ZT400 Series Printers using White Ribbon

Article ID: 51302334

Issue / Question

Zebra ZT400 series printers may experience Ribbon Out errors when used with white ribbon.

Applicable To

ZT400 Series Printers using white ribbon

Resolution / Answer

In general, we have two possible solutions.

If the manual calibration still does not solve the problem, in general, we have two possible solutions.

The first solution is to adjust the RIBBON SENSOR and/or RIBBON GAIN by ^SS ZPL command and try to get the sensor to detect the ribbon. This is a trial and error exercise since the only visual item you have to look at is the sensor profile that shows the ribbon levels.
You would have to observe changes to bring the top of the printed ribbon value (solid printed area) on the profile as close to the OUT (2) level setting.
The following is the explanation of Ribbon Sensor Profile
The line labeled RIBBON (1) on the sensor profile indicates the ribbon sensor readings. The ribbon sensor threshold setting is indicated by OUT (2). If the ribbon readings are below the threshold value, the printer does not acknowledge that ribbon is loaded.

Therefore, the ribbon readings when the ribbon is not installed must be below the ribbon readings when the ribbon is installed, the printer can correctly identify if the ribbon is installed.
But If you use the white ribbon, you will find the ribbon readings when the ribbon is not installed may be above the ribbon readings when the ribbon is installed.

This means that no matter how you adjust the parameters of ribbon sensor, the printer can't correctly identify whether the ribbon is installed.

Therefore this method may not be available.
The second solution would be to cover the ribbon reflector plate with a piece of black electrical tape or black ribbon. If using this method use Zebra Brand ribbons as they have chrome trailers that will provide the reflective surface for the ribbon detection, chrome trailers as the figure below.


  1. From the printer's LCD select “POWER UP ACTION” and “HEAD CLOSE ACTION”, set up these values to “NO MOTION”, “FEED” or “LENGTH”.
  2. Turn the printer power off.
  3. Open the printhead.
  4. Remove the media and ribbon completely from the printer.
  5. There is a silver plate for ribbon sensor reflection under the ribbon sensor on ZT400 series printers, please refer to the red circle position in the figure below.
  1. Please remove this silver plate by a T10 screwdriver as the figure below.
  1. Please remove the silver plate and screw as the figure below.
  1. Please place a small piece of electrical tape on the silver plate as the figure below.
  1. Please reinstall the sliver plate back to its original position as the figure below. Here is a close up of the sensors viewed from the front of the printer.
  1. Power on the Printer.
  2. From the printer's LCD select Media and Ribbon: Calibrate will appear on the display. Now Perform a manual calibration procedure Read More>>
In manual calibration, the standard step of STEP 6 is Remove the ribbon, then you need to remove the white ribbon and replace it with chrome trailers, as shown below. Follow the standard steps for other steps.
  1. Open the printhead, load the white ribbon, close the printhead and take the printer out of pause state by hitting the PAUSE button. The printer will feed few labels and calibrate and finish with display reading PRINTER READY. When the roll of ribbon runs out by reaching the silver trailer the printer should trigger a RIBBON OUT error.
Note: Ribbon Out detection will fail if the ribbon were to break before the end of the roll. If using a non-Zebra ribbon that does not have the reflective strip at the end when the printer runs out of ribbon the printer will not detect a Ribbon Out Error too.  

If all else fails you can also set the printer to Direct Thermal and ignore the “Ribbon In” warning message that will appear. The printer will not detect the end of ribbon and you will also have to reduce your darkness setting since in this mode the energy to the printhead is increased.

+ Applicable Products

  • ZT410 Industrial Printer
  • ZT420 Industrial Printer