Maintaining Your Thermal Transfer Printer

on 04/03/2017

Repairing or replacing your Thermal Transfer Printer can be a costly expenditure that, in many cases, could have been mitigated if only the equipment and media had been handled properly. Taking simple steps to ensure your printer is operating correctly can prolong its life and save you from significant cost. The following steps require only minimal effort, and can be easily adopted for your business training requirements:

What you’ll need:

  • Isopropyl Alcohol
  • Lint-Free Wipe
  • Can of Compressed Air

Be sure your thermal transfer printer is powered off before you attempt any maintenance or cleaning.

Clean Buildup on Platen and Printhead Often

The most expensive component of your thermal transfer printer is the printhead, which also happens to be quite fragile. If left uncleaned after long periods of use, dust accumulation and carbon buildup can scratch the glass of the printhead. Even a small scratch will cause your print quality to suffer, and it could even become necessary to replace the print head altogether.

To maximize the lifespan of your printer, make sure to clean your print head regularly- ideally every time the thermal transfer ribbon is replaced. Use Isopropyl alcohol and a lint-free rag to gently wipe the printhead clean of build up, taking special care not to touch the glass directly. Apply medium pressure while wiping. Be sure to allow it to dry, and then reassemble and continue operation. This is a simple maintenance task that can be easily added to your thermal transfer ribbon replacement procedure.

It is strongly recommended that you also clean the Platen, which is the rubber roller that feeds the media through the printer. This is an often overlooked area where carbon buildup can accumulate, so make it a habit to wipe this down as well when you clean the printhead.

Adjust the Printhead Pressure & Darkness Settings

People commonly make the mistake of leaving their thermal transfer printer on its darkest print setting. This setting produces the highest amount of heat and pressure, and it will wear out your print head prematurely if the printer is in regular use. It is worth taking the time to check the manufacturer's recommended settings to ensure your printer is set properly for the jobs it is used for.

Use Labels and Media Designed for Your Printer

If your print quality is suffering, your print head could be operating incorrectly. One cause could be that the media is not fitting snugly. Always use label rolls designed for use with your specific printer model. Trying to use generic or ‘close-enough fit’ options can cause problems that will interrupt your business operations, and could even damage the fragile internal components of your thermal transfer printer.

Furthermore, be sure that all label rolls are stored correctly. An open box of rolls that sits untouched for long periods of time can become very dirty, and loading these dirty rolls into your printer will likely lead to problems. Store all rolls in closed boxes and inspect each roll before it is loaded into your thermal transfer printer to make sure it is clean from dirt & accumulation. A can of compressed air can be very useful for keeping the inner components of your printer clean from dust brought in by dirty media or ribbon.

When loading thermal transfer ribbon in your printer, apply pressure to the center of the roll near the core, rather than to the outsides. This will prevent your roll from becoming ‘telescoped,’ or misaligned, which causes feed jams.


Taking the time to keep your equipment in top shape is well worth it. We at LLT Labels know the value of smooth business operations, which is why we’ve been offering labeling and barcode solutions to suit any business need for nearly twenty years.

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