A closeup of a genuine Zebra printhead
By Jeff Rufenacht | January 09, 2020

Is Your Printhead Genuinely Right for Your Industrial Printer?

Low-cost aftermarket parts may look like the real deal, but you could be left dealing with a host of printer issues and extra expenses.

I was reading a story the other day about how prolific the counterfeit market has become in the United States since e-commerce has given third parties a platform to move these products somewhat undetected (at least at first). The enormity of this market is even more shocking when you look at it on a global scale. And it doesn’t even account for the growing number of cloned products or knock offs flooding the market.  There seems to be an imitation version of nearly every manufactured good available online these days, including cars, toys, toasters and printheads.

Yes, you read that right.

Industrial printer replacement parts such as printheads are as valued by counterfeiters and aftermarket parts suppliers as clothing or automotive parts because they are consumables.  Just like with poor quality media and ribbon, worn out printheads can degrade print quality and result in unreadable barcodes.  Lack of proper maintenance of printheads can lead to the same result. (We’ll share some tips on how to keep yours clean in an upcoming blog.)

So, even though printheads may not be as sexy as handbags, jewelry and watches, they are “copied” by other manufacturers just as often.

That is why I strongly urge you to double check that you’re ordering the genuine original equipment manufacturer (OEM) printhead when it comes time to replace yours.

The printhead is one of the most important components in your direct thermal or thermal transfer printer. It is what does the actual printing.  If your printhead isn’t working properly, your printer isn’t working properly and that can result in expensive downtime and waste for your business.

Non-OEM Printheads May Look Like They’ll Work in Your Printer, but They May Not Be as “Compatible” as You Think

Non-OEM printheads, especially those sold online, are often advertised as “compatible” and might look similar to the genuine OEM printhead.  But caveat emptor (buyer beware) as looks and performance may be very different things. The old saying of “you get what you pay for” comes to mind.

As my colleagues have discussed in previous blogs here on Your Edge, there is a direct correlation between your printer’s performance and your business performance. Given how much the success of your operation depends on your printing application, it is absolutely critical that you do everything in your power to select the right replacement parts and supplies for your printer. That includes the printhead, as well as the printer ribbon, RFID inlay and more. However, the only way to ensure that a printhead will work optimally with your Zebra printer and sustain high-quality outputs for years to come is to use the genuine OEM printhead that matches your printer’s OEM specifications.

Plus, use of a non-OEM printhead can put your printer warranty at risk. Along those same lines, if you need service on your printer, the presence of a non-OEM printhead may hamper the ability of the OEM support team to help resolve your problem.

If you’re unsure of which printhead to order or what you already have, please contact Zebra.

Remember, only genuine Zebra printheads are rigorously tested to Zebra’s engineering standards and optimized for the best combination of print quality and printhead life according to the particular printer model. And only genuine Zebra printheads can take full advantage of Zebra’s E3™ Element Energy Equalizer for superior print quality.” 


Editor’s Note: To learn more about the benefits of using genuine OEM printheads or confirm which printheads are confirmed to work with your Zebra printer, visit our website, contact our printing experts or leave a comment for Jeff below.

Manufacturing, Warehouse and Distribution, Transportation and Logistics,
Jeff Rufenacht
Jeff Rufenacht

Jeff Rufenacht is currently the Printhead Product Manager at Zebra where he is responsible for managing aftermarket printheads and the ZE500 Print Engine. Jeff has more than 28 years of experience within the industry and has previously served as a Quality Technician and Technical Support Advisor.

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