Why is my Thermal Inkjet Printer Producing Poor Prints?

6th January 2023 | 3 mins

One of the major plus points for thermal inkjet (TIJ) is that all the printing components are held within the ink cartridge itself, so when you swap your old cartridge for a new one, you are effectively replacing the printhead, hence why TIJ is a maintenance-free coding technology.

There’s a lot less to go wrong, so when your printer starts producing prints that are incomplete, poor quality or have lines going through them, it’s likely that there’s a problem with the printer settings, the ink cartridge, or it’s positioning in relation to the product it’s printing on to.

Of course, there is a small chance that the cartridge you have is faulty, but it’s much more likely that adjustments need to be made to the printer or that the ink cartridge you’re using is damaged or needs to be cleaned.

Poor print caused by incorrect positioning of printer
damaged printhead caused by incorrect handling and loading
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How to clean the ink cartridge

If you cannot see any visible signs of damage to the cartridge, we would always recommend cleaning the printhead, to see if that resolves the issues that you are experiencing.

Cleaning the printhead is something that should always be done if print quality deteriorates during printing or after an extended period of non-use.

To effectively clean the cartridge, follow these steps:

  1. Remove the ink cartridge from the holder
  2. Hold the cartridge with the nozzle plate facing downwards
  3. Using a lint-free cloth, slowly and without applying pressure, wipe across the nozzle plate in the direction of the arrow.
  4. Re-insert the cartridge in the holder


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Printer positioning

Still no luck after cleaning the printhead? Check the positioning.

By definition, thermal inkjet is a non-contact printing technology, meaning that the printhead does not need to be touching the substrate it is printing onto in order to produce a print. However, the throw-distance is up to 5 mm (depending on line speed, material, etc). Anything more than this will mean that the print is very distorted or completely illegible. Ideally you want as little distance between the head and the product as possible, without restricting the product’s ability to pass through.

If your TIJ printer is producing fuzzy prints, check that it is positioned correctly. Does the quality improve if it is moved closer to the product?

Print intensity & A + B nozzle setting

The print intensity parameter on the printer adjusts how much ink is thrown on to your product, by having this set too high, too much ink is ejected and can cause the ink to bleed, particularly on very porous substrates, making the print appear blurry.

A  lower intensity will reduce the amount of ink being ejected and should produce a clearer. There’s a balance here though, as the less ink you use, the lighter the print is.

Also ensure that you are only printing from either nozzle A or B, not A + B. Using A + B means you are using both nozzles, ejecting twice as much ink as you’d need.

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Handling cartridges with care

Cartridges that are incorrectly inserted into the printer can end up with a damaged membrane. This breaks the circuit and subsequently prevents ink being ejected. And, once the damage has occurred, there’s nothing that can be done, the cartridge needs to be replaced.

Whenever we supply a TIJ printer, our engineers will always ensure that you’re aware of how to correctly load ink cartridges. But it’s important that this knowledge is imparted to everyone that will be using the system.

How to insert a TIJ ink cartridge – Introducing Tilt and Touch

Insert the ink cartridge at a 45-degree angle. Slide down onto the touch plate of the printer, pushing it backwards until a click is heard.

  • How to properly insert a TIJ cartridge

Here to offer advice where needed

Our team of experts are always on hand to help you get the most out of your Rotech thermal inkjet ptrinter, whether that be by providing in-depth product training or troubleshooting over the phone.