Your Print Environment Sucks (And It's Costing You Money)

Too many times we will walk into a customer's print shop and find the same things:

  • Dirt/dust everywhere
  • Temperature that are too high/too low
  • Dry print environments (no humidity)
  • Filthy capping stations/printers

If you own a wide-format printer then you know how incredibly resilient these machines are. 

Depsite the conditions, we have seen printers operate in dirty home garages with no AC, temperatures in the high 90s with no humidity, the gamut. 

Somehow, someway, these printers will run perfectly despite the terrible conditions they are kept in. 

If that sounds like your printer, you are one of the lucky ones. 

But for the vast majority of our customers, they are not. 

This article will list the most common problems we see with customers' print environments and why they need to be fixed asap. 

Dirty capping stations

Your capping station might just be one of the most important aspects of your printer since the entire ink flow of the machine relies on it. 

But if your capping station isn't maintained you open yourself up to numerous problems:

  • Dirty wipers won't clean your printheads properly. If you have ever watched your printer during a cleaning cycle, you will notice the surface of the printhead being wiped with the rubber wipers attached to the machine. The purpose of this is to ensure that their is no ink remaining on the printhead when it's time to print. With a dirty wiper, all you're doing is smearing ink into the microscopic nozzles which poses the risk of color mixing or worse, a clogged nozzle. 
  • A filthy cap top can cause air leakage. Ink that dries up around the cap tops can cause gaps in the seal between the top and the printhead surface. Any unevenness in this seal can introduce air into your system. When this happens, you might start noticing ink dropouts during or in between prints. Keeping your cap tops clean is the best way to prevent air into your system. 
  • Dried ink underneath the carriage can drag across your substrate. If you've been printing long enough, you know exactly what we're talking about. Any dried-up ink underneath your surface should be cleaned to prevent old ink from dragging across your substrate and ruining your prints.
  • A dirty printer makes it more difficult to identify issues. This means replacing your soak pads and cleaning up after an ink spill. It's easier to diagnose an ink leak when your print environment is clean. If ink has pooled or dried up underneath your capping station it becomes much harder to identify whether the leak is coming from your cap top vs the printhead or pumps. Keeping your station and sponges clean makes it easier when it's time to troubleshoot.

Extreme temperatures 

Having the proper temperate is important for proper ink flow. On every bottle of ink, there is a set temperature for properly storing your inks. 

If your print environment is either too hot or too cold, your ink may have trouble flowing within your system. 

We've seen customers operate their printers in warehouses that are brutally hot in the summertime and bitterly cold in the winter. 

These customers have the most trouble with ink dropouts and bad prints and issues like these cost hundreds of dollars in wasted ink and materials. 

Aside from ink, proper temperature is important for the physical components of the machine as well. 

Each printer is a network of connected electrical and mechanical components that all work in sync to make your prints happen. 

For those with printers that have printheads that must operate in an ideal temperature. If your ambient temperature is too cold for your printhead, the printhead will never reach the temperature it needs it to be and your printer will not run.

Lack of or no humidity

Like temperature, humidity is another factor to consider when it comes to large-format printers. Humidity has a direct affect not only on certain substrates but largely on ink flow. 

If the ambient temperature is too dry, the ink inside the lines will have trouble flowing due to the viscosity of the ink. Ink dropout is common in these situations. 

In cases where your printer does not have a designated space, you'll need to create a makeshift room with plastic and humidifiers in order to create this proper environment. 

Dirty and dusty print rooms

These machines are a delicate ecosystem. Every little thing plays a role in the proper functioning of these machines, as you can tell up to this point. 

Dirt and dust in your systems introduce a variable into this ecosystem that should be there.

We have seen machines with caked on dirt or dust due to years of not maintaining a clean environment:

  • For example, dried ink that accumulates on mechanical components like gears will affect their operation and could break these components.
  • A dirty encoder, due to ink splash or dust, will cause the carriage to misread its position and you might start seeing your prints not coming out properly or carriages that won't fully cap after a job.
  • Dust or dirt in front of a sensor can throw off a tension bar and cause paper jams or head strikes.
  • Glue that spills onto your conveyor belt can transfer onto your DTF film during the curing process and potentially ruin your prints. 

It's important to keep your print environments as clean as possible and not neglect this extremely important aspect of owning a printer. 

A printer in a bad print room might as well be the most expensive paper weight you've ever owned. 

A dirty print room will cost you 

These machines are how we make our living. The difference between having one of your machines down due to lack of maintenance versus all of your machines functioning properly is priceless. 

Energy costs are valid concerns. Some customers might spend thousands of dollars a month to create the ideal environment for their wide-format printers, but at the same time, these customers rarely experience any downtime. 

Daily maintenance, once a week deep cleanings of both your printer and print room, maintaining proper temperatures and humidity levels will make all the difference for your machines. 

You can't afford not to. 

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