Thermal Print Head Applications and Maintenance

Print heads are a crucial part of any thermal printer. They create the barcodes and text that are the lifeblood of production – linking the digital and physical worlds of inventory, asset management and manufacturing. When a print head fails, it can bring productivity to a screeching halt. That’s why it is important to understand how to keep the print head in tip-top shape. In this article we’ll take a look at some quick and easy maintenance tips that can extend the life of your print head and delay the need to purchase replacements.

A thermal printhead is a printing unit that forms barcodes and texts on the printed media (such as label, receipt or ID card) by heating thermally sensitive materials, such as paper, by energising resistors mounted on the substrate to generate joule heat, which causes them to darken. Thermal printheads are used in a wide range of applications such as retail, healthcare, logistics and manufacturing. The print head creates the images for labels and receipts using a combination of thick-film and thin-film heating elements to produce high quality prints.

The thermal printhead consists of a series of heating elements or “heaters” that are lined up in a row on a heat storage layer called a glaze. The printhead is powered by a small DC current that runs through the heaters and generates thermal energy which is transferred to the printed material to form the image. The thickness of the heater and the uniformity of the heating pattern is key to achieving high resolution printing.

When it comes to maintaining a thermal print head, proper cleaning is a must. The print head should be cleaned after every ribbon change in a thermal transfer printer and after each label roll in a direct thermal printer. It should be cleaned with a SATO packaged cleaner or with a non-abrasive, lint free cloth and isopropyl alcohol (90% of higher). The number of times the print head is cleaned and the length of time between each cleaning will depend on the environment and materials.

Another consideration is that you should avoid touching the thermal print head with bare hands, especially when it is hot. The oils from your hands can damage the print head and shorten its lifespan.

Lastly, it is a good idea to check that the Thermal Printhead Applications print head is properly aligned. When it is misaligned it has to apply more energy to the material to print which can cause premature failure.

In addition to these preventative measures it is also a good idea to invest in a SATO branded enclosure for your thermal printer, as this can help protect the thermal print head from environmental factors that may lead to unwanted changes in the material or ribbon. Lastly, it is important to remember that all consumables should be stored according to the label and ribbon manufacturer’s recommended storage specifications.