What Is A Thermal Printhead And Why Does It Need Cleaning?

Have you ever wondered how it is that printers actually work? In short – for those of you who have ever been curious or have asked this question and have not received a sufficient answer – thermal printers simply apply heat to produce images. Cool huh? Regardless of whether you’re using a direct thermal or thermal transfer printing method, a printhead will be used as the source of heat. Therefore, if the printhead doesn’t work correctly, the quality of the printing will obviously be impacted.

Printheads are not only the most sensitive part of your thermal printer, they are also really important, so it’s a good idea to take the necessary steps in order to extend the printheads “life”. Now, the next question you’ll be asking is “how on earth do i go about keeping the printhead in my printer clean? Well, that’s easy peasy!

Most importantly: clean it regularly! Printer specialists always have and always will recommend that one should clean the printhead in your thermal printer every time you change to a new roll of labels or thermal transfer ribbon. For the best results we suggest using the following cleaning supplies in order to avoid contamination or abrasion.

Thermal Printhead Cleaning Pens are a great option for simple touch ups as well as reducing build-up on the printhead, and are suitable for all thermal printers. To use, press the pen tip to the printhead and move from side to side. Use on the platen rollers too, if possible. One cleaning pen (which contains 99.7% ipa) is generally good for up to 10 uses, or until it shows signs of dirt build-up.

Thermal Cleaning Cards are an alternative method. In addition to cleaning the printhead, cleaning cards also clean any build-up that accumulates on the printer’s rollers. Cleaning cards should only be used periodically though, as constant use can cause abrasion that could potentially damage the printhead permanently over time.

Thermal Cleaning Wipes have the added benefit of being able to clean platen rollers as well as other interior and exterior surfaces of the printer. Like the cleaning pens, each wipe contains 99.7% ipa which is the recommended cleaning solution for thermal printers. They should be thrown away after each use, but are quick and easy to use.

And there you have it! Not as bad as you thought, right? And, to finish it all off, here are a few cleaning tips to keep in mind when cleaning your thermal printer…

  1. Never open the print-head mechanism or use any cleaners while the printer is on
    2. Remove loose dust particles by lightly blowing inside the print mechanism before you begin cleaning
    3. Make sure to remove any watches or jewellery that could scratch the print-head or surrounding pieces
    4. Avoid touching the print-head anywhere except the edges, even the lightest touch could potentially damage the printhead glass

Happy cleaning! 


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