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Barcode Labels Facts

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The Case for Thermal Printing

When offices, warehouses or manufacturers make the decision to implement a bar code strategy to label and track their inventory or paperwork, the first instinct is often to investigate traditional printing. This means configuring the existing office printer to print barcode labels. This is a natural instinct, since the technology (often a big investment) is already present in the workplace. However, printing barcode labels on commercial laser or inkjet printers is not recommended for a variety of reasons.

Traditional printers waste label media, because a minimum of half a page is often not utilized. Laser printed labels are also less durable and do not maintain integrity over time. Additionally, cost per label is exponentially higher because barcode printing uses significantly more toner than regular printing.

Thermal label printing, also know as direct thermal and thermal transfer printing, is the industry standard for barcode label systems. Let’s look at both technologies and examine the advantages.

Direct thermal printing uses chemically treated paper that produces sharper barcode labels that can be reliably read by scanners. Direct thermal label printers use no ink, toner or ribbon, so the costs to operate are comparatively low. Because of their streamlined design with few parts, direct thermal label printers are easier to operate. These printers are also able to print one or successive labels (on a label roll) producing almost no blank label media waste. Finally, direct thermal label printers are durably constructed and withstand the hazards of manufacturing and industrial environments better than commercial laser and inkjet printers. Thermal transfer label printers work more like traditional printers. Blank label rolls are not chemically treated. These printers use a ribbon that melts the ink onto the label media. Thermal transfer labels produce images that are even crisper than direct thermal label printers and have a longer shelf life.

Thermal transfer printers also produce labels (one at a time or successive) with almost no media waste, as the blank label rolls are optimized to the printer’s margins. Thermal transfer printers can print to a wide variety of label stock (paper, vinyl, pvc, etc) and are constructed with industrial environments in mind.

Costs to maintain thermal transfer label printers are higher than for direct thermal label printers, but the barcode is of higher quality and longer lasting. Still, the costs are significantly lower than those for traditional office printers, toner, and label sheets.

In order to make a decision about what technology to use when implementing a bar code labeling strategy, several factors should to be taken into consideration including: location where printing will take place, cost/label analysis, required shelf-life of the label, and required sharpness. Barcode labels that will be frequently scanned over a period of several years should be crisper than those that may be scanned twice in their lifetime, within a short period of time (inventory coming in and going out within a matter of months). It is also worth mentioning that direct thermal labels, because of their chemical coating, are sensitive to environmental factors like light and hot and cold temperatures.

Uprintlabels.com supports label stock for both direct thermal and thermal transfer printers. Check out our unbeatable prices and vast inventory today.



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