We receive (and see) posts about Zebra printer ribbon wrinkling on Zebra Z-170xi series and Z-220xi series printers. While this problem is common on all thermal transfer printers, it is most prevalent on the wider web printers since there is more surface area of ribbon moving across the printhead. Many users get really frustrated with these printers and the frequency that they experience ribbon wrinkling when all that is need is periodic maintenance, cleaning and inspection by a qualified field service engineer.
The bottom line on ribbon wrinkling is that uneven printhead pressure causes the ribbon to pinch to one side causing the ribbon to pull in and wrinkle. Printhead toggle pressure, position and wear can cause uneven pressure as well as printhead alignment and balance. Also a worn press plate, drive roller and bent mount plate will cause wrinkling issues. A snap plate or ribbon strip plate out of position will cause the ribbon to wrinkle and so will a ribbon that is loaded incorrectly. And, even if all is in order, too much darkness applied to the printhead can cause a ribbon to wrinkle.
After cleaning and inspecting the printer and making sure the toggles are positioned properly and show no wear and all parts are installed correctly, we look at the alignment of the printhead and many times go right towards a drive roller replacement. This approach assures we are working with a level surface and we can go onto closer inspection of toggles, plates and printhead alignment.
Most of the process mentioned above is for information only since it is not recommended that the end user attempt to replace drive rollers, printheads and worn or damaged plates. These tasks generally require an experienced technician that can identify and correct issues without getting the printer completely out of adjustment.