One issue that all types of digital printing—including direct-to-garment, dye sublimation, and large format printing—have in common is banding.
Banding is the pattern of lines or streaks that occur in a print when print heads become clogged. Digital prints are created as the various ink colors are fired through a small opening or nozzle of the print head. Banding will become more visible as less ink can pass through the nozzle onto the substrate.
A zoom-in on a print with banding. (Image courtesy Great Dane Graphics)
In order to help prevent banding from occurring, routine maintenance and print head tests should be conducted as outlined by your printer’s manufacturer. Make sure all the print heads are printing to their full potential by performing daily print tests or nozzle checks. If any lines are missing when a nozzle check is printed, perform a print head cleaning to help flush out the nozzles and clear the openings so the ink can begin to flow and print again.
Another thing to consider to prevent the clogging of print heads is relative humidity. The humidity in the area where your printer is located should be at a minimum of 40 percent. The humidity in the air helps prevent the opening of the print heads from skinning over or drying.
Even if you do not use your digital printer on a regular basis, print tests should be performed daily. If a printer sits idle for too long, the print head can become so clogged that it can no longer be cleared resulting in the need to replace the print head completely.
Yes, running daily print cleanings does use some ink, but the cost of the ink used for this purpose is a lot less compared to what you might lose if you had to replace parts or the cost of rejected products due to banding that occurred while printing. So as with any type of equipment, routine maintenance is key to preventing banding, saving you time and money, and keeping things running smoothly.
Source: Dane Clement
Clement offers insights on How to Camouflage Banding in a Design here.