DTF Printhead Cleaning Solution: 5 Most Common Situations

Keeping the print head clean and avoiding the blockage of the print head can not only ensure the high-quality printing of the substrate and T-shirt to meet the needs of customers, but also keep the DTF printer in a healthy printing state, reduce ink consumption, improve consumable efficiency, and thus reduce the investment cost, bring more ROI of printing enterprises. Therefore, it’s very important to learn the basic information about print head and know the best printhead cleaning solutions.

What is a Print Head (Printhead)?

The print head is a part of the printer that transfers ink to the substrate through a nozzle that can drip or eject so that the image can be printed onto the material. There are piezoelectric, thermal and other different types of print heads. The print head is one of the most important parts in various digital printers. The quality and condition of the print head directly affects the printing performance, quality and result.

Epson Printhead Equipped on DTF Printer
Epson Printhead Equipped on DTF Printer
Epson Printhead Equipped on DTF Printer

Why are the Print Heads so Important for the DTF Printer?

DTF printers are used for direct to film printing, such as T-shirt printing, and the print head is the core of the DTF printer. The print head and the number of ink cartridges basically determine the print quality, and also the printing precision, speed, color, ink dot size all rely on the printhead. Therefore, the level of the print head directly determines the level of the printer. Once the print head is faulty, the final printing result will be directly affected.

What is the print head clog? Why is the printhead clogged?

Print head clog means that the nozzle is blocked with air, dry ink, or dust, hampering the flow of ink in the cartridge or on the printed material. The following picture clearly shows the printing difference between a blocked print head and a good unblocked print head.

The print head blockage causes the breakdown of ink drop, as shown in the print result above, after the print head is cleaned, the DTF printer should print good results as shown in the “good” result.

printhead working (printing)
One Good Example of Printing Comparison between the Blocked Print Head and Unclogged Print Head
Good Example: Printing Comparison between the Blocked Print Head and Unclogged Print Head

The top 4 reasons causing printhead or nozzle clog are:

  • Ink Drying
  • Impurities in the Ink ( Ink Quality )
  • Print Head Maintenance Problems
  • Print Head Damage Due to Overuse

Dry Ink

DTF print head blockage may occur if the printer is not used frequently for a long time, or if the cartridge is open to components. Dry ink on the surface of the print head may cause a blockage that prevents ink from flowing through the nozzle.

Impurity in DTF Ink (Ink Quality)

The quality of ink is quite important. Inkjet printers need clean ink to flow through the print head. Impurities or particles in the ink may clog the nozzle and cause blockage. This may happen if the cartridge is not stored correctly or the ink used by the printer is of poor quality or expired. (High quality DTF ink is recommended.)

Print Head Maintenance

Inkjet printers require routine maintenance to keep the print heads clean and clog-free. If the printer is not cleaned regularly or maintenance cycles are not running as directed, ink can build up and cause blockage.

Print Head Damaged by Overuse

Inkjet printer print heads can become damaged over time from wear and tear or improper printer use. This can lead to ink clogging or uneven ink flow, which can lead to poor printing quality or even damage to the printer.

Best Practices: Printhead Cleaning Solutions

Since the print head is critical to the overall DTF printing process and the quality of the final result, there are many technical factors indicating its performance, such as viscosity, droplet volume, number of nozzles, etc. In addition, keeping the print head clean is the last step in addition to the technical part.

The above video provides a step-by-step guide to print head cleaning solutions in some most common situations in Direct to Film (DTF) Printing: the new printhead, the nozzle hole is short of ink or air in the nozzle hole, nozzle rubs against the film, remove the printhead and clean, clean the printhead during printing.

The printhead cleaning kit (for Epson printhead, DTF printer and DTG printer) can be found in online shop.

Cleaning of New Print Head

Even if it is a new print head, you still need to clean it so that you can get the true performance of the expensive part of the DTF printer. Here are the detailed steps to prepare, install and clean a new print head:

  1. When the new print head is available, please use pure water to drop the print head until the bubbles on the surface of the print head disappear.
  2. Verify the status of the array head: press the pressure with the syringe and check the water level of the print head. If there is no water, rinse with cleaning liquid. ( If you do not use cleaning liquid, the printing head is easy to break ink.)
  3. Blot ink three times, wait for 5 seconds, and then clean automatically. 95% of the holes are cleaned in one round, and then automatically cleaned 2 or 3 times. The print head can basically continue.
  4. Blot ink three times manually, wait for 5 seconds, and then clean automatically. 95% of the nozzle holes can be cleaned in this round of operation.
  5. Absorb ink directly through long time suction, and then automatically clean 3-5 times. If the cleaning condition is poor, soak the nozzle for 5-6 minutes and then repeat the automatic cleaning.

Printhead Cleaning: The Nozzle Hole is Short of Ink, Air in the Nozzle Hole

If there is an irregular nozzle hole that breaks the ink, blot the ink manually 2-3 times, wait for 1 minute, and then clean automatically. If there is no ink in the same place, blot ink three times manually and wait for 5 minutes. Then it cleans itself. If it still does not produce ink, soak it in a cleaning solution for 10 minutes. (view from 2m29s in above video)

Clean the Printhead if the Nozzle Rubs Against the Film

  1. Take off the carriage, dip the non-woven cloth with the cleaning solution, and wipe the bottom of the nozzle in one direction. Remember not to wipe from side to side to prevent ink and film hardener from entering the nozzle hole.
  2. Then return the vehicle to its original position and soak the nozzle in the cleaning solution for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Blot the ink manually 2-3 times to ensure that the clogged stuff in the nozzle can be sucked out.

Then it will be cleaned automatically and the test bar will be tapped to confirm the status. 

If you are using an industry-leading DTF printer from Sublistar, this video will demonstrate in details: an easy way to clean the print head if the nozzle rubs.

Remove the Print Head and Clean

When the film friction is very severe, the above treatment is not effective, you may need to remove the printhead from the DTF printer and clean it. When removing the print head for cleaning, always remember to clean reversely and do not rinse under the nozzle. Because there is a curing agent that can react quickly in the nozzle hole, the chemical reaction of the ink in the nozzle hole will dry out and it will clump. If you flush down, the nozzle will clog even more.

If you are worried whether the curing agent is on the nozzle surface or not when the film is rubbed, please soak the nozzle in the cleaning solution. The presence of hardener in the cleaning solution may cause secondary damage to the nozzle. The first wipe is to maximize the removal of the hardener from the nozzle surface.

After removing the print head from the DTF printer, it may be more convenient to clean the print head separately.

The following video provides a close-up of cleaning the DTF print head.

In order to remove the print head from a DTF printer safely, please consult your DTF manufacturer or refer to the user guide. If you are using a Sublistar DTF printer or hope for better support and service, please submit DTF printer service requests or contact us by email.

Clean the Printhead during DTF Printing

Sometimes print head blockage problems can occur during the printing process, and fortunately, DTF printers from some new industrial manufacturers can offer real-time solutions to the problem of nozzle friction during printing. (Such as DTF-A3 +Ultra all-in-one), no complicated process is required before continuing to print. This ideal print-head cleaning solution saves time and improves printing efficiency. The video below provides a good example of how the print head can easily solve the friction problem as it works.

The Best Way to Clean Printhead: Prevent Clogging

Printhead clogging issue is one of the 7 most common problems may occur on DTF printer. Though the printhead is consumable and has it’s own life cycle, there are certain tips which can help you to keep DTF printer away from clogging issue and keep the printhead working properly as long as possible. It’s strongly recommended to read the tips about avoiding printhead clogging.

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