed media in an efficient manner.  Laser printers run hot … so hot that they can cause the adhesive to bleed from the label.  It’s not great for your laser printer because it causes adhesive buildup internally.  It’s also not great for productivity because it will cause the printer to jam. The adhesive build-up must be cleaned from the printer. You will also most likely need to replace toner cartridges and fuser rollers more often than you would have if you weren’t running labels through your laser printer.  That’s a costly endeavor.

Your main concerns, though, really should focus on productivity.   Cut sheet labels are used for laser printers.  You can’t print one or two labels without running an entire sheet of labels through the printer. If you decide to be frugal and you don’t throw away the remainder of the sheet, it will be challenging, at best, to map the remaining labels for printing the next time.    

Thermal Transfer Printing

With Thermal Transfer Printing, the printhead heats a ribbon which then melts the image onto thermal paper.   This results in exceptionally clear images.    In addition, thermal paper resists moisture, chemicals and even bacteria.   Adhesive will not overheat and leak so there’s less down time with printer jams and constant adhesive clearing.  It saves time, uses media more efficiently and saves money.More importantly, thermal transfer paper is constructed in rolls.  This allows for easy printing of one to thousands of labels.   Additionally, each label can be unique giving the user the ability to create and print a multiple of different labels with no waste.

Laser Label Printing Vs. Thermal Transfer Printing 
The short answer: Laser Printing was not designed to print labels.  Thermal transfer printing was developed for the specific purpose.  Labels printed with a thermal transfer printer will have a longer life span than those printed by other printer types.

Of course, the printhead you would need for a laser printer isn’t the same printhead you’ll use for a thermal transfer printer.  We’ll cover the differences in an upcoming blog post.

Get to Know Gulton, America’s Printhead Manufacturer: Still Growing and Going Strong

Get to Know Gulton, America’s Printhead Manufacturer:
Still Growing and Going Strong

Gulton, the only U.S. manufacturer of compatible thermal printheads, has a long and storied history.  We developed the first thermal printhead back in 1972 for use by the federal government and led the way forward for affordable quality compatible thermal printheads for the global market.  Today, in 2020, Gulton remains a leader in the industry.  Through good times and bad, our company has continued to grow, develop and deliver outstanding, affordable products to the market.

It’s been quite a challenging year for businesses around the globe.  And Gulton is no exception – but, as has been true for the better part of a century through any of more than a few arduous environments, Gulton has persevered through the COVID-19 crisis.  Our manufacturing floor has remained open and we have continued to service our customers who have played an essential role in keeping the world moving during this unprecedented time.  Our thanks and respect go out to all of them and to every essential industry and worker worldwide.

We donned our masks, doubled down on sanitizing and went to work to make sure that our customers’ thermal printers never missed a beat so that they could continue to serve their customers uninterrupted.  Gulton is more aware than ever just how connected we all are.

We still make the best compatible thermal printheads you can purchase anywhere.  And we still make them here in the U.S. and sell them to you at prices far below OEM products.  Our processes and technologies are still equivalent to those used by the original equipment manufacturers.  Gulton’s commitment to quality and customer service never waivers.  We have continued to work closely with our customers to provide them with the products they need, the craftsmanship they expect and the dedication they deserve.  And because Gulton printheads are manufactured in New Jersey, in the United States, our customers have never needed to be concerned about product availability through these trying times.  Made in the U.S.A. has never sounded quite as good or meant quite as much as during these last six months!

As we all look forward to bettering conditions globally, we’d like to invite you to Get to Know Gulton again and experience what Gulton quality, Gulton service and Gulton commitment can mean for your business.