Xi Series and 105SL Plus - Resolving Ribbon Related Issues

Article ID: 84292966



This solution discusses resolving symptoms related to the following:

  • Ribbon In error
  • Ribbon Out error
  • Not detecting a ribbon out condition
  • Ribbon wrinkle causing random diagonal lines in print
  • Ribbon stalling or sticking
  • Ribbon breaking or tearing


Applies To

Xi4 Series Printers and 105SL Plus


The printer can be used for a wide variety of printing applications. Printing can be done with and without ribbon and for each method the printer (and driver/software) must be properly configured. The most common term used when ribbon is required is ”Thermal Transfer” while “Direct Thermal” refers to applications that do not use ribbon. For non-ribbon applications a heat sensitive label must be used referred to as Direct Thermal labels.

The ribbon used in the printer consists of a wax or resin based ink on a plastic film called the carrier that is rolled onto a cardboard core. The width of the roll varies based on the width of the labels and should always be slightly wider. This provides protection for the printhead to prevent wear. On Zebra printers the ink is on the outside of the ribbon roll (see note) and this is the surface that should be facing the labels so ink transfer is accomplished. Read More>>

Important: All printer menu settings can be impacted by commands from a mis-matched or misconfigured driver or software application. A printer that is functioning fine after setup but fails or indicates an error after label requests are received are most likely affected by the host side misconfiguration of the driver or printer software settings. The host device that generates the printer commands for printing typically have setup configuration that send these as commands to the printer. Make sure all settings match the printer settings to avoid intermittent issues.

Common Issues and Resolutions

Problem Resolution
Ribbon Out Error
  • If you are not using ribbon make sure both the printer and software/driver are configured for Direct ThermalRead More>>
  • Verify the ribbon is correctly loaded and fully pushed on to the Ribbon Supply spindle to assure it passes over the Ribbon Sensor when the printhead is closed.  Read More>>
  • Verify the ribbon sensor is properly calibrated for the ribbon being used. Perform a calibration procedure Read More>>

  • Try Defaulting and verify printer has calibrated correctly Read More>>



Ribbon In Error
  • The printer is detecting ribbon but configured for Direct Thermal (no ribbon mode). Change the LCD Print Mode to Thermal Transfer if using ribbon or if using Direct Thermal remove the ribbon. Verify the driver/software settings match the printer settings.
  • Make sure the Snap Plate is properly installed Read More>>
  • The sensor is not calibrated properly. Perform a calibration procedure Read More>>



 .User-added image

Ribbon Wrinkle

 Click to Enlarge

  • Verify the ribbon is loaded correctly Read More>>
  • Verify the media guides are properly set to keep the media from wandering away from the inner guides Read More>>
  • Adjust the head pressure to assure the pressure is balanced across the media. Read More>>
  • Verify the media and ribbon combination is appropriate. Media and ribbon combinations that require excessive pressure and darkness setting may cause ribbon wrinkle.
  • If all above fail to resolve the problem try adjusting the Strip Plate Read More>>



Not detecting a ribbon out condition
  • Assure the printer is set to Thermal Transfer Read More>>
  • Verify the ribbon is loaded correctly Read More>>
  • Make sure the Snap Plate is properly installed Read More>>
  • The sensor is not calibrated properly. Perform a calibration procedure Read More>>



Ribbon Breaking or Tearing
  • Verify the ribbon is loaded correctly Read More>>
  • Reduce the darkness setting in the LCD Display and driver/software Read More>>
  • Verify your media and ribbon combination is compatible so the burn temperature does not have to be set too high



Ribbon Stalling
  • Verify the inked side of the ribbon is facing the labels Read More>>
  • Assure the  Ribbon Supply Spindle fins are aligned when loading the ribbon in the ribbon supply spindle. Read More>>
  • Increase the head pressure to assure the pressure is balanced across the media. Read More>>
  • Decrease the darkness and verify the media and ribbon combination is appropriate for the application Read More>>




Helpful Details


User-added image Click here to view video -> Printer Ribbon Loading Video


Load the ribbon following the diagram that is printed on the inside wall of the supplies compartment. This will ensure the ribbon sensor detects the presence of ribbon correctly. Improper loading can cause false ribbon out errors and also lead to wrinkling.


How it works

Ribbon Mechanics

There are two spindles, Ribbon Supply and Ribbon Take-up, that guide the ribbon during printing. The actual movement of ribbon is controlled by the printhead pressure at the print line. Back tension is applied from the Ribbon Supply spindle to help prevent wrinkle and take up slack during backfeed operation. Printhead pressure moves the ribbon keeping it synchronized with the labels and the Ribbon Take-up spindle removes the ribbon from the labels and rewinds the spent ribbon. 


 Ribbon Detection

The printer uses a combination of an optical sensor and reflector plate to detect the ribbon as it blocks the ribbon sensor light path. The ribbon sensor is used in Thermal Transfer applications to detect the state of the ribbon and will provide a Ribbon Out condition when the ribbon reaches the end of the roll or is not installed. A clear ribbon trailer allows the light to reach the reflector plate or the ribbon has a reflective chrome trailer that acts as a light reflector for the ribbon sensor. For Direct Thermal applications (where ribbon is not required) the sensor will warn if ribbon is detected by displaying a Ribbon In warning on the LCD Display. To avoid ribbon errors proper loading and configuration of the printer and driver/software is required.


Ribbon Sensor 



+ Product Codes

  • 105SLPlus Industrial Printers
  • 105SLPlus Industrial Printers
  • 110Xi4 Industrial Printer
  • 140Xi4 Industrial Printer
  • 170Xi4 Industrial Printer
  • 220Xi4 Industrial Printer
  • R110Xi4 RFID Printer
  • Xi Series Industrial Printers