In this article I will answer the most common questions on barcode label printers and what the different terminologies mean.
- What is a Barcode Label Printer?
- What is the Thermal Print Head?
- On what labels does the printer print?
- What is the difference between Desktop and Industrial Label Printers?
- What is the Ribbon?
- What is meant by Direct Thermal printing?
- What is meant by Thermal Transfer printing?
- Is there Software that comes with the Barcode Label Printers?
What is a Barcode Label Printer
A Barcode Label Printer is a printer specially designed to print on labels. These labels are usually purchased in rolls. These printers can not only print barcodes but also simple graphics and text. The printers are available is quite a few different models. All the printers come standard with USB ports. Units with Serial and Parallel ports are also available depending on the model. Many of the new printers now come standard with Ethernet ports allowing the printers to be plugged directly into LAN networks.
There is also an option of adding Bluetooth or WiFi modules to many of the new generation printers expanding their connectivity. More information on the different models can be viewed here on JNS Technologies Web Site.
Thermal Print Heads
The thermal print head is the part of the printer that does the actual printing onto the labels. The print head heats up and transfers the heat either directly onto the label or heats the ribbon which burns the ink onto the label. Applying the heat directly onto thermal labels is known as Direct Thermal Printing. Using a ribbon is known as Thermal Transfer Printing. More will be explained below.
The Thermal Print Head can be easily damaged by sharp objects so care should be taken when cleaning. It is recommended that the print head is cleaned after each roll of labels have been printed. Wipe the print head with a soft cloth moistened with Isopropyl alcohol.
The Thermal Print Heads are usually the most expensive part of the printer and is classed as a consumable.
Labels used for Barcode Label Printers
The labels are normally purchased from a label supplier to your specifications. The labels are on rolls of various outer diameters according to what size fits in your model printer.
Specially treated paper labels are needed to be printed on by the Direct Thermal printing method using no ribbon. When you print with ribbon, there are options on what type of material the labels should be according to where they will be used. The type of label material will also determine what type of ribbon will be needed.
Difference between Desktop and Industrial Printers
Desktop Barcode Label Printers are low cost compared to the Industrial type printers. They are ideal for low to medium volume printing up to a thousand labels a day. The desktop printers are normally constructed with durable plastic housings and not build to churn out thousands of labels a day in harsh environments.
Industrial printers are robust and normally constructed with metal housings. The printing mechanism is also more robust to handle high volume printing. The rolls of label and ribbon are also much larger than the desktop counterparts.
Thermal Transfer Ribbon
The ribbons used by the Barcode Label Printers come in three different material types
- Wax Ribbon
- Wax/Resin Ribbon
- Resin Ribbon
The type of ribbon needed will be determined by the type of label you will be printing on. When discussing your label needs with the label supplier as what type of ribbon will be best for the label. The label print can print with each type of ribbon.
There are various sizes ribbons available for the different models of printers. As an example – the Argox OS214 Plus uses a ribbon with width 110 mm and a length of 91 meters. The Argox iX4-250 uses a ribbon with width 110 mm and a length of 450 meters.
Direct Thermal Print Method
Direct Thermal printers use the heat from the printhead to cause a chemical reaction on the thermal labels and the area that is heated turns black producing the print. Therefore no ribbon is used for this method of printing. The abbreviation for Direct Thermal used on this site is “DT
Thermal Transfer Print Method
Thermal Transfer printers also use the heat from the printhead. But to rather transfer the ink from the ribbon onto the label. The thermal transfer method produces a much longer lasting printed label that is not easily affected by heat, liquid or direct sunlight. The abbreviation for Thermal Transfer Printers is “TT”.
Software for Barcode Label Printers
Most of the Barcode Label Printers available come with some form of Label Editing Software.
The Argox Range of Printers come with a disc containing Bartender UL free edition together with the Drivers and Utilities etc. The software can also be downloaded from JNS Technologies Web Site for the Argox Printers