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HP Designjet L26500 Printer Series - Troubleshoot print-quality issues

General printing advice

Use the following approach when you have any print-quality problem:
  • Make sure that the substrate type that you select on the front panel, and in your RIP software, is the same as the substrate type that is loaded in the printer. Make sure that the substrate type has been calibrated.
      cuidado:
    If you have the wrong substrate type selected, you could experience poor print quality and incorrect colors, and perhaps even damage to the printheads.
  • Make that you are using the correct media profile for your substrate, or that you have followed the correct procedure to generate a new media profile (see Add a new substrateAdd a new substrate).
  • Make sure that you are using appropriate print-quality settings in your RIP software.
  • Make sure that you are using the correct ICC profile for your substrate and print-quality settings.
  • Make sure that your environmental conditions (temperature, humidity) are in the recommended range. See the User's guide.
  • Make sure that your ink cartridges have not passed their expiration dates. See Maintain the ink cartridgesMaintain the ink cartridges.
  • Avoid touching the substrate while printing is in progress.

Use the printhead status plot

The printhead status plot consists of patterns that are designed to highlight printhead-reliability problems. It helps you to check the performance of the printheads that are currently installed in your printer, and to determine whether any printhead is experiencing clogging or other problems.

Print the printhead status plot

To print the printhead status plot:
  1. Use the same substrate type that you were using when you detected a problem.
  2. Check that the selected substrate type is the same as the substrate type that is loaded into the printer.
  3. On the printer's front panel, select the icon, then select Image quality maintenance > Print all test plots.

Interpret the printhead status plot

The print consists of small dashes, one for each nozzle on each printhead.
For each individual colored pattern, make sure that most of the dashes are present.

Corrective action

  1. Clean any faulty printheads. See Clean the printheadsClean the printheads. Then reprint the printhead status plot to see whether the problem has been solved.
  2. If the problem persists, clean the printheads again, and reprint the printhead status plot to see whether the problem has been solved.
  3. If the problem continues to persist, replace any persistently faulty printheads. See Replace a printheadReplace a printhead.

What to do if problems persist

If you still experience print-quality problems after applying the advice in this chapter, here are some additional tips to consider:
  • Try selecting a higher print-quality option in your RIP software.
  • Check that your printer firmware is up to date. See Firmware updateFirmware update.
  • Check that you have the correct settings in your software program.
  • Call your service representative. See When you need helpWhen you need help.

Graininess

If you see this kind of problem:
  • Ensure that the vertical correction option is disabled in the RIP and in the front panel. At the front panel, select the icon, then select Image quality maintenance > Disable vertical correct. (if this option is available).
  • The printheads may be misaligned. This is likely if you have not aligned the printheads for a long time, or if there has been a substrate jam. Align the printheads if necessary (see Align the printheadsAlign the printheads). You can check whether it is necessary by using the printhead status plot (see Use the printhead status plot).
  • If you are printing with eight or more passes, the substrate advance may need adjustment. See Adjust the substrate advance.
  • Use a higher number of passes: you will probably see less grain with ten or more passes.
  • If graininess is more visible in dark or saturated colors, there may be a problem of ink coalescence. Try lowering the ink quantity.
If the problem persists, call your service representative. See When you need helpWhen you need help.

Horizontal banding

Try the following remedies if your printed image suffers from added horizontal lines as shown (the color may vary).
  • If bands affect mostly dark or saturated colors, or only area fills near the edges of the substrate, the cause could be insufficient drying of the ink, or an inaccurate color profile. Try the following suggestions.
    • Reduce the ink quantity.
    • Increase the number of passes.
    • Modify your media preset as suggested in Color reproduction tricksColor reproduction tricks.
  • If bands affect all colors across the width of the printed image, the cause is probably a substrate advance problem. Use the front panel to adjust the substrate advance on the fly (see Substrate advance adjustment on the fly). If you have dark bands, increase the substrate advance; if you have light bands, decrease it. When you find the right adjustment, store the value in the RIP for future prints on the same substrate.
    Another cause could be a fiber attached to one of the printheads. Turn off the printer and allow it to cool down, then remove the printheads one at a time and remove any fibers that you see attached to them.
  • If bands affect only some colors, the cause could be a defective printhead.
    • Print the printhead status plot (see Use the printhead status plot). If necessary, clean the printheads (see Clean (recover) the printheadsClean (recover) the printheads).
    • Clean the printheads again.
    • Align the printheads (see Align the printheadsAlign the printheads). If necessary, align them manually.
    • Print the printhead status plot again. Identify the printhead with the greatest number of blocked nozzles, and replace it.
    • If bands appear and disappear intermittently, go to the front panel and select the icon, then Image quality maintenance > Enable extra PH cleaning. Remember to disable this option when you no longer need it, because it shortens the life of the printhead cleaning kit.
  • If bands affect most of the colors, the printheads could be misaligned. This is likely if you have not aligned the printheads for a long time, or if there has been a substrate jam. Align the printheads if necessary (see Align the printheadsAlign the printheads). You can check whether it is necessary by using the printhead status plot (see Use the printhead status plot).
  • If banding occurs mostly in black areas, create a new color profile using pure black and not a mixture of other colors. See your RIP documentation.
If the problem persists, call your service representative (see the User's guide).

Adjust the substrate advance

The substrate advance sensor measures the advance of the substrate and compensates for irregularities at every pass of the printheads. However, to fine-tune the quality of your print, you may need to calibrate the rate at which the substrate advances. The substrate advance determines the placement of dots on the substrate. If the substrate is not advanced correctly, light or dark bands appear in the printed image and the grain in the print may increase.
You can modify the substrate advance with the Substrate Advance parameter in the RIP's substrate preset.
  1. On the front panel, select the icon, then select Image quality maintenance > Substrate advance calibration > Print adjustment plot. The printer prints a substrate-advance adjustment image.
  2. The calibration image consists of several columns with a number at the bottom of each one. Locate the lightest of the columns and enter its number into the RIP's Substrate Advance parameter for the current substrate preset. The value chosen in this example should be “–6”.

Substrate advance adjustment on the fly

If you are using no more than six passes, you can fine-tune the substrate advance while printing: select the icon, then select Image quality maintenance > Substrate advance calibration > Adjust substrate advance. Select a value of change from –10 mm/m to +10 mm/m (or mils/inch). To correct light banding, decrease the value. To correct dark banding, increase the value.
If you are using eight passes or more, a wrong advance adjustment will not produce banding but graininess, which is harder to assess visually. Therefore, in this case you are recommended to use only the adjustment plot.
When you have chosen a value and pressed OK, the rest of your job will be printed with that value, but it will be reset to zero at the end of the job. Add the value found to the Substrate Advance value in the RIP preset to print all future jobs with the new setting.
A simpler and faster way to adjust the substrate advance while the printer is printing is by pressing the Move Substrate button on the front panel, which then displays the following instructions.
As you modify the setting, the new setting is applied immediately to the current job by the printer. When you press OK to save the value, it is saved in the printer to be used throughout the current job.

Vertical banding

There are several different kinds of vertical banding that may be seen.
  • Wide vertical bands visible by darkness or graininess, typically seen on vinyl and banner substrates in medium-density area fills such as grays, violets and greens
    • Align the printheads. See Align the printheadsAlign the printheads.
    • Try the automatic correction for vertical banding provided by the RIP. Depending on your firmware version, this option may also be provided by the front panel: select the icon, then select Image quality maintenance > Enable vertical correct. (if this option is available).
      observação:
      Remember to disable the vertical banding correction when you no longer need it, because it may increase grain.
  • Thin vertical bands visible by darkness, typically seen in the first 150–200 mm of the print on vinyl and banner glossy substrates in high-density area fills or in backlit applications
    • Reduce the ink quantity if possible.
    • Disable the cutter.
    • Increase the number of passes.
    • If applicable, tell the RIP to group jobs together, so that printer temperatures remain more stable between jobs.
    • Modify your media preset as suggested in Color reproduction tricksColor reproduction tricks.
  • Irregular or isolated vertical bands
    • Increase the vacuum level in steps of 10 mmH2O. Do not exceed the following limits: 20 mmH2O for banners, 35 mmH2O for vinyl, and 50 mmH2O for other substrate families.
    • In backlit applications, increase the number of passes to 20 or more, and change the drying temperature up and down in steps of 5°C.
    • If the banding appears only at the beginning of the print, disable the cutter and advance the substrate manually about 100–150 mm before the first print.

The print is deformed into a curved shape

This may occur as a result of substrate bow deformation. See The substrate has bow deformationThe substrate has bow deformation.

Misaligned colors

If the colors are misaligned in any direction, the printheads may be misaligned. This is likely if you have not aligned the printheads for a long time, or if there has been a substrate jam. Align the printheads if necessary (see Align the printheadsAlign the printheads). You can check whether it is necessary by using the printhead status plot (see Use the printhead status plot).

Color intensity varies

If some printhead nozzles are in use while others in the same printhead are not, water evaporates slowly from the ink in the unused nozzles, making the color more intense. Thus, in such cases you may notice variations in color intensity in areas where the color of the image should be constant.
If you notice such a problem, there are various possible solutions.
  • At the front panel, select the icon, then select Image quality maintenance > Enable color variation correction. This correction will then remain enabled until you disable it.
  • If you notice the variation in intensity near one side of the print, try rotating the image by 180 degrees before printing. This may solve the problem in some cases, as all the nozzles are refreshed whenever they enter the service station between passes.
  • Use your RIP to add lateral color bars on the side of the plot that is close to the ink supplies. The color bars are designed to exercise all the printhead nozzles, to prevent the problem from occurring.
    observação:
    Not all RIPs provide this option.
  • Add lateral color bars to the image, manually, before printing. In this case, you can either use the standard colors, or decide to include a particular color in which you have noticed the problem. The recommended width of each color bar is 3 mm.

Lack of sharpness

If text, lines or solid areas are rough or blurred, the printheads may be misaligned. This is likely if you have not aligned the printheads for a long time, or if there has been a substrate jam. Align the printheads if necessary (see Align the printheadsAlign the printheads). You can check whether it is necessary by using the printhead status plot (see Use the printhead status plot).

Black areas look hazy

If black areas look hazy or not sufficiently black, try these suggestions.
  • Increase the number of passes.
  • Laminate the print.
  • See Color reproduction tricksColor reproduction tricks.

Ink smears

Ink smears may be seen on the print for the following reasons.
  • The substrate is skewed. Do not ignore the warning message that appears during the loading process if there is significant skew.
  • The substrate is not flat in the print zone. Try the following possible solutions.
    • Increase the vacuum level in steps of 10 mmH2O. Do not exceed the following limits: 20 mmH2O for banners, 35 mmH2O for vinyl, and 50 mmH2O for other substrate families.
    • Reduce the curing temperature. You will probably need to increase the number of passes in order to achieve adequate curing.
    • Check whether there are fibers on the printheads.
If the problem appears only at the beginning of the print, try the following suggestions.
  • Disable the automatic cutter.
  • Go to the front panel and select the icon, then Substrate handling options > Extra bottom margin. Set the margin to 100 mm. If that is not enough, try 150 or 200 mm. This extra margin will apply only to jobs that start printing when the printer is idle and when the cutter is disabled.
  • Increase the vacuum level in steps of 10 mmH2O. Do not exceed the following limits: 20 mmH2O for banners, 35 mmH2O for vinyl, and 50 mmH2O for other substrate families.
  • Decrease the warm-up drying temperature in steps of 5°C.
  • Decrease the warm-up curing temperature in steps of 5°C.
  • Increase the number of passes.
  • Make sure that the substrate is stored in the same room in which the printer is located.

Subtle stains or uneven appearance

Subtle color differences may be seen on some substrates if they are stored partially covered after printing. In the period immediately after printing, such substrates should be stored either totally covered or totally uncovered. It may be advisable to avoid the prolonged contact of two printed faces. This problem tends to disappear if the substrate is left uncovered for some time.
Alternatively, some individual rolls of substrate may have a defective coating. The solution in this case is to use another roll.

The ink smudges when touched, or looks oily

There are various different circumstances in which these symptoms can be seen.
  • When there is a big transition from light to dark colors across the length or width of the substrate
    Increase the minimum drying power.
    observação:
    This solution is specific to this problem, and should not be used in other cases, when it could cause further problems.
  • When the symptoms can be seen only at the start of the first print after the printer has been idle for some time (especially when the start of the print uses a lot of ink)
    Increase the warm-up drying temperature offset and the warm-up curing temperature offset. If necessary, increase the stable drying and curing temperatures, or slightly reduce the ink limits.
  • When the symptoms can be seen only at the left and right sides of the print
    Increase the drying and curing temperatures, decrease the overall ink quantity and/or increase the number of passes.
  • When the symptoms can be seen only in certain parts of the print that use a lot of ink
    Increase the drying and curing temperatures, decrease the overall ink quantity and/or increase the number of passes.
  • When the symptoms can be seen only in the center of the print
    Check that all fans are working correctly.
  • After reducing the number of passes
    Increase the drying and curing temperatures and/or decrease the overall ink quantity.
  • When the oily finish appears minutes or hours after printing
    Store the print face-up and uncovered; the effect normally disappears after a while.
observação:
If you decrease the overall ink quantity, you may notice less color saturation.

The dimensions of the print are wrong

As the substrate is heated during the drying and curing processes, some substrates will shrink (and some may expand) after the image has been printed. This may be inconvenient if the print has to be framed or if several prints are to be to be tiled one next to the other.
See The substrate has shrunk or expandedThe substrate has shrunk or expanded.

Tiling issues

The most common problems when printing tiles are as follows.
  • Color degradation within individual tiles
    In many cases, individual tiles are long and contain very large areas of solid colors. This combination (long areas of saturated solid colors) may lead to a degradation of printhead performance, which can then cause degradation of the color inside the tile. To solve this problem, go to the front panel and select the icon, then Image quality maintenance > Enable extra PH cleaning. Remember to disable this option when you no longer need it, because it shortens the life of the printhead cleaning kit.
  • Color variation tile to tile
    In some cases contiguous tiles with the same background solid color may show differences in color between the right side of the first tile and the left side of the second tile. This is a common issue of inkjet printers (both thermal inkjet and piezo inkjet), where there are slight color variations as the swath advances. Since the biggest color differences are between the left edge and the right edge, the effect may sometimes be seen when putting two tiles together. This issue can easily be overcome by inverting alternate tiles, which has the effect of placing the right side of the first plot next to the right side of the second plot and the left side of the second plot next to the left side of the third, so all contiguous areas have been printed in the same point of the swath and, hence, have the same color. This is a feature that all RIPs have available.
  • Dimensional variations from tile to tile
    Some specific banner substrates may not have uniform dimensional stability when printing very long tiles. The result is that the length of the tile may be different between the left and the right side (e.g. a 9 meters long tile may be ~1 cm longer on the right side compared to the left side). While this is not noticeable with individual plots, it affects the alignment between panels in tiling applications. Substrate types that show this behavior tend to show it constantly along the roll. So, when present, this issue can easily be overcome by inverting alternative tiles, which has the effect of placing the right side of the first plot next to the right side of the second plot and the left side of the second plot next to the left side of the third, so all contiguous areas belong to the same side of the roll and, hence, have the same length. This is a feature that all RIPs have available.

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