A thermal printer used for printing barcodes applies heat to produce images. Whether you’re using a direct thermal or thermal transfer method, both printer types rely on a print head as the heat source. If the print head doesn’t work correctly, the print quality suffers.


  1. CLEAN PRINTHEAD REGULARLY

    A good rule of thumb is to clean the print head on your thermal printer every time you change the roll of labels or the thermal transfer ribbon.

  2. USE QUALITY MEDIA

    Use the labels (including the adhesive) recommended for your printer. Not only will the choice produce higher quality barcodes, but it will also allow you to run the thermal printer at a lower energy setting, which preserves the print head’s life. In addition, lesser quality media can deposit dust and debris that will scratch or abrade the protective coating over the heating elements.

  3. CLEAN THE PLATEN ROLLER

    Dust from the paper can build up on both the platen and print head in your thermal printer. Periodically clean the platen by carefully wiping it with a lint-free cloth treated with isopropyl alcohol.

  4. SET THE PRINT HEAD PRESSURE CORRECTLY

    Follow the darkness and pressure settings recommended by the manufacturer if you have a thermal printer with adjustable settings. Do not automatically set it on the darkest setting because the higher heat causes premature print element failure and the highest pressure puts more friction on the print head, which also causes premature wear.

  5. USE THE PRINT SPEED YOU NEED

    If you don’t need your thermal printer to run at its maximum speed, lower the setting and match it to the recommended speed for the media you’re using.

  6. COVER THE PRINTER WHEN NOT IN USE

    You can protect the print head from exposure to dust and possible contaminants by placing a protective cover over the thermal printer whenever you’re not printing with it.

  7. DON’T TOUCH THE PRINT HEAD ELEMENT SURFACE

    This area is very sensitive and can be easily contaminated. Don’t reach in and handle the surface of the print head. When cleaning it, follow the manufacturer’s instructions, which include removing any jewelry that could scratch the print head and using a grounding strap to prevents static electricity from contacting the part.

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