#1 Remove/Reduce Epson Star Pizza Wheel Roller & Printhead Strike Marks

#1 Remove/Reduce Epson Star Pizza Wheel Roller & Printhead Strike Marks

Today I will be talking about the Epson printer’s pizza wheels (also sometimes referred to as star wheels). I’ll probably be cutting this demonstration into two parts since there will be a lot to go over.

To start with, we’re going to look inside the printer. You should be able to locate a series of small wheels near the paper dispenser. Those are called pizza wheels or star wheels. I prefer calling them pizza wheels, so that’s what I'll use for the rest of the demonstration.

These wheels are there to hold the paper down as it comes out, so that it stays flat. For regular paper, you should be able to spray some alcohol and move the paper back and forth to clean it. The problem occurs when you print on coated paper.

When the printer is dyeing the paper with the ink, it’s designed to soak into the paper so that it doesn’t smear or rub off, and the pigment ink remains on top of the paper. The problem with printing on coated paper is that some coatings let the dye flow over the top of the paper, preventing it from getting to the parts it needs to absorb into.

So if the surface of the paper you’re trying to print onto is still wet with ink, those little pizza wheels will dip into it. This will cause an issue as the pizza wheels will further pass the ink along to other parts of the paper, or even other sheets of paper you print later, leaving little pizza wheel marks all over it.

This problem is even more severe for people who print out a lot of larger scale photos and sublimation. The main challenge of sublimation is that the ink has to be very thin, so you won’t be putting as much color there as you normally would. This leads to a phenomenon in sublimation known as pigment overload.

Pigment overloading is what happens when you try to make the ink base take as much colorant as possible. What this means is that if you can make the paper take more ink, you’ll have a better, more vibrant image.

So not only does pigment overload mean the ink is overloaded, but the ink volume as well. In another video on my YouTube channel I demonstrated how this works, but I’ll summarize it again here.

Demonstrating on Standard Paper

To start with, I chose a nice bright hockey logo to print out as an example. I put it in photoshop and went to “print”. I use sublimation printing as an example because it’s very common for people that frequently use sublimation to overload the paper to a ridiculously high level.

The first thing we need to talk about is the paper type. The paper type you set it to controls how much ink the printhead will use to print the image. Plain paper takes the least amount of ink. For my example, I set it to use plain paper and set the image quality to high.

People who do sublimation printing are often not satisfied with the results of the “plain paper” setting so they change it to “matte”. Image quality is usually still set to high, though. For sublimation printers, good is not satisfactory. They feel the need to print the best quality picture possible.

Because of this, they also tend to play around with the ink density. To do this, they go to printer settings> maintenance tab> extended settings. There you get the option to mess with a bunch of sliders, one of which determines the density of the ink the printer will use.

For my final example, I cranked the ink density setting up 20% higher than I normally would have it. To see the results of these tests, click here and it will take you to the exact time stamp in my video.

Without any changes to the paper type or ink density, the hockey team logo I printed came out standard, as one would expect. The next image I printed still had the ink density set to standard but I changed the paper type to tell it I was printing on matte paper.

It printed the picture with much more vibrancy than the first. Lastly, I printed the same picture a third time with it set to matte paper and 20% more ink density. This is the setting to use for the most vibrancy and color.

For all three of these images, there were no pizza wheel marks to be seen. Everything got printed perfectly. I also ran a fourth image set to matte with the lowest possible ink density. It still printed a more vibrant image than standard. That goes to show just how hard it is for the printer to print at maximum density and the matte setting.

Demonstrating on Glossy Paper

Next I printed the same image on glossy paper to show you the damage that we had done.

The first image I printed was at the standard settings: Plain paper, zero density. It seemed to print without issue. There were no pizza wheel marks or scratches.

The second image I printed was set to standard density but with the matte paper setting this time. If you watch the video, you’ll see here that the colors printed out are much better. However, you start to see some scratch marks appearing on the image. That’s not a good sign. These scratch marks are caused when the printhead scratches the surface of the paper as it moves. Towards the bottom we also started getting the pizza wheel marks.

The third picture I printed was once again using the matte setting, but this time I cranked the ink density back up as high as it would go. This time, I can clearly see the pizza wheel marks and the printhead’s strike marks.

Solving the Problem

There are a few solutions, so I’ll summarize them here:

  1. Reduce the amount of ink on the paper and slow the printing time.
  2. Disable High Speed Printing
  3. I put a piece of napkin at the end of the printing. Halfway through I removed it to let the printer stop just before it reached the pizza wheels. That manually gives the printing more time to dry.

In the next part, I’ll demonstrate a few more methods, which I don’t have room for here since they’re a bit more complicated than you’d think. One of these methods is to remove the pizza wheel. The reason this is difficult is because their function is to hold the paper down and keep it flat. They also have a PS sensor built in, which we’ll also need to deal with.

Check my YouTube channel, Kevin at BCH, for more helpful videos and for the follow up on this demonstration. 

Jun 23rd 2022

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