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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!