Barcode label printer dead? What can you do?

  • By ericjgough
  • 10 Sep, 2015

You run a very efficient operation. Your manufacturing operation is running effectively and production is on-time. Or, you run a high volume shipping operation with hundreds or thousands of items being shipped every day. You have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on machines, conveyors, computers and various other systems to ensure that everything is running on schedule.

Then, all of a sudden your barcode label printer is dead. You reach for a spare, and to your horror, you find that someone has forgotten to get the spare fixed the last time it went down. Now what? Production may stop, shipments can’t go out, and management is screaming.

No one thinks much of label printers (unless they go down), but they are often the weakest link in the total supply chain system within an organization. These small compact printers can cause major problems in any company. You may not have thought of it before, but barcode label printers need as much on-going service attention as a production machine, an automated conveyor system, or even a lift-truck. However, they rarely get that type of attention.

To help you keep your barcode label printers from going dead and keep them running at top efficiency at all times and avoid extra downtime, MIDCOM Service Group has compiled a list of suggestions that, when implemented, may help reduce your outages considerably.

Why would a printer repair company try to help people avoid expensive service calls? Because we have always built our business by earning the trust of our clients and giving them the proper advice. If our customers can’t correct an outage on their printer themselves or with our assistance over the phone, they know firsthand that they can trust us to repair it. We have found that our business has grown exponentially over the years with this business philosophy.

So here are some real-world ideas for you on keeping your thermal barcode label printers up and running.

One of the greatest failures occurring in thermal barcode label printers is due to the printheads not being cleaned regularly. A good rule of thumb is to clean the printhead on each of your thermal printers every time you replace a ribbon or roll of paper. Follow the instructions in your manufacturer’s user’s manual as to the type of solvent to be used. Most printers will recommend isoprene alcohol swabs to clean the printhead.

Another regular cleaning recommendation on thermal printers is the platen roller. Wax can build up on the platen rollers causing improper printing of barcodes.

A third area that can cause major service issues is dust residing on the media sensor. This is the mechanism that ensures that the gap between the paper and the printhead remains constant. Most people purchase a bottle of “canned air” and simply give the media sensor a few quick blasts of air, which usually will clear out any dust residue left over from the roll paper. You should consider doing this regularly, every time you change the ribbon or a roll of paper. It will only take a few seconds and it will ensure more up-time.

If you are using a ribbon in your thermal printer, be sure that it is good quality ribbon. Many lower cost ribbons are not manufactured to the exact wax and/or resin specifications of your printer, and could cause a wax build-up on the platen. Wax build-up can cause poor print quality resulting in barcode reliability issues.

If you are using a thermal printer that does not use a ribbon (typically called a Direct Thermal Printer vs. a Thermal Transfer Printer that does use ribbons), and if you are constantly having problems with defective printheads, you may want to consider either changing your printer to a Thermal Transfer Printer or using a better quality of paper. A Thermal Transfer Printer, due to the ribbon, greatly extends the life of printheads in that the paper is not directly rubbing against the printhead itself. Less direct friction means fewer failures.

A good rule of thumb, when purchasing new ribbons on thermal transfer printers, is to purchase a ribbon that is slightly wider than the actual labels that you are using. For instance, if the label that you are using is 4.1” in width, then you may want to consider purchasing ribbons that are 4.33” in width. This extra width will help keep more lubricant on the printhead and may help extend printhead life.

Be sure that you are not using low grade label paper if you are using Direct Thermal Printers. Often bargain priced rolls of paper are really not a “bargain”.  Why? Because low grade paper often is coarser and can cause more wear on the printheads. We have seen situations with even as high as 50% more wear on the printhead. As you know, printheads in thermal printers are expensive, sometimes running as much as $650.00 each. It may make sense to pay a little more for the paper, as it is a fraction of the cost compared to replacing printheads more often.

If you or your customers are experiencing an unusually high rate of barcode read failures, and you cannot figure out why, here is another place to investigate. This is something you typically would not even think about. These failures can be due to the barcode being scratched in either the handling of the item that it is attached to, or during the actual shipment of the item. Certain formulations of wax and or wax/resin used on various labels, when coupled with certain grades of paper, will not allow the barcode information to actually adhere securely to the label. When this occurs, the slightest scratch or even another item rubbing against the label could cause parts of the barcode to rub-off.

If you suspect this could be your problem with poor barcode reads, you should contact us immediately. We can analyze your actual labels with a special electronic meter that will determine the actual adherence properties of the wax and/or resin “resiliency” to the label. You would be surprised how many issues we have been able to solve for our customers with this free test. MIDCOM has often been able to save them thousands of dollars in penalty fees paid to their vendors for having non-compliant and non-readable barcodes.

If you use the same paper stock in your printer, a term known as “calibration” probably will not be an issue. However, if you are using different types of paper stock and are having print quality issues, you may want to refer to your user’s manual and follow the instructions on how to “recalibrate” your printer.

Another area that can cause service issues with thermal printers is if the printer has a cutter option. You may want to check out your user’s manual to see how they suggest that you perform your own PM on this option. Dust and residue typically build up on the cutter. However, with a few simple swipes of a cloth, you may be able to save yourself downtime and the expense of having to call a service vendor.

If you feel you are burning out printheads too often, you may want to check your user’s manual for the recommended heat and darkness settings for the printhead. An incorrect setting often will reduce the printhead life.

Should a problem arise and you cannot correct it yourself using some of the ideas presented above, please seriously consider a call to the MIDCOM Service Group. For twenty-five years plus we have been helping companies throughout North America with affordable and reliable service. We have many different types of service plans including our fast Time & Material Service Express, our low-cost Annual Service Contracts, and/or our fast-turn-around Depot Repair. Many of our clients utilize a combination of our services. I should also mention that even if you only have a “not so serious” printing issue, you can also give us a call. We would be glad to discuss with you, at no charge, some possible solutions. As you can see from the list above, your problem may be a simple issue or a complex problem, including the printer itself or in combination with the types of media (paper and ribbons) that are being used. With any more questions you can always call MIDCOM at (800) 643-2664 or chat us up on   Facebook , Twitter ,   Google+   and   LinkedIn !

By ericjgough 18 Dec, 2017

Initially used for the core purpose of labeling train cars as well as in grocery checkouts, barcode technology has made tremendous progress in the last few years.

Today, the ubiquitous barcode has been integrated into our collective and mainstream lives. As a matter of fact, almost every product that we purchase in a ‘mom and pop’ store, department or even a mass merchandising outlet carries its own unique UPC barcode. This is precisely why it is now clear that this particular technology works, and works well indeed. And it is almost axiomatic to assume that it will continue to do so far out into the future as well.

Currently, even personal documents such as driving and arms licenses and passports all over the world have their own unique bar code system. Apart from that, some of the most significant applications for barcode technology can be found in the manufacturing sector. Let us take a look at how the world of high technology manufacturing is changing due to the ever-increasing use of bar codes.

Weapons technology

Very few manufacturing sectors depend on bar codes as much as top end weapons making concerns. This is due to the vast security challenges involved in keeping such lethal technology from the wrong hands. Most individual components are bar coded and their information digitalized so that it would be difficult to steal or pilfer in any way.

Public health devices

Today, more and more people are using wearable devices to monitor their health. In fact, with a global surge in the geriatric population, it is all the more important for healthcare providers to be able to act swiftly and accurately since the increasing number of aging population and elderly hospital patients require swift and timely medical aid. This is why most monitoring devices today, are equipped with bar codes to prevent any transcription related mistakes when cataloging or utilizing patient data and health records. This is why many companies that provide such monitoring products deem it prudent to include easily readable bar codes as well.

Electronic equipment manufacturing

Real-time inventory management solution is the key to success in the manufacturing concerns of today and tomorrow’s world. Such bar coding would enable these companies to quickly take stock of their inventories and order the parts that need replacement so as to ensure that the shelves of the showrooms are never empty.

For more information about options for all your thermal label printer , labeling and barcode scanning needs, call us at  (800) 643-2664 and immediately talk to one of our friendly representatives; or chat us up on Facebook , Twitter , Google+ and LinkedIn !

Keep your barcode scanners running!  Download our FREE maintenance eBook now. click here
By ericjgough 10 Jul, 2017

Barcode scanners are an essential must if you are looking to optimize your business practices regarding inventory management. Barcode scanners can make inventory taking a much easier task. If you don’t need them all the time, then renting barcode scanners when you do can be a smart decision.

Some of the most common reasons to rent are:

  • During peak seasons
  • Doing quarterly, semi-annual, or annual inventory
  • Equipment is being maintenanced
  • Special events

Barcode scanners provide the following benefits:

·        more accurate results

·        improve speed of process

·        cost savings

Benefits outlined:

1)    Provides Accurate Results:

·        Counting by hand instead of scanners can provide errors and inaccuracies. Barcode scanners guarantee reliable results. It is crucial for fiscal responsibility to have an accurate account of your inventory and stock levels and know exactly what products are on hand, allowing you to make better decisions when ordering and allocation of available resources.


2)    Provides Faster Process:

·        Using barcode scanners cuts down on the amount of time required to do inventory compared to manually counting inventory.


3)     Provides Cost Savings:

·        When it takes less time and people to count inventory with barcode scanners , there is a savings in the amount of money spent on labor costs.

For more information on barcode scanner rental and to learn more about your options for all your thermal label printer , labeling and barcode scanning needs, call us at  (800) 643-2664 and immediately talk to one of our friendly representatives; or chat us up on Facebook , Twitter , Google+ and LinkedIn !

By ericjgough 04 May, 2017

Line matrix printers are the true and steady, reliable old friend. They tend to get overlooked and forgotten to the new and cooler laser printers on the market. However, they shouldn’t.

Below are 7 reasons why. The following are advantages that line matrix printers can provide you, especially for those of you that print high volume of multi-part forms and barcode labels.

By ericjgough 12 Apr, 2017

Dot matrix printers are the true and steady, reliable old friend. They tend to get overlooked and forgotten to the new and cooler laser and thermal printers on the market.  However, they shouldn’t. Below is a summary highlighting both the advantages and disadvantages dot matrix printers offer.

By ericjgough 14 Feb, 2017
Hi-tech manufacturing is extremely complex and ever evolving. Technology changes at the speed of light these days and so hi-tech producers need their systems to be able to keep up with the production requirements accordingly within its infrastructure. Selling shelf life and design cycles are now averaging a mere 12-18 months at most. And with every new design or product enhancement, there is a need at that production level to modify and factor in the changes in the product manufacturing process.

All these products have a wide array of small parts and components that amalgamate together to create the new products. High amounts of detail on each of the components are required to begin at the point-of-assembly. This is needed in order to meet the demands to protect brand image and provide higher levels of customer service in regards to quality effective replacement service, as well as have a comprehensive understanding of what is impacting product failure rates and service issues.

Every part and component needs to be defined and identified in a database with its serial number and date of manufacture, during its entire product lifecycle -- so it can tracked and traced for access within the production and distribution systems, and then by field service techs and customers if repair or warranty, or product recall issues arise. It is impossible to provide effective customer service without it. Simply put … unhappy customers cause decreased demand, causing poor sales and a diminished brand image.

For the manufacturer, when components are traceable, data is readily available to pinpoint fall-out rates early in the cycle. Thus, making it easier to adjust production output levels and have the right inventory on hand to meet the timely demands for hot swaps and swap-outs to reflect in-service life, and warranty stock, and service and replacement, and non-serviceable parts.

By ericjgough 30 Jan, 2017
Real time data equals greater visibility. So very true especially in transportation and logistics.  Logistics is all about providing efficient, timely service to keep your customers up and running.

Providing and maintaining service levels and operational efficiencies in this extremely competitive market is paramount. Being able to provide real-time analytics for efficient tracking and tracing of shipped products enhances customer service and thus improving customer loyalty and maintain and grow business levels.

Visibility utilizing mobile barcode scanners, printers and tablet computers and provides you a vantage point into every area of your transportation operation, allowing to proactively maintain your fleet, track drivers and shipments instantly, improve turnaround times and more.

Overview of Benefits Real-Time Data can provide :

By ericjgough 04 Jan, 2017

Laser printers come in a wide variety of sizes and features. From monochrome (1-colour, black), colour and multi-function (MFD) all-in-one copy/scan/fax printers with high speed and high dpi print resolutions, and advanced NFC technology, wi-fi connectivity, there are a vast number of brands and models on the market to choose from, such as HP, Lexmark, Dell, Epson, Samsung and Brother, to name a few.

Laser printers are mainly used in business office settings and home computing use. Examples of what can be printed are documents, letters, spreadsheets, presentations, stationary, labels, flyers and brochures. Monochrome laser printers only print black text. Color laser printers add color to the process by using four toners: black, magenta, cyan and yellow. Large format printers are those that can print sizes larger than 8 by 11. Large format laser printers may be monochrome or color, and are used to print posters, signs and billboards. Laser printers with high resolution (high dpi (dots per inch)) provide clear, sharp and crisp graphics.

By ericjgough 06 Sep, 2016

Looking for speed? Look no further. TSC’s MX240P barcode label printer offers that and more. The TSC MX240P   is the fastest industrial thermal transfer barcode printer on the market for high volume enterprise applications, including WIP, compliance labeling and asset management, to name a few.  

Below is a summary of its top features and benefits, as well as a list of the applications well suited for the TSC MX240P :

·        536 MHz processor, with 512 MB Flash and 512 MB SDRAM memory

·        provides print speed of up to 18ips

·        yields cleanest, high quality barcodes with its thermal smart control print technology

·        rugged design with heavy duty die-cast aluminum

·        4.3” color LCD with the new UI design including 6-button menus and touch panel operation

·        provides precise media positioning and preprinted label identification

·        ribbon capacity of 600 meters

·        3 Resolutions to choose from - 203dpi, 300dpi or 600dpi

·        Plug-n- play capabilities with TSPL-EZ firmware

·        USB host interface for stand-alone application

·        auto TPH resolution switch detection

·        energy efficient with its ENERGY STAR* qualification

Key Applications of the TSC MX240P :

·        High Volume Printing

·        Work In Process

·        Compliance Labeling

·        Asset Management

·        Shipping and Receiving

·        Inventory Management

·        Electronics Labeling

·        Jewelry Labeling

By ericjgough 09 Aug, 2016

For those of you with HP DesignJet products in use and in the field, did you know about UPD? If not, keep reading as it can save you money and time in many areas.

This Universal Print Driver (UPD) includes 2 drivers (HP-GL/2 and PostScript) and is touted as eliminating many of the management hassles and high costs associated with multiple print drivers.

Key Benefits:

   ·        supports a wide range of HP DesignJet printers (see list below)

   ·        provides IT departments with greater control and effectiveness, and end-user productivity

   ·        reduces printer-related costs (fleet management, integration, installation, updates, maintenance, helpdesk related, etc.)

   ·        streamlines printer deployment and management

   ·        Client operating systems supported: Microsoft Windows 8, Pro, Enterprise; 32 and 64 bit Microsoft Windows 7 Starter, Home Premium, Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate; 32 and 64 bit

   ·        Server operating systems supported: Windows Server 2012R2, Windows Server 2012, Microsoft Windows Server 2008R2, Microsoft Windows Server 2008

Qualifying Models:

   ·        HP DesignJet T120 Printer

   ·        HP DesignJet T520 Printer series

   ·        HP DesignJet T790 Printer series

   ·        HP DesignJet T795 Printer

   ·        HP DesignJet T9230 Printer series

   ·        HP DesignJet T1300 PostScript Printer

   ·        HP DesignJet T1530 Printer series

   ·        HP DesignJet T2300 Multifunction Printer

   ·        HP DesignJet T2530 Multifunction Printer series

   ·        HP DesignJet T3500 Production MFP

   ·        HP DesignJet T7100 Printer

   ·        HP DesignJet T7200 Production Printer

   ·        HP DesignJet Z5400 PostScript Printer

   ·        HP DesignJet Z6200 Photo Production Printer

   ·        HP DesignJet Z6600 Production Printer

   ·        HP DesignJet Z6800 Photo Production Printer

If interested, below is the link to download*:

For HP DesignJet repair and other barcode labeling solutions or all your printer and labeling equipment needs, call us as (800) 643-2664 and immediately talk to one of our friendly representatives; or chat us up on Facebook , Twitter , Google+ and LinkedIn !

Keep you HP DesignJet printers running!  Download eBook now. click here
By ericjgough 26 Jul, 2016
Thermal printheads are a vital part and extremely sensitive and expensive. Important care and maintenance is important to the optimal functioning.

Below are a collection of questions and answers to help provide you with information and direction to follow to get the most out of your printheads :

1. Why is preserving the printhead life important?

  • save money as printheads are very expensive
  • reduce poor print quality and marginally scannable bar codes, due to worn out printheads

2. What causes wear to the printhead ?

  • friction
  • prolonged use at high printhead energies (i.e. heat)
  • excessive buildup or ink residue on the printhead
  • misuse or abuse by the operator

3. What protects the printhead from abrasion?

  • a thin, hard coating over the heating elements protect them from abrasion while providing efficient heat transfer
  • the ribbon also protects the printhead from abrasion damage. It is separates the printhead from the printing substrate to shield it from abrasive movements, and also has a lubricated backcoat that allows it to flow smoothly over the printhead

4. What causes abrasive damage to printheads ?

  • when a label or tag stock is wider than the ribbon (which causes the media on either side of the ribbon’s edges passes directly over the printhead ).
  • using a ribbon with an ineffective backcoat
  • using inappropriate media for thermal transfer
  • improper cleaning of the printhead
  • some ribbons with backcoats specially formulated to clean the printhead

5. How can abrasive damage be recognized?

  • the first sign is usually a decrease in image quality
  • also can be failure of one or more heating elements, which shows as a “white line” through the printed image where the printhead no longer has the ability to transfer ink

6. Do quality ribbons require lower energy settings?

  • yes, a ribbon and substrate combination that is matched for optimum print quality at the lowest energy settings can extend printhead life

7. What is "Printhead Buildup"?

  • buildup is the accumulation of deposits of ink, ribbon backcoat, paper particles, label adhesive, dust, dirt, etc. over time

8. When does printhead buildup become a problem?

  • buildup becomes a problem when maintenance guidelines are not followed and print quality results
  • any deposit on the printhead , if not removed regularly, can insulate the heating elements from the ribbon and thus require printing at higher energy settings, which can ultimately shorten printhead life
  • burned-out pixels in the printhead result in unscannable bar codes

9. How to prevent buildup from becoming a problem?

  • purchase a good quality ribbon and printing substrate
  • minimize the accumulation of dust by keeping the printer cover closed
  • follow the OEM’s recommended operating, maintenance, and printhead cleaning schedule

10. How long will a printhead last if the best possible ribbons are used?

  • this will depend on the printhead design and other factors such as printer speed, energy settings, static, substrate, and ribbon quality
  • a good ribbon should be guaranteed not to cause significant degradation due to buildup or abrasion throughout the printhead’s rated life
  • the industry standard is that the printhead should last for one million linear inches of use

Be sure to keep these answers and tips handy for quick reference. For more information on printheads and to learn more about your options for all your printer, labeling and barcode printing and scanning needs, call us at (800) 643-2664 and immediately talk to one of our friendly representatives; or chat us up on Facebook , Twitter , Google+ and LinkedIn !

Keep your thermal label printers running!  Download our   FREE thermal label printer maintenance eBook   now.   click here

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