Deciding on Dedicated Thermal Printers

Posted by Cheryl Lininger on Aug 1, 2017 4:51:03 PM

In MATERIAL ID, Thermal Printing

Deciding on dedicated printers: What to consider when choosing your thermal transfer printers

In today’s world, more and more companies are turning to automation as a business advantage.

This automation includes a barcode or QR code and a reader (scanner or imager) to collect the data automatically eliminating or reducing the need for human data entry and associated errors. The barcode is commonly printed on a label or tag that is applied/attached to the product for identification and traceability.

In an effort to be efficient companies are opting to print the label/tag themselves. Taking on this task in house means choosing the right printer or printers is very important.

Sometimes one printer model can work for all of the labels/tags that need printed. But often the better choice can be to integrate dedicated printers for each printing job. So how do we choose a printer is the best for the job of all of these needs?

Thermal transfer printing is often the best way to optimize the lifespan of your image on your label or tag. When selecting a printer it is important to consider not just the initial cost and its ability to do the job but also the expected lifespan and long term cost of maintenance.

Many companies are printing multiple sizes and materials of labels or tags for multiple segments within their business. A few examples:

  • Receiving inventory into your business – printing a barcode label before putting the product into inventory.
  • WIP – labeling or tagging the product through the production or assembly process
  • Product labeling – labeling the identity of the product and/or the finished item barcode label.
  • Shipping – printing a pallet and/or shipping label

It is tempting to look at opting for one of the numerous industrial printers that are capable of printing multiple sizes and materials of labels/tags, but often the best solution is to incorporate a dedicated printer for each printing job, based on the label/tag size and material to be printed.

There are several things to consider when choosing a printer. Label size, label material, image output on the label or tag (graphics and/or barcode), volume/quantity of labels/tags to be printed.

When choosing the printer, we can either chose the printer that will print the largest/widest of our labels and also then print the smallest size. Or opt for the best printer for each label/tag size to be printed.

So let’s say we have a 4”x 2” label that is printed in Receiving and a 2”x2” label for WIP and then a 6”x4” label in Shipping. We could get 3 or more of the larger/more expensive 6” wide printer to print all 3 sizes and make them interchangeable. Or we could get 3 dedicated printers that is more appropriate for each size. This would reduce costs in both ribbons and spare parts, such as printheads.

The reason it saves money is because the ribbon width size can be smaller for a 4" and 2" label...so less cost. The printheads are an expensive item to replace and the wider the printhead, the more expensive.

Using a 6" wide printer for a 2" label is wasteful because as the printhead degrades with every print and the replacement cost of could be double of the smaller printheads.

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