To Call or Not to Call . . . (the Service Tech that is)

  By Mike Barker, Senior Sales Executive, Adaptive Data Inc.

This is a topic that really strips my gears. Well they are not exactly my gears . . . . they are your gears, oh label printer owner.

Which is more desirable?

  • 4 hours and 20 minutes of non-printing time spread over the course of a year (5 minutes per week)
  • 4 hours or 8 hours or 3 days or 3 weeks of non-printing time all at once. We all know that device failure usually occurs when we can least afford the down time


What I am talking about here is the 5 minutes or less it takes to clean a direct thermal/thermal transfer label printer vs. waiting for the service tech to arrive or waiting for a RTD (return to depot), which will be even longer.

Dirt, debris, label adhesive and dust build up on the belts and gears and can wear them down and can cause issues. Skipped labels, paper and ribbon out issues are common as a result. Build up can cause damage to print heads and drive rollers. Sensors get blocked or their lenses can deteriorate causing calibration issues.

Moreover, circuit boards that lay flat or horizontal during operation are more susceptible to debris build up. When combined with humidity and/or moisture, a devastating combination is created that corrodes the circuit board. Having to orient the printer or print engine in such a way that causes circuit boards to lay horizontally, is more common than you would think.

Keeping your printer clean goes a long way in preventing service calls and downtime. Here are some easy cleaning tips that will keep your printers clean and printing the highest quality levels possible.

  1. Print head and platen roller (the roller that holds label and ribbon against the print head). Clean the head and platen roller every time you change the ribbon or on direct thermal machines, every roll of labels.
  2. Inexpensive alcohol pads or swabs are readily available at your local drug store at a very low price. Keep a supply of the pads/swabs near each printer for easy cleaning.
  3. Some use compressed air to clear dust and other label debris from a printer. However, compressed air can actually force dust and debris through small openings in the printer deck and may come to rest on gears, belts and electronic components. Try a Swiffer (or other similar product to remove dust from the label side of the printer. These “dusters” will remove dust without forcing dust into undesirable places. (Note: if you must use air to get into very small places use a regulated air supply or use “canned air”.
  4. Remove labels that get stuck inside the print path as soon as they are noticed. Clean up any adhesive left behind after the label is removed before continuing. Each additional layer of goo makes it that much harder to remove. NOTE: NEVER USE ANYTHING MADE OF ANY METAL TO TRY AND REMOVE LABELS THAT ARE STUCK IN THE PRINTER.
  5. Don’t run the printer with the cover open. The effect of ribbon and paper moving over metal surfaces can create a dust magnet (static electricity). This is even more a factor with plastic labels and ribbon.
  6. If print quality is starting to degrade, check the need to clean first, before changing printer heat, darkness settings or print head pressure settings. Increasing/changing the heat settings unnecessarily can add to your problem.
  7. Make sure you know what the correct settings are for your printer for the label material and ribbon you are using. Note: changing brands of labels and ribbons or changing part numbers within a brand may mean that different print settings are required.
  8. Make sure the label material is suited not only for your printer, but also well suited for the items and conditions to be labeled. Speak to your label supplier if you label rolls or stacks have a lot of dust and debris.


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