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How to maintain your Thermal Printer For Optimum Performance

(both Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printers)

When you consider using thermal printers, you need to know that -- like any other machine or appliance -- you can extend the life of your printer with regular maintenance. Regular maintenance of your direct thermal printer or thermal transfer printer can provide you with the best quality possible prints and you can extend the life of your machines. Additionally, you can save money in the long run on parts and on printing clear and readable barcodes. Even if you feel you’re “all thumbs” when it comes to working on machines, we can help you achieve your goal of smooth performance and savings.

No matter if you choose a thermal transfer or direct thermal barcode printer, the maintenance on both machines boils down to the same four points:

1. Read The Instructions

Even if you don’t look at a map before you take a trip, it would be great if you read the instructions for your thermal printer before you use it. The instructions are important, because they should cover all this information and more specifically geared toward the brand of thermal printer you purchased.

Your instructions probably will include information on what to do to unpack and set up your printer, how to keep your printer functional, and what to do if something happens to your printer.

For instance, if you think the silver plate located under the print head is part of the packing material, you would be creating a problem for yourself by tossing it. The instructions may tell you that this plate helps to steady your barcode labels when you’re printing. Most printer companies don’t include extra parts in the original package, so be sure you read the instructions before you even unpack your printer.

2. Keep Your Printer Clean

Although cleaning print heads and plates may not seem like your idea of a benefit to your business, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Cleaning your printer on a regular basis is much like flossing your teeth -- you commit to this practice to maintain a healthy environment.

Dirt, media residue, dust, and adhesive all can build up over time on both direct thermal and thermal transfer print heads. The only way to avoid this build up is to clean the print heads regularly. Refer back to your manuals (step 1) to learn how to clean your particular printer. You may need to gather the cleaning materials yourself, or the printer manufacturer might offer a special cleaner. Either way, be sure to follow instructions so you don’t damage your printer. Those instructions also will tell you how often to clean your printer.

3. Use the Correct Ribbons, Labels, and Media

Your whole focus on using a thermal barcode printer is to save time and money. If you don’t choose the correct print ribbons, labels, and media for your specific printer, you’ll shorten the life of your printer and you won’t achieve the goal of running the printer at a lower energy setting while still producing quality labels.

While you may try to save money by purchasing inexpensive ribbons, media, and labels, your printer might not be happy with the eventual buildup of cheap inks, dust, debris, and poor scanning that result from those issues. Even if you clean your printers on a regular basis, you can’t “fix” the issues that using poor materials may cause.

At the same time, you can find quality ribbons, media, and labels that won’t break your budget. Like Goldilocks, you’ll need to find that comfortable space where suppliers who can offer high-quality materials at a price you can afford. A little research can go a long way in keeping you and your printer happy.

4. Invest in a Service Plan for Your Printer

You wouldn’t let the oil run out in your car, would you? Taking that auto in for regular maintenance, you know, is key to keeping that car running in top form. Plus, the mechanics can see problems where you can’t. The same philosophy applies to obtaining a maintenance plan for your direct thermal or thermal transfer printer.

Look for annual contracts that also offer emergency help in case your printer fails you unexpectedly. Developing a relationship with the service department of your printer manufacturer can provide you with peace of mind, but it also can provide you with resources and tips on how to keep your machine running smoothly and effortlessly.

In The End…

We hope these simple steps can help you maintain your direct thermal and thermal transfer printers. These tips also are useful if you haven’t yet purchased a printer, so you can know what to look for when buying a machine. In the end, the key to maintaining a barcode printer is to treat it with the same TLC you would with any investment.