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Label Printers: Frequently Asked Questions

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Labels appear very faint or distorted on a thermal label printer

  • Clean print head: Over time dust from the labels or other particles may accumulate on the print head and cause distortions on the label media. Most label manufacturers will have directions on cleaning and maintaining the thermal print head. Consult the user guide for your printer on proper cleaning instructions for the print head.
  • Print darkness/heat intensity: Thermal label printers use a print head which literally heats chemicals on the label to produce images, text, and barcodes on the media. The print head can be adjusted to different levels of heat intensity which directly affects how dark an image appears on the label. If a label driver is installed in Windows you can adjust the print darkness through the printer’s properties inside of Control Panel/Printers and Faxes.
  • Label/transfer ribbon quality: Printer manufacturers will recommend compatible label media which matches the specifications and performance criteria of the specific printer. Check to see if you are using label and ribbon media provided or recommended by the printer manufacturer. If using recommended media then try a different roll of labels and ribbon on the label printer. 3rd party media manufacturers may use a process which creates labels that are not compatible in specification to the label printer.
  • If none of the above steps help to identify the cause check to see if you have a 2nd label printer of the same make and model. Try the 2nd printer with the same labels/transfer ribbons on the same interface cable and computer originally used (works only for parallel and serial models) with the first label printer.

My label printer will feed several labels and error out

  • A common problem when an end user changes from one media type to another is the printer must be recalibrated to sense and accept the new media. Below are causes and solutions due to changes in media:
  • Direct thermal to thermal transfer ribbon: Changing from a direct thermal label to a label which requires a thermal transfer ribbon can cause the printer to error out. If using a Windows computer you can change the settings of the printer driver in Control Panel / Printers and Faxes from Direct Thermal to Thermal Transfer (appropriate thermal transfer ribbon must be installed correctly on the printer). Depending on the printer manufacturer you may have to do a calibration and test page before the printer will accept the changes. Consult the user guide or manufacturer documentation on how to perform media calibration on the printer.
  • Different label size: Changing from one label dimension to another can cause the printer to error out or feed several labels. The printer must be recalibrated to accept the new label size. If using a Windows computer you can change the size of the labels in the printer driver in Control Panel / Printers and Faxes.
  • Changing from gap label to black mark or vice versa: Label printers use either a gap or black mark to sense the beginning and end of an individual label. When changing from gap to black mark or vice versa the printer will need to be recalibrated. If using a Windows computer you may need to change the driver settings for the printer to sense the correct label type (black mark or gap).
  • Sensor issue: The label printer uses a media sensor to sense the beginning and end of an individual label. If dust or other particles accumulate on the media sensor then the printer cannot sense the beginning of a label and may feed several labels before showing an error light. Consult the printer’s user guide or manufacturer documentation on cleaning the media sensor.

My business creates their own labels with barcodes and my barcode scanner will not read the labels

  • There are several possible causes which can be attributed to the barcode/label quality or settings on the barcode scanner. Please check these articles to determine possible problems with label issues and barcode scanner configuration.