Maintaining your printer properly is just like taking proper care of your car. If you change the oil regularly and follow the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule, you’ll get many years and miles out of your vehicle. Likewise, good regular printer maintenance will yield many years of profitable printing. Many calls to SIGNWarehouse Product Support could be avoided by proper printer maintenance. We are committed to your success and will always assist when needed, but the best option is to preventive maintenance. Just as regular oil changes and scheduled maintenance can protect your car’s engine, regular printer maintenance can prevent costly repairs and down-time. Simple regular maintenance protects your business engine and keeps your print shop running smoothly. Here’s what you need to do to keep your printer in tip top shape.

Recommended PrismJET VJ54 Maintenance Procedures

If your sign business is up and running, the most important thing you can do to keep your printer up and running is make sure your maintain it properly. This means regular cleaning of the main components, and periodic inspection and/or replacement of consumables like the capping station. Here’s the breakdown of what should be done and how often.

• Cleaning Cycles: Running a cleaning cycle is just as easy as printing a nozzle check. Press and hold the right arrow button on your PrismJET VJ54 control panel for two seconds to initiate a cleaning cycle. Then print a nozzle check and inspect the outcome. If the nozzle check is perfect, you’re good to go. If however, you have clogged nozzles, you will need to repeat the cleaning cycle. If the nozzles remain clogged after two cleanings, you may need to perform a powerful cleaning. This is also done from the control panel menu. You can choose from normal or powerful cleanings or a “little charge” which forces even more ink through the head. Detailed instructions on initiating a powerful cleaning or Little charge can be found on page 207 of the User Manual.

• Auto Cleaning: During normal use, your PrismJET VJ54can be programmed to run cleaning cycles automatically. This also prevents clogging and is highly recommended. During idle time, the printer will periodically run a normal cleaning according to the frequency you determine. In order for the auto cleaning function to work, the printer must be left powered on when not in use. There’s a caution here. Don’t rely entirely on auto-cleaning to keep your head in good condition. You still need to fire the head periodically and run a nozzle check or Test pattern every few days, as noted above. Auto cleaning is just a nice backup. More detailed instruction on setting the auto-cleaning intervals can be found on page 195 of the User Manual.

Manual Cleaning

Auto-cleaning cycles are not enough to properly maintain your printer. These only prevent buildup of ink in the nozzles. They don’t remove ink residue that accumulates on the print head carriage, wiper, or capping station. These components must be cleaned manually and regularly. Clean around the print head. All the cleaning cycles mentioned above are head cleanings performed by the printer. They only clean clogged nozzles. In addition to cleaning the nozzles, it is important to clean ink residue from around the print head. This is a manual process that should be done weekly.

Clean the Wiper: The wiper is small rubber blade that cleans the print head. It’s mounted on the left side of the capping station and is positioned to rub the bottom of the head as it passes over to mount on the capping station. You can think of it as a tiny squeegee. But there’s no tinier squeegee to clean this little squeegee, so you have to clean it manually. The more you print, the faster it gets gunky and the more frequently you’ll need to clean it. Fortunately, it only takes a couple of minutes. Use a maintenance swab and some approved cleaning solution to wipe ink residue from the front and back of the wiper blade. 

    Clean the Cap Top: Once or twice a week during normal use, you should use a foam pad and some MUTOH Eco Ultra cleaning solution to remove ink residue from the rubber seals around the top of the maintenance station, also known as the cap top. Keeping the cap top clean ensures a good seal is maintained between the cap top and print head. Do not touch the Rubber Cap. Oil from your hands may prevent the cap from sealing properly.

    Cap Top Cleaning & Ink Cartridge Economy: Even with normal maintenance, ink and residue can build up on the surface of the cap top. When this happens, it can lead to clogged nozzles and lines. This, in turn, can cause the ink usage calculations on the printer's smart card to become inaccurate. Over time, this leads to the printer's firmware overestimating the amount of ink used. The result is an empty cartridge message that forces you to remove an ink cartridge that still has usable ink. If you find your printer prompting you to replace cartridges when they still feel 25% full or more, your maintenance station needs to be serviced or replaced. To prevent this, place a drop of MUTOH cleaning solution on the cap top at the end of the day. Do this at least every other day during normal use. This small extra step can make a world of difference.

    Clean Around the Print Head: Even if the wiper and maintenance station are cleaned regularly, it's a good idea to clean around the bottom of the print head and carriage. The process is similar, but you'll need to use the printer's user manual to move the head assembly to the maintenance position in the far left side of the printer. Do this by pressing the setup menu and scrolling to the Maintenance option. Press the Menu key and enter the Setup menu. Use the up/down arrows to scroll to Set20:CR Maintenance, and press Enter. The head will move to the open area to the left of the platen. You can then open the access door in the front panel to reach the areas around the head carriage (Fig 2 below).

    Use the swab to clean AROUND the bottom of the head. Do NOT rub the button of the head itself (FIG 2). Your only goal here is to remove accumulated ink residue from the areas around the head itself and from the head guide (the leading edges of the carriage). Ink buildup here can prevent a good seal on the cap top and cause error messages, loss of vacuum, and eventually damage to the head. This should be done at least once a week. If you're running over six hours a day, five days a week, this should be done more frequently.

      Waste Ink & Replacement of Consumables

      Waste Ink Tank: During cleaning cycles, ink is pulled through the maintenance station down into the waste ink tank. Eventually, the waste ink tank will need to be emptied. How do you know when to do this? Easy - the printer will tell you to. As the tank fills, a “Near Full Waste Ink Tank” warning will appear on the printer’s LCD control panel. When the tank is full, a “Full Waste Ink Tank” message will appear, prompting you to empty, then reset the tank. Emptying the waste ink tank is as easy as turning on a garden hose. Simply turn the valve on the hose to allow waste ink to flow (FIG 3). It should flow into an approved container so that the ink can be disposed of responsibly in accordance with local ordinances for disposal of chemicals.

      FIG 3: Replace the waste ink tank when prompted. Be sure to dispose of waste ink properly.

      Wiper Blade. Even when cleaned regularly, the wiper blade can still wear out. When this happens, it will begin to fail to clean the bottom of the print head. This causes excessive ink buildup on the head and carriage, which can lead to errors including a (capping station error). If this occurs, clean the head and carriage thoroughly, then inspect or replace the wiper blade. They're inexpensive and readily available online.

      Replace the Maintenance Station: Even when properly cleaned and maintained, eventually normal wear takes a toll and some components need to be replaced. The maintenance assembly or capping station, should be replaced annually. The rubber seals that create vacuum under the head will eventually wear out. When this happens, air leaks in and the head dries out. If this is missed, by the time the damage is done, you may need to replace the print head. So do yourself a favor and make sure to change this critical component at least once a year.

      Keep it Flowing

      Finally, the last thing you can do to keep your printer in good shape, is to use it. Printing keeps the ink delivery system in the pink, so to speak. For detailed recommendations on what you should print and how often, check out our recommended usage article.

      Your large format printer is an important investment. It makes sense to take good care of it. Just as regular maintenance is essential for getting maximum mileage from your vehicles, proper maintenance is essential for getting the best experience from your PrismJET or MUTOH printer. Taking proper care of our printer with regular cleaning, replacing parts as they age, and keeping it printing, will produce the best mileage from your large format business engine.