Wide-Format Dye-Sub Printer Maintenance: Part 2

Learn more about wide-format sublimation printer maintenance in part two of the tip series from Dennis Halley of Digital2You

Printer manufacturers have invested long hours of research and development and many thousands of dollars to perfect their dye-sub printers and inks for the market. By following their service procedures and your local reseller’s advice, you can save yourself a lot of maintenance challenges by learning how to properly care for your printer investment and keep it running for years. Let’s look at printer warranty service and preventative maintenance areas.

When you purchase your printer, most will come with the manufacturer’s one-year service warranty to cover any component that fails. On wide-format printers, this is usually an on-site service warranty to cover parts that break due to normal operation or failure. These warranties can also usually be extended for another couple of years for peace of mind. Print head replacements can run between $1,500-$2,500 as well as other components, labor, and on-site break-fix mount up, so keep this in mind. If you are properly maintaining your printer, this can prevent some of these expensive component failures down the road, thus avoiding costly service calls, downtime, and costly waste.

So, what are some of the most common critical components that would need to be tested and cleaned during a preventative maintenance check of your wide-format dye-sub inkjet printer?

Capping stations are where the expensive print headrests when not in use. They provide a seal against the nozzles on the head to prevent them from drying out. You can learn how to view these and inspect them for lint, ink, and paper debris and clean them easily with a lint-free swab. Your installer can show you how to inspect and clean these.

Wiper blades are a very simple piece of flexible plastic that gently “wipes” across the print head to keep it clear of ink and debris during the printing operation. Some printers also have a lint-free fiber wiper roll to keep the heads clean. Both of these components are easy to change and don’t cost much. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

dye-sublimation printer maintenance
Roller wiper

Pumping or flushing stations are designed to catch ink from head cleanings and exercise the print head nozzles as they spit a small amount of ink out. These gently suck ink from the heads and nozzle lines to keep ink flowing and often are part of the “pump capping station” on most models. The wiper is usually part of this station, as well. To put this into perspective, if you were able to clean and inspect this area often, it would usually tell you if you are facing problems before print head failure. A nozzle check will usually point this out. On older printers, this station should be replaced on a routine basis by a qualified technician to keep your printer performing in top condition. This can save an expensive head replacement if done in time and properly installed.

wide-format dye-sublimation
Pump cap closeup

Understanding how printers are made, how to best maintain your own printer, and more about the dynamics of dye-sublimation ink will help you learn how to keep your printer investment in good operation. Let’s review a bit more about the importance of dye-sublimation ink dynamics and how that moves through your wide-format printers ink delivery system.

Wide-format ink delivery is from sealed bags, tanks, or closed-cartridge systems. Each manufacturer has designed these systems for optimum performance and if you are experiencing any issues, this is a good place to start looking. Dye-sublimation printers need to send this special ink through the system to reach the print head damper screens and ultimately to the print head for delivery. Dye-sub inks are a special type of aqueous pigment ink that is held in suspension with some pretty complex chemical agents, so be sure that you always follow the manufacturer’s directions, care and handling, dating, and quality of the inks. Buying cheap or outdated ink is not a good idea when it can ruin your printer’s ink delivery system.

Remember, you often get what you pay for. Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to the quality and proper maintenance of your printer investment.

Learn more about preventative maintenance in Part 1 of Wide-Format Dye-Sublimation Inkjet Printer Maintenance.

dennis halley digital2you

Dennis Halley

Dennis Halley is a printing industry veteran with a broad applications, training, and consulting background in various digital production printing/finishing technologies. is a branch of Photo-Imaging Consultants offering specialized dye-sublimation training on-site and in their Denver, CO Digital Technology & Learning Center.   They also provide the line of wide-format industrial rotary dye sublimation heat transfer presses nationwide.

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