Handling Rigid Media the Right Way for Better Printing
by Ken Parsley, Product Applications Engineer – MUTOH AMERICA INC
Store Rigid Media Properly to Avoid Expensive Head Strikes
Many people new to rigid media printing struggle with storing the material properly. Sometimes it’s because they lack the proper storage space or simply don’t understand the importance of storing the media properly.
Media is part of the wide format printing system (printer, ink, and media). If media is warped or damaged it can greatly reduce the quality of the output and potentially damage printer components. When I’m asked about printing on damaged or warped media I always ask the end user if printing on that piece of media is worth the risk of damaging the print heads? The print heads are usually the most expensive part of the printer to replace not to minimize the fact that your printer will be down for a few days at a minimum so there can also be a great loss of income.
Tips on Storing Rigid Media
How do we make sure our media is in the best printing condition possible? Let me share a few tips that have served me well.
- First, we want to inspect new media when we receive it from our supplier. If you are paying for new media it should arrive in new pristine condition. If it is not in perfect condition you should contact your supplier ask them to replace the media. They want your business so, believe me, they will replace it for you.
2. Once we know the media is in good condition upon arrival we need to store it flat so that it can stay in that condition. Carefully remove the board if it is packaged. Then place it on a shelf that allows it to be flat but accessible. Below is an example of rigid board stored on a shelf.
3. Ideally, we should store the media in a clean climate controlled environment. Yep, not out in the 100 degree, humid warehouse! Treat your media like gold, because its part of the final product you’ll provide to your customer. Check with your supplier for information about specific conditions like temperature control and humidity.
4. Storing the media in an upright position will allow the media to bend or warp and in many cases will not return to its original condition even if it is later stored flat. Don’t lean the media against a wall, it won’t take long to warp. Storing it flat will take more room, sure, but the damaged or warped board won’t be worth anything.
5. Flat clean media is necessary to produce high-quality efficient output. By clean I mean no dust or grime or fingerprints etc. Handle the media with care but also make sure its stored away from dusty areas.
6. Okay, let me get a bit technical here; with most rigid boards it is possible to set the printer head height high enough to avoid head strikes but this will result in printing on multiple planes making bi-directional printing impossible. This is because the electronic bi-directional head alignments can only be adjusted for a single printing plane. So the best way to get quality results in this situation is to print uni-directional and slow the carriage speed to allow for the most accurate dot placement. Yep, I said slow down for better printing.
7. If the media is not clean it will affect the adhesion properties of the ink on the media. Again let me stress that it is necessary to assure a clean printing surface. The inks that are placed on the surface of these rigid boards must bond or adhere properly to the board or they can release causing visual irregularities or other more serious issues like peeling.
Proper Storage of Rigid Media to Avoid Costly Repairs
Most shops know that the printer condition is important so they take care to maintain it properly and keep it in good working order. They are also aware of problems that can arise from using bad or outdated ink. The media does not usually garner the same diligence or care, but it should because it is part of every printing system and is equally important to successful results!
What do you do to store your rigid boards properly? Got any other tips you want to share with others? If so, use the comment section below, we’d love to read your comments.