October 14, 2021 

4 Common Thermal Printer Problems and Solutions

Common thermal printer problems include fragmented code printing and chronic overheating.

For four decades, thermal inkjet (TIJ) printers have been a go-to marking technology for companies across the manufacturing and packaging spectrum. Small in size but powerful in application, TIJ printers are used in a variety of contexts to apply traceable codes, company logos, and other essential markings on products and product packaging. 

These applied images and texts are valuable for a number of reasons that vary based on the industry. For instance, those in the pharmaceutical industry must apply traceable codes on their products in order to comply with rules set by the FDA. In the food industry, markings like expiration dates, serial numbers, and barcodes are often required by both distributors and state governments for quality assurance and traceability purposes. Other fields like construction material production and automotive part manufacturing rely on codes to prevent counterfeiting and maintain accurate inventories. 

Although TIJ printers are often utilized for applying these product markings, they are not immune from the occasional performance issue. Below, we detail some of the most common thermal printer problems users experience as well as potential solutions to help maximize performance.

Troubleshooting Thermal Inkjet Printers

TIJ printers are valuable to many production and manufacturing facilities because of their portability, but they’re not always well-suited to some applications. Let’s dive deeper into four of the most prevalent TIJ problems and recommended fixes for ensuring optimal uptime.

1. Cartridges Expiring Quickly

You bought a TIJ cartridge and have been successfully marking your products, but then the cartridge runs out of ink well before you thought it would. The printer company claimed the cartridge would last longer, and now you’re concerned because TIJ cartridges aren’t cheap, especially if you’re buying OEM. Did the ink manufacturer rip you off?

Before jumping to the conclusion that you bought a faulty cartridge, it’s important to examine your printing habits. TIJ printers are versatile machines that can create everything from barcodes to company logos. If you are using your TIJ for ink-heavy applications, perhaps try changing fonts or lowering dpi to reduce ink consumption.

2. Print Quality Issues/Fragmented Codes

Printed traceable codes are only valuable when they’re clear enough to be read by the human eye and/or scanned by a label reader. If the codes come out fragmented or distorted, it can eliminate traceability functions and void code compliance. This can cause a number of problems, including distribution disturbances, inventory problems, and even fines for the offending party. 

Print quality issues can come from a variety of sources. For example, the ink formula may not be compatible with the substrate, environmental factors may be affecting drying time, the cartridge may have been stored improperly, or there may be dried ink on the printer’s nozzle. However, if you know that the formula is appropriate and well-stored, environmental issues aren’t a problem, and the printer is in good condition, the issue could be due to line specifics.

To determine if this is the problem, examine the speeds of your printer and conveyor. If these two speeds aren't the same, the cartridge may not be able to refill quickly enough for proper code application. If this still doesn’t solve the problem, expert maintenance may be in order. 

3. Printer Won’t Recognize the Product

Whereas fragmented codes can be caused by a number of problems, it’s often much easier to fix a printer that simply isn’t recognizing a product. Like other industrial printers, TIJ systems rely on triggers and sensors to recognize the presence of a product. If these electronics aren’t functioning properly, the printer won’t begin the marking process. 

More often than not, fixing the triggers and sensors (or possibly adding a photo eye/similar vision system element) can solve this problem. 

4. Chronic Overheating

Overheating is an issue that occurs in a few different ways that all equal excessive downtime. When temperatures rise above a TIJ’s operating range, not only can it ruin the ink’s consistency and negatively affect drying times, but it can also adversely affect the machine’s components through:

  • Accelerated printhead deterioration.
  • Memory dumps.
  • Sudden screen blackening.
  • Failed boards.

To prevent overheating from occurring, measures need to be taken to lower the overall temperature of the facility, or a TIJ model that better fits the workspace needs to be purchased. Common heat control methods include:

  • Increasing fan velocities to improve AC performance.
  • Introducing dehumidifiers.
  • Using reflective barriers of heat-absorbing shields in strategic areas.

For those already using similar measures, exploring today’s heavy-duty industrial inkjet printers may be the best solution. 

Need More Info on Common Thermal Printer Problems? Stay Up-to-Date By Signing Up for the C&M Digest Newsletter

Although TIJ printers are often prized for their reliability, they still run into the occasional problem. While we have profiled four of the most common thermal printer issues in this article, there are still several ways that TIJ users can optimize their machines for maximum performance. The C&M Digest newsletter makes it easier than ever to learn about coding technologies.

Want to learn more about common thermal printer problems? Stay connected with C&M Digest by subscribing to our newsletter. With information on hardware, formulas, and other important marking topics, our newsletter will keep you updated on the latest industry developments. To get in touch with us about possible collaborations or ideas for coverage, contact us today.

C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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