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Printhead maintenance

Printhead maintenance

  • January 7,2016.

Thermal Printhead Life

The printhead is the most critical component of your printer and one of the most delicate. Most print

quality problems are a direct result of improper care of the printhead. A consumable that wears over

time, much like the brakes on your car, it requires proper installation and ongoing maintenance to

ensure a long life of service for your printer.

Maximizing printhead life is important to users of thermal printing technology because it reduces

printhead replacement costs and increases productivity. However, with proper installation, ongoing

careful attention and maintenance, you can maximize the life of a printhead.

Below are photographs of three printheads. The fi rst printhead is brand new. The second has printed

over one million linear inches of thermal transfer labels and has been properly maintained. The third

printhead has printed far fewer labels, but without proper care and maintenance, signs of abrasion

and contamination buildup are evident.

I. Printhead replacement

• When replacing your printhead, be sure to follow the directions in the maintenance manual for your printer

model. The following steps can maximize your printhead’s life:

1.) Return the printer darkness and the printhead pressure back to factory settings if printhead

problems had required compensated settings.

2.) Be sure that the replacement printhead resistance matches the printer’s printhead resistance setting.

• Only use a genuine Zebra printhead to ensure that your printer and part warranties remain intact and that the

product performs optimally.

• Zebra recommends that Zebra’s Depot Centers or a Zebra Authorized Service Provider (ZASP) perform the

installation ( .

• All ESD precautions should be when installing or servicing a printhead.

• Zebra recommends cleaning the printhead with Zebra approved products before printing. See Section IV & V

for cleaning recommendations and how to buy cleaning products.

• Generally speaking, printhead life can be maximized by using a blended combination of darkness settings and

toggle pressure forces to achieve the desired label print quality for your specifi c application. You should avoid

using just the darkness settings or just the toggle pressure to achieve your desired print quality. Please see the

maintenance manual for your printer model for more information on this subject.

• The maintenance manual specifi c to the printer model should be consulted when the printer is being serviced

• Printing in direct thermal mode may contribute to shortened printhead life due to the potential for increased


II. Printhead Terminology


Abrasion—or the process of wearing down by friction—may occur during normal operation of the printer.

However, it can be minimized through proper care and maintenance.


When particulate matter—such as dust—damages the printhead, it becomes contaminated.


Gradual deterioration of the printhead may occur because of media, incorrect cleaning agents or the


Electrostatic Discharge (ESD)

Electrostatic discharge may occur due to improper handling or the environment.


If your printer is operating in a humid or damp environment, this moisture may damage the printhead.


The buildup of residue—or foreign materials—may occur with improper maintenance, incorrect cleaning agents,

inferior media or incorrect application setup. Aggressive cleaning requires the use of Zebra’s specially-formulated

Save-a-Printhead Cleaning Film (see Section V for part numbers and ordering instructions).

III. Avoid the Contributing Factors to Premature Printhead Failure

There are several factors that can contribute to the premature failure of a printhead. The following information

identifi es these factors and provides possible solutions.

IV. Maintenance

• Zebra recommends the cleaning of the printhead regularly, either after every roll of thermal transfer ribbon or

after every roll of direct thermal labels. (Additional cleaning may be necessary based on the application and


Note: For 600 dpi printers, clean after each roll of media or when a “CLEAN HEAD NOW” warning appears on the

liquid crystal display (LCD).

• When handling or cleaning the printhead, remove any jewelry that may scratch it. Use a grounding strap or

antistatic mat to discharge static electricity that could also damage the printhead.

• Zebra recommends cleaning the printhead with Zebra-approved cleaning supplies.

• Zebra media provides the highest compatibility and favorably contributes to printhead life.

V. Cleaning Supplies

Your user’s guide and maintenance manual may recommend one or more of the following cleaning kits or items.

VI. Ordering Information

There are two ways to purchase Zebra-approved cleaning supplies:

1.) Purchase directly from Zebra at:

Note: Be sure to specify the Part Number from the table above in the “Site Search” fi eld in the top-right corner

of the site.

2.) Purchase through a Zebra reseller, which you can locate at:

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