When should you exchange a label printer?

2 sep 2021

Label Maker – Answer four questions before deciding to buy a new one

A label printer is a device that most companies cannot imagine without. It is also called a barcode printer. Its versatility and universality are influenced by a number of important functions, i.e. thermal printing for labels with limited durability and thermal transfer printing for permanent specialist labels. Thanks to this, the device is used in industries such as production, logistics, trade, services, health care and administration. It is very important to consider the needs of the end user when selecting a label printer. The devices available on the market are not versatile and the principle: higher price – better quality – is not always justified.

Important questions regarding the size of the labels, type, quantity and compatibility of the device

What is the minimum and maximum size of a label that will be printed?
The most popular printer format on the market is the one with a diameter of the printing head of 4’’ which allows us to print with the maximum width up to 110 mm. We can also come across devices with a width of 2’’, 6’’ and 8’’.

What type of label will be used?
Depending on the need of the end user, general use labels, technical labels or specialist labels can be used. At this stage we can state whether a thermal printer is sufficient, or maybe it’s better to invest in a universal thermal transfer device.

How many labels will we print daily?
Label printers are most commonly divided into desktop devices, semi-industrial and industrial devices. The division sets approximate performance limits of devices. We can assume that desktop printers will print around 3 thousand labels, semi-industrial printers – around 5 thousand labels, whereas industrial printers even more than 10 thousand labels. Everything depends on the label and media formats onto which printing is applied, though.

What’s the compatibility of the device with the user’s system?
Advanced warehouse, production and company management systems make label printing possible and they are compatible with devices that are common on the market. However, it is worth delving into details concerning the compatibility with the programming language of the printer.

Label printer – how to ensure its trouble-free operation?

When deciding to purchase a label printer, remember about the security features that ensure trouble-free operation. This is especially important in the manufacturing industry, where the user cannot afford unexpected downtime in printing. Reliable and continuous operations of devices can be achieved providing that we conduct regular overhauls and maintenance of key units, i.e. a printing head and a roller below the printing head. Cleaning these elements in accordance with recommendations of the manufacturers should take place each time during the exchange of the media – a roll of label and a thermal transfer ribbon.
Correct performance of these activities will certainly have a positive effect on the components and, consequently, on the print quality.

Photo depicting test print from a damaged head   
Photo depicting test print from a damaged head    
Photo depicting a used roller below the head
Photo depicting a used roller below the head

Consider purchasing an additional warranty to protect your printer. The user has the option of extending the warranty period of the device or increasing the scope of protection of printer components.

 As a standard, leading manufacturers on the market offer the following guarantee periods.

ManufacturerPrinter Guarantee periodPrinting head guarantee period
TSC24 months 12 months or 25,4km
Printronix24 months 12 months or 25,4km
Citizen24 months 6 months or 50km
Honeywell12 months 12 months or 25,4km
Zebra12 months 6 months
Toshiba12 months 6 months or 100km ( concerns selected printer models )

Label printer – benefits from regular servicing

The largest suppliers of AutoID solutions on the market offer services of regular inspections of label printers and service repairs performed at the customer’s site. The user has the option to protect himself with replacement devices if he signs a service contract.

Regularly serviced and proper use of the device is the ability to print up to 1,000. km of carrier. However, it should be borne in mind that with such a high mileage, the risk of permanent damage to the printer is significant. So when to decide to replace the device with a new one?

  • The device guarantee period has expired
    The cost of post-guarantee service may turn out to be high. It’s particularly noticeable in case of small, desktop printers. The cost of exchange of a printing head and a roller below the head may be equal to the price of the whole new device.
  • Hardware is incompatible with the current IT system
    Every company develops; changes of the IT system are inevitable mainly due to new software functionalities. In case of change of software, printing devices may not perform their primary function.
  • Change of label application system
    Basic printing devices are equipped with a tear-off edge. It means that the label is ejected together with the liner. Label application conducted manually forces the operator to perform additional activities which significantly influence the application time. Not all printers make it possible to equip the device with additional accessories such as a label dispenser or automatic cutter.
  • New functionalities of the printer
    Each new printer model presented on the market is equipped with new functions that facilitate device configuration (Wi-Fi communication, Bluetooth) or service for the operator (colour touch screen with the display of important announcement regarding the printer status).

The purchase of a new device, whether within the framework of exchange of used printers or as a new investment, should each time be thoroughly considered. An inexperienced user, only on the basis of the description in the specification sheet, can make mistakes that will have a negative influence on the process in which label printing occurs. It’s worth minimising the risk and ensuring that the investment doesn’t generate unforeseen additional costs.

If you want to know more, please contact Marek Gaweł, mgawel@etisoft.com.pl; +48 572 337 916.


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