How to care for and know when to change your printhead?

24 October 2018

 A guide for your label printer

An often-undervalued element of your Zebra printer, the printhead is the most important part of your printer. Adequate care and maintenance are needed to ensure that high-quality labels are printed and the life of your printhead is not diminished. If you use proper, appropriate and regular care, the life of your printhead will be greatly extended. This will, in turn, increase the length of time between buying a new printhead. 

What are the signs of a failing printhead?  

Typically, you will know when your printhead is beginning to fail because the images that you are printing from your Zebra printer will become lighter and sections of dots begin to fail to print, leaving behind white voids. This is when you should consider purchasing a new printhead.  
Normally, a printhead will fail as a result of the fast heating and cooling process which happens as the printing elements switch on and off when they pass over the printing material and ribbon. Another contributor to the failing of a printhead results from the pressure that is applied for the accuracy and quality of the print. The harder the printhead must work the quicker it will burn out.  

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A printhead should be expected to print up to ten million labels before needing to be replaced. However, without the proper maintenance and care, this can reduce to as little as one million. With attention and care, you can prevent this burnout and extend the life of your printhead.  

Steps that you can take to extend the life of your printhead  

With heavy use, buying a new printhead at some stage will be inevitable. However, there are steps that you can take to prolong the life of your printhead and delay having to purchase a new one. The first step is that you should be regularly cleaning your printhead, something that many people forget to do. The best way to clean your printhead is by using a printhead cleaning pen. To do this, you simply take the nib of the cleaning pen and run it across the printhead, cleaning the entire area. We would recommend using a printhead cleaning pen each time you use your printer, however you could reduce this to cleaning the printhead each time you change the roll of labels. 

Another technique to extend the life of your printhead is to ensure that you are using the right printer settings. The optimum printer settings that you should be aiming for is the lowest possible temperature and pressure to produce an acceptable printed image. Additional pressure and heat will only result in increased wear of your printhead meaning that it needs replacing sooner.  

Image of thermal printer cleaning pen

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Finally, to extend the life of your printhead you should ensure that you are using the right ribbons. If you’re using a ribbon that doesn’t exactly fit the printer, e.g. if it is too narrow, you risk scratching the printhead. It also isn’t cost beneficial to use cheap, poor quality ribbons as you will, in turn, be required to use more pressure and heat to get a good print which creates increased wear on the printhead. For quality, we would recommend using either Zebra or ARMOR Inkanto ribbons. 

If you’re using direct thermal labels that don’t require a ribbon, then using Genuine Zebra direct thermal labels will help ensure your printhead achieves the maximum usage before it needs replacing. 

Evidently, with heavy use a printhead will eventually need replacing, however well you look after it. But before deciding to replace your printhead make sure that it has been properly cleaned. If after cleaning, the printing quality still hasn’t improved, open the printhead and look at the sensor for damage. If you see white spots, these indicate wear and that it is time for a new printhead.  

We’re proud to stock and offer a wide range of printheads for Zebra printers on our website. For advice regarding which printhead is suitable for your Zebra printer please get in touch with us on 09178 437537 and we’d be happy to help with your purchase.  

Zebra printhead replacement products deliver quality, reliability and performance for printheads that have become worn down or damaged. Every Zebra printhead is easy to install and made to exacting engineering standards for consistent performance from your printer.  

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