Note: this is the first of two articles written primarily for customers who are using their first shipping or compliance labeling system and who may have limited in-house maintenance resources.
The post-holiday period is a great time for many businesses to take advantage of a little less rushed pace to catch up with maintenance. If you want to pick a place on your system to start – do so at your printer-applicator. It works hard delivering the right label in the right place, it depends on the right amount of friction to feed media, and the constant cycling of labels and usually, ribbon creates dirt and dust. Start by reviewing the system manuals appropriate for your labeler.
Regular cleaning is the easiest and most important requirement in maintaining your labeler:
- Clean the system with compressed air. If you haven’t done this in a while, build it into a routine, ideally at every roll change or few days. We recommend adding a small air nozzle with a coiled hose for this purpose. New StreamTech systems include this as a standard.
- Using a lint free rag and 90% alcohol, clean the rubber coated drive rollers, peel bar, and tamp head carefully to remove glue residue, pieces of label, or other debris. If the rubber coated drive rollers are getting polished, consider replacing them and setting a schedule for this. Ensure that label sensors are clean as well.
- On many labelers the peel bar, tamp and other items are easily removable, allowing you to clean them and check them in a good light.
- For more complex labelers that include various timing belts, check them carefully for wear and tension. Check the timing gears as well.
- Inspect and clean your print heads. Regular cleaning will maximize their life. Consider getting some of the low cost cleaning “pens” or pre-moistened wipes that can make things easier.
Rewind systems are a critical items on all printer applicators. They are very important as they keep the right amount of tension on the label web as it ‘breaks’ over the peel bar. If the system malfunctions, the label web can be loose and the labels won’t separate. Because the rewind system has to perform a clutch type function it is highly subject to wear. On some labelers, there is a simple and cheap O-ring you replace every 6 months or so. On others there is an electric motor with a timing belt or gears. Inspect these and keep a spare.
If you’ve never checked your print darkness settings, do it now. Backing off from full darkness will help the print heads last longer.
Some maintenance items depend on your type of printer applicator. If yours is fully electric, your maintenance job is relatively easy. Inspect the gear wear and alignment of the tamp rack assembly. If the rack and gear get out-of-line, it will concentrate the force and cause early wear. The label is held on the tamp by a small electric fan; inspect and clean the air path and blades of dust (Note, avoid overspinning the fan; this may damage the motor).
If you have a pneumatic version, inspect your air cylinders for any play or wear; having a spare is a good idea. Carefully inspect any poly air lines for evidence of rubbing, to avoid having to repair them in case of a leak during a high volume period. Mark your flow controls with the location that works well. Drain condensate from air lines and check air filters.
Finally, if you are uncomfortable with anything, give us a call and we can certainly do this preventative maintenance for you and help train your team. You should feel free to watch, ask and participate. Once everything is complete, make notes for yourself. Print out and save or scan labels that represent the printer settings. This documentation will help you get back to a workable state if anyone makes changes to them.
Congratulations! Now your print and apply labeler is ready for another round. If you need technical help, please contact us at Support@StreamTechEng.com.