Choosing the right barcode label printer for your business is essential. The printer you choose needs to have all the right features for your unique work environment. Otherwise, it will cause a lot of inefficiency and grief for your company.
There are many different barcode printers you could choose for your business. But don’t let the sheer number intimidate you; identifying your ideal choice is actually quite simple. The key is to be proactive.
Rather than getting lost in the world of barcode label printers, let’s make the printers perform for us!
In this post, we’ll help you identify exactly what you need from a barcode printer. Then we’ll review the features you should look for to have your needs met. Plus, if you stick around to the end, we’ll also give our recommendation for the best brand and the key to long-term success with your printer.
1. List What You Need from Your Barcode Label Printer
Let’s start with a thought exercise. Imagine what your business would look like if you had the perfect barcode label printer. What would your day-to-day operations be like? How would production flow as your printer produced the labels you need? What would make things as easy as possible for your workers in the long run as they print and use the barcode labels?
Do you have your grand vision in mind? Great! Now it’s time to break it down into manageable components by answering some basic questions. We recommend writing your answers to these questions as we go so that you can match them to the key features that we’ll discuss in step two.
Got your pen and paper ready? Good. Here are the questions:
How Many Labels Do You Need Per Day?
Identifying your daily production needs is key because not all barcode label printers can handle the same load. If you’re not exactly sure of your daily label requirements, it’s okay to give a general estimate. For example, do you think you’ll need more or less than 500 labels? Whether you fall below or above this threshold will have a big impact on the type of printer you should pursue.
What is Your Company’s Printing Pace?
Along with how many barcode printouts you’ll need per day, you must also determine how fast you’ll need to produce them. Does your company operate at breakneck speed so that you constantly must churn out dozens of labels per minute? Or do you only print occasionally at a more leisurely pace? Setting expectations for how fast you expect your printer to be will be crucial for your company’s ongoing success.
Where Will You Need to Print Labels?
What is the size and layout of the space where your team will print barcodes every day? Do you have a massive warehouse or a single room? Think about how your team operates within the space. Will they be moving around from place-to-place printing labels, or will they be at stationary work locations? Give a brief description of how these operations will go in your notes.
How Durable Do Your Barcodes Need to Be?
Will you need to use your barcode labels for a few months or multiple years? Record your best estimate of how long a label would have to remain in service and scannable.
Furthermore, consider the conditions your label will have to endure. Is this label going to be on a shipping box that may get bumped, jostled, scratched and subjected to extreme temperatures as it goes from point A to point B? Or will it be on a gently handled crate that is rarely moved? Write down in detail the type of treatment your label will have to withstand for success.
Will Your Prints Be Complex or Simple?
Think about the labels you’ll be printing. Will they just have simple black text and a basic barcode on them, or do you need more intricate patterns or several different colors?
Related to this question is the size of the barcodes you’ll be printing. How large or small will your barcodes have to be? Record the amount of space printing will fill along with how complex the printout will have to be within that space.
2. Match Your Needs to the Right Printer
Now that you have your needs written down, it’s time to find your printer soulmate! We’ll identify the best type of barcode label printer to exceed all your company’s expectations by examining your options below.
Desktop vs. Industrial Label Printers
We start with a basic distinction between two types of barcode label printers: desktop and industrial. Desktop units are ideal for companies with lower volume printer needs (i.e., less than 500 labels per day). They also tend to print on the slower side, which makes them ideal for more laid-back work environments.
If your answers to part one tended to be on the quicker and more ambitious side, an industrial printer is more your speed. Industrial barcode printers generate thousands of labels per day and can sometimes go as fast as three labels per second. Some desktop units can also achieve this pace. However, the more robust industrial machines are better able to consistently keep that pace without breaking down.
Mobile vs. Wired Connection
This next choice will factor in where you said you’d need to use your printer in step one. If you described a highly dynamic work environment with people moving all over and printing labels, then you’ll want wireless barcode printers with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity. Otherwise, you’ll be okay with units that connect to your network using an ethernet cord.
You could also get a mix of mobile and wired printers if your work environment has a mix of workers on the go and standing still. Many printer brands produce handheld mobile printers that produce labels at a similar pace to desktop units. The only potential drawback is those smaller mobile units can only produce smaller labels (four inches at most), so you’ll want to factor that into your decision.
Direct Thermal vs. Thermal Transfer Printers
Next, let’s find the right type of printer for the quality of labels you need. To do this, we must first explain the difference between the two main barcode printing techniques: direct thermal and thermal transfer printing.
Direct thermal printing involves applying heat to special labels. The labels have a coating on them that turns black when exposed to heat. Thus, by heating parts of the label, a direct thermal printer creates a barcode image.
Conversely, thermal transfer printers use a printer ribbon to transfer an image onto a specially coated label. The heated ribbon melts the coating of the label and marks the image on the paper.
The labels produced by thermal transfer printers are more durable and longer lasting than direct thermal prints. Thermal transfer labels remain scannable for decades and can withstand scratches, jostling and temperature changes. Direct thermal labels, in contrast, typically have a shelf life of six months and are easily damaged.
Thermal transfer printers also often produce higher-resolution images than direct thermal ones. A printer’s resolution is measured in dots per inch (dpi). The higher the dpi, the more detailed and intricate the image will be. Barcode label printers typically have a resolution between 200-600 dpi.
Having a printer with a high image resolution isn’t as important if you’re printing larger labels. Most scanners can still read 200 dpi if the label is above four inches in width. However, if you need to produce labels smaller than four inches, you will want to consider a higher-resolution thermal transfer printer.
3. Avoid These Common Barcode Printer Mistakes
Hopefully, the first two tips have given you a good idea of the type of printer you should get. However, before we go any further, we want to help you avoid making a couple of common label barcode printer mistakes.
Don’t Use Inkjet or Laser Printers for Labels
Inkjet and laser printers may be okay for your everyday computer printing, but they don’t make good barcode label printers. The problem with these is they tend to clog and work inefficiently when tasked with producing large volumes of barcode labels.
Furthermore, because they use ink rather than heat and special media, these types of printers can produce smudged or runny barcodes that are unscannable. They are too prone to errors and production headaches for us to recommend them as barcode printers in good conscience.
Be Careful Not to Void the Warranty
Most barcode printers come with a solid 1-2-year manufacturer’s warranty. Unfortunately, many companies fail to read the fine print in that warranty and unwittingly void it by failing to keep the terms of the agreement.
This most often happens when they try to run the printer using improper media. Inevitably, this leads to the printer wearing down and needing repairs sooner than it would normally. But the voided warranty makes it impossible to get this help from the manufacturer. Instead, it becomes a needlessly expensive fiasco.
4. Choose a Trustworthy Brand
Now that you know what type of printer to get and what not to do, let’s look at which brand of label printer is best. At Direct Barcode Printer Repair, we have over three decades of experience dealing with many different barcode label printer brands. In that time, we have yet to find a better brand than Zebra.
Why is Zebra the best bet for your thermal printer needs? The brand has the most versatile range of printers on the market, including a wide variety of desktop and industrial printers. So, you’re more than likely to find your ideal type of printer from Zebra.
Zebra also has some of the most advanced wireless technology available on its units if you’re looking for a mobile printer. Plus, Zebra barcode printers are compatible with a large variety of media. So, no matter what type of label you need to print, a Zebra will get the job done for you.
Perhaps most importantly of all, it’s very easy to get replacement parts for a Zebra unit if you need them. Zebra makes all the parts readily available on its website, and a quality barcode printer repair shop should have no problem quickly fixing your unit.
5. Have a Dependable Repair Specialist Standing By
Speaking of a quality repair shop, the last tip for lasting success with your barcode label printer is to have a plan for what to do if your printer malfunctions. After all, even the best printers run into trouble from time to time. Regular maintenance is a great way to keep these setbacks to a minimum. But you don’t want your printer to be out of commission for too long if an unexpected problem should arise.
At Direct Barcode Printer Repair, we provide quick and effective printer repair services for companies like yours throughout the country. We know all the best practices for troubleshooting Zebra barcode printers and other popular brands. Getting yours fixed is as simple as shipping it to us and having it back as good as new within 48 hours!
Need More Assistance Finding the Best Barcode Label Printer?
We hope this guide has helped you identify the best type of barcode label printer for your needs. Your ideal printer will produce the amount and quality of labels at the speed you want and operate seamlessly within your work environment. Remember to always go with a well-regarded brand like Zebra and have a plan for what to do if your printer stops working right.
If you still have questions about what barcode printer is right for you, we’re here to help! Please call (815) 338-2600 to get the knowledgeable and attentive help you need. You can also view the new and reconditioned barcode printers we sell at the link below.