Laser and Inkjet Printer Maintenance

Although product coding is a common necessity in numerous industries, coding needs are very diverse.

Substrate qualities and material makeup vary from one product to the next, ranging from curved glass bottles and flexible packaging to flat wooden boards and metal sheets. Print applications are also diverse, covering everything from simple text codes and alphanumeric markings to intricate images and machine-scannable markings. Output demands and facility environmental factors also change from operation to operation. 

Given all of these different factors, there is no “one size fits all” printing solution. Instead, coding and marking companies offer a range of systems to meet different needs. Today’s most popular options include:

Regardless of which system you use, a certain level of maintenance is required for the machine to stay in proper working order. In this article, we review essential inkjet printer maintenance requirements and laser upkeep needs to show you how to keep your system running at a high level.

Continuous Inkjet Printer Maintenance

Continuous inkjet printers have very few moving parts, which makes most operating issues easy to prevent with regular maintenance. Most issues stem from clogged filters, blocked ink flows, and dirty parts. To prevent these problems and ensure optimal performance, you need to perform a few regular maintenance tasks and schedule professional servicing once per year. 

Regular continuous inkjet printer maintenance tasks include:

  • Nozzle cleanings: Dried ink, dust, and other particles can clog your printer’s nozzle if you do not regularly clean it. After 8-10 hours of continuous printing (4-5 hours if your environment is particularly dusty), you should pause the operation of the jet and use the appropriate cleaner (a compatible makeup will always work) to clean the head. You can either wait for it to air dry or use some light air pressure, typically from a rubber bulb, to dry the head prior to reuse. If the printhead is still wet, this can cause issues with the high voltage plates and will lead to a printer fault.
  • Weekly unit cleanings: Buildup doesn’t just affect your CIJ’s nozzle; it also affects the printhead, ink reservoir, and interior. At least once per week (or more if you operate in a dusty environment), turn off the printer and clean the printhead, interior cabinet, and other dirty components. 
  • Filter changes: Your CIJ’s filters will eventually need to be replaced in order to maintain high print quality. Filter replacement frequency will vary based on factors like printer usage, ink type, and environmental factors, but the general rule of thumb is to replace the filters every one year, or 5000 hours of printing. It’s always recommended to consult your individual printer provider for their recommendations based off model, ink type, and your environment.

In addition, you should also make sure to run the printer at least once per week to prevent ink from drying out and clogging a line in the system. Professional maintenance should be scheduled annually as well.

Thermal Inkjet Printer Maintenance

In general, thermal inkjet printer maintenance is easier and less demanding than continuous inkjet printer maintenance. TIJ printers are smaller than CIJ printers and contain fewer parts. In fact, TIJ printers are often referred to as “zero maintenance machines,” although they still require a small degree of regular upkeep. 

TIJ maintenance is very simple because thermal inkjet printers are simple modular systems that are not built with ink reservoirs or printheads. Instead, the ink cartridges perform both of these functions. Therefore, when you replace the ink cartridge, you are essentially gaining a new reservoir and printhead. 

To ensure ongoing success, you should:

  • Wipe cartridge nozzles with a lint-free cloth and place the clear cap supplied with the cartridges.
  • Remove cartridge from the printer if downtime exceeds more than 20 minutes. This helps keep the cartridge from drying while it is idle.
  • Store the cartridge with the nozzles facing up after it’s been used. This helps keep the ink from the nozzle to alleviate clogs.
  • Use compressed air (30-60 PSI) on the printer to remove dust to keep boards clean and prevent overheating.
  • Do not use solvents to clean cartridges. Use proper cleaner for water-based cartridges; use nothing for solvent-based cartridges.
  • Replace the ink cartridge if it is damaged. 
  • Follow proper startup and shutdown procedures.

As long as you follow these best practices, your TIJ system will continue to work well without professional maintenance.

Laser System Maintenance

Laser coding systems in general have fewer maintenance requirements than CIJ printers but require more care than TIJ printers. 

Unlike printers, laser coding systems do not use ink or solvent to create markings, and the absence of fluids reduces overall maintenance needs. Although you still need to periodically change your system’s filters, the only other maintenance tasks that you need to perform are:

  • Regularly wiping the lens with a lint-free cloth and recommended cleaning solution.
  • Periodically checking the system’s cooling system to verify that it is clean and running at the correct levels.
  • Quality-checking any enclosures and beam shields to ensure they are clean and operating as intended.

By following these simple steps, you can keep your system running at a high level without professional aid.

InkJet, Inc. is Your Source for Laser and Inkjet Printer Maintenance

All marking systems require a degree of regular maintenance to maintain high performance. 

For thermal inkjet printers and laser coding machines, maintenance is relatively simple. As long as you follow proper startup and shutdown procedures, use the machine as intended, and clean essential parts, the systems will operate reliably without professional maintenance. Continuous inkjet printers, on the other hand, require more daily attention and yearly maintenance. 

If you need help maintaining your coding and marking equipment, InkJet, Inc. is here to support you. Our team is filled with industry veterans that understand how to keep different technologies running at a high level. Whether you have a malfunctioning system or are just looking for ways to improve your workflow, InkJet, Inc. can help. Call us today to learn how. 

For more information about laser and inkjet printer maintenance, contact InkJet, Inc. online or call 1(800) 280-3245.