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How to prevent, detect, and correct barcode label printer problems

By aisltd, Monday, 9th November 2020 | 0 comments

Monitoring and maintaining your barcode label printer are essential. This should include regular cleaning and replacing parts when necessary.

This is the best way to keep your barcode label printer working properly as well as ensuring optimum print quality and performance. Most print quality problems barcode label printer users experience is the result of improper care or use of the printhead. Most problems can be avoided and in this post our AIS experts have put together a guide to common thermal barcode label printer quality problems and how you can resolve them.

Common Barcode Label Printer Problems


Underburn is where the dark bars of your barcode print too lightly. There are a number of causes including uneven or insufficient pressure from the printhead to the material. To fix it you need to adjust the printhead pressure. It can also be caused if the heat is not set high enough and to fix this the heat settings should be adjusted until you get the right contrast.


Overburn is another problem and is caused when heat settings are too high, and the bars come out too thick. This will cause your barcodes to be out of spec and often unreadable. Overburn is corrected by lowering the heat settings on our barcode label printer.

Unwanted Diagonal Lines

This is a sign that the ribbon in your barcode label printer is not loaded or feeding correctly. To fix this, take a look at the ribbon and make sure it is smooth. You should also make sure that your label material is loaded correctly and feeding into the printer smoothly.

Dead Spots or Voids in your Image

If this happens after using your barcode label printer it can be an indication of dirt, abrasion, or burned out elements on your printhead. Burnt out elements prevent heat from transferring and this results in what are known as dead spots on your barcode labels. Dirt can also block or redirect heat results in unreadable barcodes. Regular cleaning on your printhead will fix this problem, but if it is burnt out element you will need to replace your printhead.

A wrinkled ribbon can also cause streaks and dead spots and to fix this you need to adjust the tension in your ribbon. If you find that the ribbon in your barcode label printer wrinkles consistently, you can fix this by reducing your printer speed.

Wide/Narrow Ratio Unsustainable

This can happen with underburn or overburn and a good tip to ensure that you product good barcode print quality is to create your symbols using the highest wide-to-narrow ration that the label specification allows. Wide/narrow ratios can be improved and made more consistent by increasing the print resolution.

Edge Definition is Poor

In order for barcodes to be read, barcode readers required well-defined edges so they can differentiate between bars and spaces and decode symbols accurately. Rounded or fuzzy edges can cause problems and if you barcode label printer is doing this, you can correct it by reducing the print speed. Poor edge definition can also indicate the use of low quality labels, that your ribbon and media are not a match, or that the ribbon material is of low quality. If you print barcodes in vertical orientations it can also cause edge definition problems and horizonal printing should be used whenever possible.

You should always ensure that you use accredited supplies for your barcode label printers. We recommend Zebra supplies for our range of Zebra Industrial Printers.


Automatic Identification Systems Ltd


Automatic Identification Systems Ltd
Unit 35 Eastgate Drive,
Little Island, Cork,  
T45 C925, Ireland

Phone: +353 (0)21 2355540


AIS Automation Ltd
Unit 6, Centenary Business Park
Coes Road Industrial Estate
Dundalk A91 HF95, Ireland

Phone: +353 (0)42 935992


AIS Vision Systems S.L
Carrer de Can Camps, 10
08202 Sabadell,
Barcelona, Spain

Phone: +34 931 003 035


AIS-Scanology B.V. 
Laan de Wijze 20,
5835 DS Beugen
The Netherlands

Phone: +31 (0)485-561616

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