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Card Printer Troubleshooting
<h2>Common Datacard SD360 Card Printer Issues</h2> <p>I'm printing an order of 300 cards, two color red and black on white card stock. I'll try to beat the printer and finish this blog post before it stops!</p> <h2>One isolated area on a card is consistently printing with a flaw.</h2> <p>This is often a matter of the tension on the ribbon. In one recent case I had half of a card order turn out flawed due to a tension problem. What improved the problem was going into my advanced printer settings and flipping the card 180°. While this doesn't seem like it should work, it often changes the tension enough to fix the error.</p> <p>Along similar lines to the tension problem is a tension problem caused by the ribbon not being lock all the way in on the spool. You may think you installed the ribbon securely but double check or you might get something like the image below.</p> <img src="https://posguys.blob.core.windows.net/content/images/blog/9275/card-flaw.jpg" width="500" style="height: auto;"/> <p>In some cases there is a problem with the card printing material itself. For example, in keychain cards sometimes there will be a sharp burr of plastic that nicks the ribbon leaving a short white slice in what should usually be solid printing. Another issue could be grease or fingerprints on the plastic cards. In all of these unfortunate cases you have to reorder card stock. I find that sticking to the same card stock brand each time prevents these irritating problems. I've had good luck with HID for white 30mm and Bristol for keychains. If you want to switch brands to save money or for some other reason always order a backup of your original brand just in case the new stock is inferior. Sometimes there are problems you don't see until you are sending 1000 cards through the printer.</p> <h2>Random areas on the card are printing with a flaw inconsistently.</h2> <p>Somebody probably touched the card with their greasy filthy fingers! The most common reason for this is a flawed card surface. Always handle cards from the edge to avoid getting fingerprints on the surface of the cards as it impacts printing performance. Keep blank cards in their packaging or stored in a Ziploc bag or other airtight container to prevent dust from coating them. The longer a card is out and the more it is handled the less likely it will print without a flaw. </p> <p>If you are printing in CMYKO, CMYK, CMYO than this may be caused by the card design. If the design covers from edge to edge and has large areas of flat color then it will likely have some difficulty printing. The only method to troubleshoot this is to adjust the Printer Configuration settings. See how to configure that down below under KPower. As a designer I avoid this problem by not designing cards with large areas of flat uninterrupted color that go all the way to the edge of the card, even a subtle gradient can make printing a card without errors much more likely. The current 'flat' design trend is however resulting in a lot of card designs with large areas of flat uninterrupted color. If you MUST have a flat design I suggest printing on color card stock. It will look smooth and flat 100% of the time, break fewer ribbons and allow the back of the card to perfectly match the front.</p> <p><i>(Random: My favorite color card stock right now is tan.)</i></p> <h2>The #&@% printer ribbon keeps on breaking!</h2> <p>You have too much surface area of the card covered in printing.</p> <p>What do I mean by <em>too much surface area?</em> Generally card printers are really good at partially covering the surface of a card with printing. They struggle when you want to print all the way up to the edge or fill the entire card with a print. The ribbons used to print on a card are only about one quarter of an inch wider than the card itself, they are thin and once they lose their dye, all you have left is a translucent polyester sheet. A <b>VERY FRAGILE</b> <i>thin</i> translucent polyester sheet. When too much of the sheet is revealed without dye, the slightest provocation will cause a tear. KPower being turned up too high, a large chunk of printing on the head or tail of the card and attempting to print solid color over the entire card are all elements that result in ribbon breakage.</p> <p><i>(The printer is half way done... )</i></p> <p><strong>KPower:</strong> This setting controls how hot the printhead gets when printing black (K) or monochrome on a card. Too high and it can encourage breaks. Too low and your card is faded with lots of holes in the printing. In my personal experience values between 60 and 90 work the best. 0 seems to result in patchy printing and I've never bothered going below that. (-100 to 100 is your range here.) Please be aware that I print in the Pacific Northwest where we have high humidity. I suspect you might have different results in the desert where the humidity is low. Feel free to share your testing as I won't be printing in the desert any time soon.</p> <p><i>Change the KPower on your SD360 card printer by going into your 'Printer Properties'</i>, selecting the 'Printer Status' tab and then hitting the 'Configure Printer' button. (Directions for Windows 7 / Windows 10) A browser window should open up. Log in to the WebAdmin user account, there is no password by default. Hover over the 'Printer Settings' tab and select 'Print'. KPower is #8 in that list of settings. You can change the KPower there and then hit 'Set Current'. It will instantly update the printer so that the next card you print will have the new settings.</p> <p><strong>Printing single color ribbon on the head or tail:</strong> The edge of the card is probably going to cut the ribbon if you are printing a bar of solid color down the leading or trailing edge of the card. (The short sides) There isn't a way to get around this limitation except to not do it. You can try reducing your KPower but your entire card's printing will change as a result.</p> <p><strong>Printing solid single color ribbon over the entire card:</strong> This is another instance where it is a limitation of the printer. This is in 99% of cases not going to work. You will see cracks and warps in the printing and probably break the ribbon every other card. What I suggest is picking a colored card stock and using that as your background color. Not only will you get more consistent color but the back of the card will match as well! There are many card colors available to pick from and most of them look great with white or black printing. There are even metallic cards. Consider if this will work for you before wasting hours of your life taping snapped ribbons back together.</p> <p><strong>FIXING a broken card printer ribbon:</strong> SO EASY. Find some clear plastic tape, Scotch or other is fine. Making sure to keep the ribbons aligned as they were in the printer simply tape the two pieces of ribbon back together. For best results line the ribbon up so that the edges on both pieces are parallel and then wind the freshly taped joint back a bit further on the take-up roll (the roll that holds all of the used ribbon) before continuing.</p> <h2>Pulling two cards at once and jamming up the printer. </h2> <p>I almost never have this problem with the SD360. One of my favorite things about the printer is that it very rarely pulls two cards. Unfortunately, fresh out of the box cards sometimes have a stickiness to them, they don't slide apart and cling via... static electricity perhaps? This can result in two cards being picked up. While being careful to touch only the edges of the cards *(to prevent fingerprints)* fan apart the cards so that the stickiness is broken up. This helps but you might still have a few sticky ones here and there. If you know of any other tricks (praying to the Design Gods, magic wands, apple cider vinegar) to stop this from happening let me know in the comments section down below!</p> <h2>Not printing to the edge of the card (tiny white strip on the edge)</h2> <p>This problem drives me crazy! It is usually fixable in one of three ways.</p> <p><b>1.</b> Your YMCKT-K color ribbon is halfway empty and the bulk of the take-up roll is too big, causing alignment issues. **Simple solution**, test a new color ribbon and see if the problem vanishes. If it does save the rest of the previous color roll for non-edge to edge printing. **Advanced solution,** trim off the excess take-up roll ribbon, tape the usable ribbon back to the now empty take-up roll and try it from there. This should not happen but it seems to do so consistently when using YMCK-T 534000-007 ribbon.</p> <p><b>2.</b>Your printer configuration settings have too much trim on the edges. Trim, or padding is added to the head and tail ends of the card to help prevent ribbon breakage. Printing edge to edge greatly increases the odds that a ribbon will break.</p> <p><b>3.</b>Buy a printer with "Over-the-Edge" printing. The card printer manufacturers take sadistic pleasure in referring to some printers as "Edge-to-Edge" printers when in fact they often break the ribbon if you print full bleed up to the edges. It could be misleading marketing or me not completely understanding the jargon of the manufacturers.</p> <p>Those are some common issues I run into while printing with the Datacard SD360. I have also had these same problems with a Zebra P420 in the past. I can't seem to find much online on this subject so I hope this overly detailed post helps make your life easier.</p> <p><i>PS. I am in the market to buy a new card printer. I want to demo it first. Manufacturers feel free to contact me. My card printing order has been done for a while now. Clearly my blog posting skills are inferior to my card printing skills.</i></p> <br><br><br> <i>Camille Meehan, POSLady and Mistress of card printing at POSGuys since 2011, is absolutely 100% a card printing nerd. Her goal; put all the information out there that she never had. She adores printing and totally geeks out on the subject. Check that out on her POSGuys printing blog <a href="/blog/card-printing-offsets" title="Card Printing on POSGuys.com">here</a> and feel free to leave a comment or question down below.</i>
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