How to remove pizza wheel (star wheel) or printhead strike marks on Epson Printer

When we examine a printed page, we may notice tiny marks or smudges across the page.  This article is to help us to eliminate star wheel, pizza wheel, and roller marks, as well as printhead strike marks.

What are "pizza wheels" main functions?

Pizza Wheel is a nickname for the star wheel in Epson printers. The wheel has two functions: 1) push the paper down and keep it flat, so the printhead will not strike the media surface (strike marks). 2) Help the paper move forward at the end of printing. At the very last bit of the printing, the paper will be released from the back rollers. However, the paper still needs to go forward. Therefore, the star wheel will push the paper onto the front ejection roller, which finishes the printing.

Why do pizza wheels leave marks?

The pizza wheel pushes down the paper with tiny spikes. If the ink isn't drying properly before it hits the roller, the wheel will undoubtedly leave marks when it rolls through the page.

Why won't the ink properly dry before hitting the wheel?

The drying won't be a problem if we use regular inks and print on traditional media. However, there are many applications that the ink won't be dry:

Sublimation printing: A good sublimation paper should hold the ink on the surface and not let it bleed into the paper fibers. Thus, we can achieve a higher transfer rate and broader gamut. Therefore, the ink won't be dried enough before reaching the pizza wheel. Furthermore, there is a phenomenon called "pigment overloading", which is, more sublimation colorants create a better product. Therefore, the sublimation ink is overloaded with colorants (this is why our printer clogs more than a regular printer). Business owners want to put as much ink on paper as possible because it makes their product stands out from the crowd.

Polyamide sublimation printing: The polyamide technique adds polyamide power after printing. The powder will bind with wet ink and enhance the sublimation of cotton and other substrates. As a result, we want the ink to be as moist as possible a the end. A silicone-coated transfer paper is selling at least $1 a page. We will demonstrate how to use regular sublimation paper to achieve this.

Fine Art printing: The pizza wheel mark is not visible in most cases. However, it may create dents on media such as glossy paper. The problem may also arise if a thicker stock is used.

What are ways of eliminating pizza wheel marks? 

Method 1. Clean the wheel rollers often.

Method 2. Wait between prints. 

Give it at least 30 minutes break between any ink-intensive pages.

Method 3. Slow down the printing and give ink enough time to dry.

  1. Slow down the printer by changing the printer settings. Depending on the printer model, not all of these settings are available. On the printer, select Home->Setting->General settings->Printer Settings
      • Thick Paper Mode ->ON
      • Quiet Mode-> On
      • Ink Drying Time->Longer
      1. More Options->High-speed Printing-> OFF
  2. Slow down the printer by changing the computer setting. For both Mac and PC users, go to "Printer & Scanners." To see these choices, we need to install the Epson OEM driver, and not all options are available for all models.
    1. Mac user: select the printer->Options and supplies->Options
      1. Thick Paper Mode ->ON
      2. Quiet Mode-> On
      3. Ink Drying Time->Longer
      4. High-speed Printing-> OFF
    2. PC user: select the printer and right-click (or click Manage for Windows 10 and up)->Printing preferences:
      1. More Options->Highspeed Printing->OFF
      2. Extended Setting->Thick Paper and Envelopes ->ON
      3. Ink Drying Time->Longer
      4. Quiet Mode-> On

3. Slow down the printer by opening lid.  When we open the printer door in the middle of printing, the printer will stop and wait the lid to be closed.  Therefore, we can open the lid when the printer is about halfway done, wait a few minutes then close the lid.

Method 4. Reduce the Ink Amount

There are two ways we can control the ink amount: by selecting the paper type and setting print density in the extended settings (Printing preferences->Maintenance->Extended Settings->Print Density). We can play with the ink level until finding a combination that the printer can take.

    1. Paper Type: we can select plain paper (less ink) or Premium Presentation Paper Matte (more ink). The plain paper +20% more ink density will output less ink than Matte with -20% ink. Therefore, we can consider PPPM to be the "next level."
    2. Print Density: The slide bar will allow us to select from -20% to +20%. Therefore, the Matte+20 is the ultimate ink level a printer can output (without ripping software).

Method 5. Partial Removal of Wheels

We can remove some of the wheels. To do this, we can remove all the center wheels and leave the wheels on the far left and right. However, as described above, there are two functions of the wheel. If wereduce the wheel's downward force, we will start having strike-marks from the printhead.

Method 6. Remove Star Wheels Completely

When the pizza wheel is removed completely, we need tools to accomplish the wheel's two functions. BCH's Matte20 conversion kit is designed to keep paper flat and free of strike marks. However, we will need to attach a small piece of backer to each page. Details please see the instruction video of the product.

Summary Comparisons

Method Mod Cost Operation Cost Max Ink Level Paper Release Printhead Strike Mark Can Ink Not Dry
by the End of Printing
Clean Roller Free 2 minutes/clean -20% Matte No Problem No No. Has to dry 
Wait Between Printing Free 30 minutes/page -20% Matte No Problem No No. Has to dry
Slow Down Printer Free 1-2 minutes/page 0% Matte No Problem No No. Has to dry
Reduce Ink Amount Free Poor quality 1-5% Matte No

No. Has to dry

Partial Remove Free 0 5% Matte Some Problem Strike

Yes. Can be wet after printing.

Complete Remove $$ 0 20% Matte or more (Rip) Need to Add backers
(see BCH Product Instruction)
No Yes. Can be wet after printing.
Dec 24th 2021

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