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Help! My Ribbon is Broken!

If you ever find yourself dealing with a broken ribbon, know that is just a call away. But before you pick up the phone, here are solutions you can try.

Did you pop open the lid of your printer to find the ribbon broken? ID Superstore will show you how to 1) salvage the ribbon, and 2) diagnose why it broke in the first place.

1) Salvage the ribbon

First, get some clear tape. Do not use duct tape, masking tape or electrical tape. Wrap the tape around the rip and re-insert the ribbon. Make sure you skip over the ripped panels. You can then use the rest of the ribbon as normal.

2a) Ribbon did not break, but the error is reported

Sometimes, your printer may incorrectly indicate that your printer’s ribbon is broken. If this happens, first make sure to clean the print head. Dirt or dust may prevent the ribbon from advancing. If the error still occurs after the print head has been cleaned, the following steps may help you resolve the issue:

  • Check the ribbon encoder wheel and verify that it is undamaged and positioned in the sensor.
  • Check the ribbon encoder sensor cable to make sure it is connected.
  • Check the sensor to make sure it is functional and correctly aligned.
  • Check the ribbon motor and make sure it is functional.
  • Check the ribbon motor gear and take-up spool gear for damage or broken teeth.
  • Check the ribbon cartridge clutch.
  • Check that the ribbon is attached to the take-up ribbon core.
  • Check to see that the ribbon is not sticking to the card.

2b) The ribbon frequently breaks.

If your printer ribbon breaks, there are a number of potential causes. To identify the source of the problem, take the following steps:

  • If you’re printing with a direct-to-card printer (as opposed to a retransfer printer), check your design. Direct-to-card printers are not designed to print images over the edge of the card, also known as “bleed”. If your design goes too close to the edge of the card, this could be the cause of the ribbon breaking. Move or resize your images to leave a slight border around the edge of the card.
  • If that doesn’t work, reset your driver to its default settings. You may have adjusted the settings so that the temperature is too hot for the ribbon.
  • Check the Card Registration Offset.
  • Adjust the image trimming farther from the edge of the card.
  • Make sure the printing intensity is not too dark. On an edge-to-edge image when the leading edge of the image uses 100% of a color (Y, M, or C), the ribbon may get burned if the card is not fully under the print head to absorb the heat.
  • Check for burrs on the edges of the cards.
  • Make sure the cards being used are not already printed.

If your ribbons still break, your printer is probably due for a maintenance appointment. Just as you have a mechanic perform regular maintenance on your car, you should also have a factory-trained technician pop open the hood to your printer twice a year for direct-to-card printers and once a year for retransfer. Deep cleaning, sensor calibration and roll replacement will increase your printer’s lifetime card output by thousands. Do not attempt to take apart the printer yourself, as calibration tools and training are required.

By following these steps, you can salvage your broken ribbon and prevent ribbons from breaking in the future.

For expert assistance in troubleshooting printer ribbon issues, call our ID experts at 1-800-667-1772.

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