Post Date: June 12, 2024

Overcoming Poor Print Quality

smart card cartridgeOne of the major benefits for Thermal Inkjet (TIJ) is that all the printing components are held within the ink cartridge itself.  When you swap your old cartridge for a new one, you are effectively replacing the printhead.  This is why TIJ is a maintenance-free coding technology.

If the coder starts producing prints that are incomplete, poor quality or have lines going through them, it’s likely that there’s a problem with the printer or the printer’s settings.  There is a small chance that the cartridge is faulty, but it’s much more likely that adjustments need to be made to the printer or that the ink cartridge you’re using is damaged or needs to be cleaned.

How to clean the ink cartridge

If you cannot see any visible signs of damage to the cartridge, we always recommend cleaning the printhead, to see if that resolves the issues that you are experiencing.

cleaning cartridgeCleaning the printhead is something that should always be done if print quality deteriorates during printing or after an extended period of non-use.

To effectively clean the cartridge, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the ink cartridge from the coder.
  2. Hold the cartridge with the nozzle plate facing downwards.
  3. Using a lint-free cloth, slowly and without applying pressure, wipe across the nozzle plate in the direction of the arrow.
  4. Re-insert the cartridge in the coder.

Do not shake the ink cartridge!  Some white solvent inks CAN be shaken but consider asking your ink provider beforehand.

Printer positioning

Still no luck after cleaning the printhead? Check the positioning.

By definition, thermal inkjet is a non-contact printing technology, meaning the printhead does not need to touch the substrate in order to produce a print. However, the throw-distance is up to 5 mm (depending on line speed, material, etc). Anything more than this may cause the prints to be distorted or completely illegible. Ideally you want as little distance between the printhead and the product as possible, without restricting the product’s ability to pass through.

If your TIJ printer is producing fuzzy prints, check that it is positioned correctly. Does the quality improve if it is moved closer to the product?

Print intensity & A + B nozzle setting

The print intensity parameter on the coder adjusts how much ink is printed onto the product.  By having this set too high, too much ink is ejected and can cause the ink to bleed, particularly on very porous substrates, making the print appear blurry.

A lower intensity will reduce the amount of ink being ejected and should produce a clearer image. There’s a balance here though, as the less ink you use, the lighter the print is.

Also ensure that you are only printing from either nozzle A or B, not A + B. Using A + B means you are using both nozzles, ejecting twice as much ink.

Handling cartridges with care

Cartridges that are incorrectly inserted into the printer can damage the membrane. This breaks the circuit and subsequently prevents ink from being ejected. And, once the damage has occurred, there’s nothing that can be done other than replace the cartridge.

How to insert a TIJ ink cartridge – Tilt and Touch

Insert the ink cartridge at a 45-degree angle. Slide down onto the touch plate of the printer, pushing it backwards until a click is heard.