December 14, 2021 

Dust-Clogged Printhead: How To Overcompensate for Environmental Factors

Excessive heat, freezing temperatures, and high humidity can lead to dust-clogged printheads and hardware issues. These methods can protect your printer.

Industrial worksites can be home to some truly challenging environmental conditions. Excessive heat, freezing temperatures, and high humidity are all commonly found in facilities that perform pharmaceutical packaging, food processing, beverage bottling, and consumer product manufacturing. For those who need to perform product coding, these conditions are especially tough to deal with. Not only can issues like extreme temperatures negatively impact code quality, but they can also cause lasting damage to marking hardware. This is especially true when it comes to dust ingression. 

Dust and similar airborne particles can wreak havoc on marking equipment, particularly technologies that utilize printheads, such as continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers and thermal transfer overprinters (TTO). Dust-clogged printheads can cause coding mistakes and potentially lasting hardware damages.

Fortunately, there are many ways that companies can control dust presence as well as fortify their machines against airborne particle ingression. Here are some of the best ways to prevent dust problems from affecting your operation.

How to Fix Your Dust-Clogged Printhead

Before delving into specific strategies on how to control dust presence, let’s address the first problem at hand—how to fix your dust-clogged printhead. For this discussion, we will focus on two of the most common printheads used today, thermal transfer overprinter printheads and continuous inkjet piezoelectric printheads

Here’s how to clean the dust out of a TTO printhead:

  1. Shut off the printer and unplug its power cord.
  2. Move the printhead lever to the open position to reveal the media and ribbon.
  3. Carefully remove the media and ribbon without touching the printhead.
  4. Using soft breaths, blow away any dust particles clinging to the printhead.
  5. Lightly wipe the printhead down with a guaranteed-safe cleaning wipe. Be sure to perform this motion from end to end to collect all dust particles.
  6. Repeat step five as many times as necessary with new wipes until no dust particles are visibly present on the wipe.
  7. Wait 30 seconds until any solvent has evaporated and close the printhead.

If you’re experiencing problems with a CIJ piezo printhead, the cleaning process is similar, but with some notable differences. Follow these steps to clear your printhead from dust buildup:

  1. Shut off the printer and unplug its power cord.
  2. Unscrew the printhead’s sleeve to reveal the printhead.
  3. Place the printhead above a container to drain any excess liquid.
  4. Once the printhead runs dry, apply a cleaning solution to its surface, making sure to spray the printhead’s gutter, nozzle, electrodes, and deflector plate.
  5. Allow the printhead to dry for around one minute.
  6. Once the printhead is dry, apply a cleaning solution to the inside of the sleeve, set the sleeve back onto the printhead, and secure it into place.

How To Protect Your Printer from Dust and Airborne Particles

After you’ve removed the dust blockages from the printhead, to prevent clogs from reoccurring in the future, it’s important to take measures such as fortifying your printer against dust ingress or reducing the overall dust presence in your facility.

The simplest way to avoid a dust-clogged printhead is by simply using a printer built with ingress protection (IP). IP ratings apply to both solid particle ingress and liquid ingress. For complete protection against dust, you will want to buy a printer with an IP rating of 6, although printers with IP5 ratings will also be protected from any damage or code failure due to dust. 

If you don’t want to buy a new printer model, you can also take a few measures to protect your current machine from dust ingress. Consider:

Once you’ve determined the necessary measures to protect your printer, you can turn your attention to worksite dust control. 

How to Control the Dust Levels in Your Work Facility

Excessive workplace dust does more than just damage printing hardware. It can impair visibility, contribute to air pollution, and even damage the health of your employees. Fortunately, by implementing certain dust control methods in your facility, you can reduce dust presence and avoid these problems altogether.  

The best method is to consult an HVAC expert or a company that specializes in site-specific particulate extraction. All facilities are unique, so it’s important to understand your site’s intricacies from an informed point of view. By consulting with an expert, you can:

  • Identify the most problematic sources of dust on your site.
  • Install dust extraction systems to help purify the air.
  • Establish daily clean-up strategies that will keep the site as dust-free as possible.

With these steps, you can protect both your hardware and your employees, and as a result, improve productivity as well.

Want to learn more about dust-clogged printheads and other common workplace 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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