5 Tips to Maximize the Life of Your Thermal Printhead

5 Tips to Maximize the Life of Your Thermal Printhead

Label Printers | 31 October 2017

Posted by John Masica

5 Tips to Maximize the Life of Your Thermal Printhead

As the most critical and also most delicate component of the printer, the printhead requires consistent and proper care. Most print quality problems you face will directly result from damage to the printhead. Printheads are a consumable, so they aren’t meant to last forever, they will inevitably wear over periods of time. With proper care, however, extending the printhead life is possible and also enables your printer to provide more quality service.

Contrary to some users’ belief, maximizing the life of your printhead is possible. It does not take much, and will benefit you in various ways. By maintaining proper care of your printhead, you reduce replacement costs, as well as increase productivity.

Here are the 5 factors that most often contribute to premature printhead failure, plus our tips on how to avoid them:

Abrasive Wear

Abrasive wear of the printhead occurs due to friction regardless of materials used or maintenance performed, causing the printhead to fail. However, with proper care you can elongate the process. Below are some ways in which you can avoid abrasion.

  • Buildup of Paper Dust: Clean all paper dust buildup on the platen and printhead. If you are to brush or wipe the printhead and platen down, be sure to reference the printer user guide to ensure you are using proper materials.

  • Printhead Pressure: It is necessary to properly adjust toggles to your printer requirements. With proper adjustments of your pressure toggles, you are allowing the pressure to focus over the narrow media more efficiently. 


Contamination occurs when media contains or is introduced to abrasive substances that pass through the printhead evidently damaging the protective coating. Once the coating is damaged, the printhead fails. There are certain controllable factors to be conscious of to avoid contamination in your printhead.

  • Contaminated media: It is recommended that you consult with your media supplier and ensure that you have knowledge of the media you are utilizing with your printer.

  • Environment: Do your best to protect the media you are using from exposure to contaminants. Consider a protective enclosure for your printer if the location seems to be an issue.


If the substances in contact with your printhead become corrosive, they can generate caustic agents when heated, causing printhead failure due to damage to the printhead’s protective coating. There are certain factors to avoid in order to prevent corrosion.

  • Unapproved media: Consult with your media supplier if you suspect this to be your problem. This is often characterized by the flood coat area of the printhead rapidly failing.

  • Physically touching the printhead element surface: Try to avoid physically touching the printhead. If you feel it is necessary to, be sure to use correct materials to clean any surface afterwards with an approved cleaning solution before operating the printer.

  • Improper cleaning: Be sure to only use approved cleaning items for printhead cleaning. Printer user guides will supply proper cleaning instructions.

Electrostatic Discharge

Electrostatic discharge is a sudden flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects caused by contact, or an electric short. This is something to be attentive to as it can severely damage the internal electronic circuitry of a printhead. Some factors that could cause this issue are as follows:

  • Improper handling: Many printer’s user guides will provide proper instructions on how to care for your printer; this includes specifics on how to avoid electrostatic discharge.

  • Static buildup: It is recommended that you check to ensure that any static brushes (if applicable) and printhead mechanism wiring are properly secured so static buildup does not occur.

Residue Buildup

Residue buildup of ribbon coating or media coatings on the printhead can interfere with head transfer, causing the printhead to overheat and resulting in printhead failure. Residue buildup can be a direct result of the following:

  • Improper maintenance: We recommend that you pay close attention to the user’s guide instructions on how to clean and maintain your printer. Be sure to only use proper cleaning accessories.

  • Excessive darkness settings: We recommend that you use a slower speed for your printer. Doing this extends the life of your printhead while providing better quality.


We recommend that you pay close attention to how to properly maintain your thermal printhead. These tips for preventing these 5 factors that contribute to printhead failure will provide better quality and guarantee a longer life for your printhead. Additionally, working with a trusted, single source supplier of both printers and media ensures that the printer function optimally works and any issues are easily pinpointed and resolved. If you have any technical questions regarding the functionality of your printer, please contact us.

We’d love to discuss the importance of your thermal printhead and how to properly maintain it

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John Masica

Based in St. Paul, MN, USA, John Masica is Computype’s Technical Support Specialist. Specializing in label printer maintenance and engineering, John is the go-to person for all things label printing. Through his 24 years here at Computype, he has learned many tips and tricks to make your label printing easier and more efficient.