Troubleshooting Thermal Ribbons

Info You Need To Know:

  • What is the printer make and model?
  • What substrate is the ribbon printing on?
  • What needs must be met with this application?
Troubleshooting Thermal Ribbons


The general recommendation is that the ribbon is as wide as or wider than the carrier. It is easier to burn out a printhead when the ribbon does not cover the entire substrate. For instance, on a 4″ wide label I would recommend a minimum of a 4.25″ wide ribbon. Many people will use something smaller, and that is okay.  We suggest you keep our recommendations to a wider ribbon.

Is the coated side of the ribbon touching the paper? It should be! The coated side of the ribbon is usually duller and contains the ink to produce an image. You can use your nail to scratch some of the ink off to familiarize yourself with which side is coated.

Adjust the speed and/or the temperature of the printer.

  • Reduce printhead temperature level by level.
  • Clean printer thoroughly including printhead and all spools using acetone, alcohol or special cleaning devices and then blow free of dust using special air cans.
  • Your printhead may need to be replaced. This is evident by a white line through image where the printhead has burned out from normal wear.
  • A streak across the label is from ribbon wrinkling. Increase pressure on the printhead, increase speed, reduce temperature and/or take off the used portion of the ribbon.
  • Temperature is too high, move one level at a time.
  • Ribbon is sticking to adhesive ooze.

Remember, always move levels one at a time. Printers usually need only small adjustments!