Maintaining your barcode printer adequately ensures your investment will last as long as possible. Use these tips for extending the life of your barcode printer. A little prevention will save you from work stoppages and reductions in efficiency from a broken printer. If you haven’t been keeping up your equipment, there’s no better time than now to start.
Types of Barcode Printers
Barcode printers fall into two categories — thermal transfer and direct thermal. Heat produces a more precise, sharper image than printing an image with traditional printer ink. Barcodes, which rely on the width of bars, require extra clarity and more defined edges. The type of barcode printer you have will affect how you maintain it. Understanding what makes your printer different will help you better care for it.
1. Thermal Transfer
Thermal transfer printers use ribbons to put the barcode on the media. Because these rely on heat to transfer the ink from the ribbon, these models require regular ribbon changes. But the images are longer lasting and not as susceptible to fading as direct thermal products. If you need long-lasting results, use a thermal transfer printer. Because the ink creates the image instead of the label, media used with thermal transfer printers are more flexible than direct thermal.
2. Direct Thermal
Direct thermal printers use heat-activated media that reacts to the printer to create the image. This type does not require ribbons, ink or toner, but it does need particular media. You must use labels that react appropriately to the heat of the printer. While these types of printers cost less to use compared to thermal transfer and even office inkjet printers, the media used is more restricted. Often mobile barcode printers use direct thermal technology for the ease of use and lack of extra parts.
Importance of Maintaining Your Printer
If you rely on barcodes in your business, having your printers on site will make your job easier. Whether you own a compact, desktop printer or an industrial type, you need to keep up with cleaning it to prevent breakdowns. The parts and the printer also play roles in how you maintain the device and how long it will last. Doing regular maintenance to keep the printer running in top condition can reduce how often the unit breaks down while raising the length of time before you must purchase a replacement.
Tips for Extending the Life of a Barcode Scanner
You have several ways to extend how long your barcode printers will last. Your printer choice and maintaining the equipment are vital factors. If you don’t choose the right electronics for your work and keep them cleaned and cared for, you could end up paying for new devices. Here’s what you need to do to keep your barcode printer creating images efficiently for years.
1. Choose the Right Printer
The first way to extend your printer’s life happens before your purchase. Select an appropriate printer for your workload and environment. Choosing the wrong device could overwork it, causing premature wear. You will also not get the production you need from the wrong model. You need to know your options before you finalize your purchase because there are many factors to consider when choosing a barcode printer.
- Mobile Printers: If you need portability over everything, portable printers are a wearable option you can take with you. These devices allow barcode production in the field, for immediate service. Many mobile printers are direct thermal, requiring unique labels for printing.
- Desktop Printers: With a desktop model, you can print out barcodes you need for an office a few at a time. Commercial models have higher productivity than those offered for consumer home use. But if you need the highest production level, consider an industrial design.
- Industrial Printers: For large-scale production of barcodes, you’ll need an industrial model. These are designed for heavy-duty use and high output.
- Kiosk Printers: Part of a larger kiosk, these printers are designed for heavy customer use. With self-service in mind throughout their design, these printers produce everything from tickets to tags for luggage and more.
- Custom Printers: Sometimes, standard models will not suffice. You may need to print barcoded identification cards or RFID-embedded devices. Customized barcode printers will fulfill these needs.
2. Select the Correct Media
Putting quality labels into your machine can help it to last longer. By choosing the right media, you could extend the life of your device. Select media designed for use with your printer’s brand. Some low-end labels could deposit dust into the system, reducing the printer’s lifespan.
Another reason to select the barcode labels designed for the printer is to ensure quality results. The wrong or cheap labels could slip through the printer, causing streaking or a poor finish. Always check the manufacturer’s recommendation for the media brands and type you should use in the printer.
With cheaper labels, the coarser texture of the less refined paper can actually wear out the printheads on a direct thermal printer faster. By compromising on the label quality, you could end up having to purchase more printheads. Though these will occasionally need to be replaced throughout the printer’s life, you don’t want to have to purchase them more often than necessary. Printheads are pricey, especially compared to the cost of quality labels. It’s much cheaper to buy better labels than to purchase more printheads.
3. Clean the Printer Regularly
Depending on where you keep the printer, you may need to clean it daily. Industrial printers or mobile units in very dusty areas benefit from a spray of canned air once a day. Devices kept in offices may only require cleaning when replacing the labels or ribbon. Ideally, you’ll clean the unit every other ribbon change, but if this becomes too difficult to remember, clean every time you change the ribbon.
Some printers keep track of when to initiate cleaning of the device. If your model has a sensor, don’t ignore it. Clean the printer promptly when the device alerts you. Delaying cleaning may cause damage to the printer. After cleaning, reset the cleaning alarm to ensure accuracy.
Anytime you clean, always use a lint-free cleaning cloth to wipe dust from the exterior. Use either a vacuum, canned air or artist’s brushes to gently remove dirt from the interior. For specific procedures, carefully follow the manufacturer’s directions for keeping the printheads and rollers maintained. Consult the owner’s manual for your model because exact cleaning procedures may differ among brands and printer types.
When cleaning your barcode printer, pay careful attention to the sensors. The sensors have several jobs, without which your printer won’t work as well. These measuring tools are the means the printer uses to keep track of its operation. Sensors detect where the labels are, when to print on the labels, how much time until the next cleaning and how the printer is running.
The batteries in your mobile printers will not last forever. Operating conditions can affect battery life as can usage. Daily, heavy recharging and printer use will shorten the life of the battery inside. Charge the battery when needed, but over time, the maximum charge will decrease. Once the battery reaches 70 to 80 percent of its original capacity, it’s time for a replacement. You will typically reach this level after 300 to 500 charging cycles, but other factors could affect this.
The environment is critical to the battery’s lifespan. Storing batteries above 140 degrees Fahrenheit can cause the battery life can drop. If you use the mobile barcode printer in temperatures below freezing, the battery’s efficiency could be reduced by up to 60 percent. Ideally, keep the portable printers and batteries between 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
Even unused batteries need attention. Stored, unused batteries may lose their efficiency after a year. Zebra recommends replacing any batteries that have been unused for 12 months and charging lithium-ion batteries once every six months even when not in use.
Aged batteries or those that require a recharge may cause the printer to unexpectedly shut down. The quality of barcodes printed may reduce, or the device may take longer to create the final product. Before jumping to ship off your mobile unit for repairs, try the machine again with a fully charged battery. In some cases, you could save yourself the loss of using your printer for several days by replacing a worn battery. If a new battery does not solve the problem, consider sending your printer to us for service.
Change Settings With Caution
The darkness settings are determined at the factory for the best balance between darkness and longevity. Changing these settings can wear out the ribbon prematurely. For specific designs that require slightly darker barcodes, change the darkness settings for that project only in the menu and not on the printheads.
Barcodes have precise forms with little need to change the darkness setting. If you notice labels have lighter results than you’ve been getting, it’s time for a new ribbon if you have a thermal transfer printer. For direct thermal models, you may need to check if the labels were stored improperly. If you’re using new labels and the images are still too light, it’s time to have your printer serviced.
The media guide controls the movement of the label as it passes through the printer. You can change this setting based on the thickness of the labels, but don’t adjust it if you use the same media in the printer all the time. It needs to lie close to the media to prevent the labels from bunching, slipping or jamming. Adjust the media guide until it just touches the printing surface. Proper adjustment of the media guide will ensure longevity by preventing damage to the interior of the printer caused by misfed labels.
Increasing the speed too much can wear out the parts. Change the pace of the unit with caution. When the paper moves through faster, the results may appear lighter and less defined. Additionally, the speedier motion wears the moving parts inside the unit. Changing from the factory settings is likely to reduce the longevity of your barcode printer.
6. Update Software
Because printers rely on both hardware and software, part of the maintenance process is regularly checking for software updates. For desktop models that connect to your printer, you may need more regular software updates. Software changes may be required when your computer’s operating system changes.
Some software will update automatically, but you may need to manually check for the latest version if you newly purchase a printer. Check the manufacturer’s website for software and any changes. Some printer brands require a log-in for access to software, such as Honeywell.
The latest software will help your printer to maximize its efficiency and increase its longevity. If you’ve had problems with your printer software, see if it is an older version. Before updating, though, make sure the newest iteration of the program will operate with your computer’s specs. Check with your IT department or contact your printer service provider if you require help with the software or your printer.
7. Schedule Repairs Promptly
If you need repairs of your barcode printer, schedule professional service or part replacement as soon as you can. To avoid the need to ship off your printer for unscheduled fixes, consider signing up for a regular maintenance plan. Such plans can help keep your equipment maintained by experts with little effort from you.
When you have your barcode printer repaired by a third party, consult with the repair technician to see how your warranty will be affected. If you have us fix your printer, we’ll connect with the manufacturer to see if your warranty covers the repair.
Decide if you need on-site repairs or maintenance or if you can afford to send your printer off to be fixed. We offer both services to provide our customers the peace of mind they need. At DBK Concepts, we want you to focus on running your business, not keeping up with your printer. Let us handle the repairs.
Need Help With Your Printer?
Barcode printers are the heart of many business operations. If you use these devices regularly, you’ll need to keep them well cared for to ensure they continue to produce dark, clear barcodes every time. Without appropriate care, you’ll see a degrading of the print quality from the machine. A little maintenance can keep your system working at its peak. Part of that care includes knowing who to contact if you need assistance with your barcode printer. At DBK Concepts, we’re here to help you with all your barcode printer needs.
Whether you need help with repairs or want to purchase a new barcode printer, we have you covered. You need a barcode printer with the support and name you know and trust. That’s why we sell well-established brands like Zebra and Honeywell. In addition to brand-name printers for desktops, industrial uses and mobile use, we also can customize your printer to your needs. Contact us at DBK Concepts for our barcode printer offerings, service and much more.