The label printer market is not as wide as desktop printer market, due to their specific application. Nevertheless, price and functionality competition among them exists.
Labels & Addresses supports printing on DYMO, Seiko Instruments, Brother and Zebra label printers. Their work bases on direct thermal printing technology. It allows to print without classic supplies like toner and ink. You will spend only labels.
There are two basic methods for thermal printing: direct thermal and thermal transfer. Both methods use thermal print head to put an image on the label surface.
This is a general purpose printing technology for most industrial and office applications.
The technology uses heat-sensetive media, usually it is a paper with heat-sensetive front side and self-adhesive back side. Labels are distributed in rolls (about 150-300 labels per roll). Heated by the printing head, area of label surface becames black. Modern printers can print in half-tones.
One of the main disadvantages of this technology is short life term of labels. Label images are sensitive to heat (it is clear why), as well as ultraviolet (UV) and sun light exposure. Labels loose contrast due to them. Printed images may also fade over time. Some labels have a special coating that makes them water, chemical, UV and sun light resistant, so they can be used in the open-air.
The advantage of direct thermal printing is hight quality at lower cost than with thermal transfer method. Due to high-contrast, direct thermal labels are widely used for printing automatically scanned data like bar codes. This makes them very popular for shopping purposes, as store price labels, name tags and so on (mostly when their usage term is limited to several months).
This is a two-ribbon technology. A thermal transfer ribbon is located between heating head and label ribbon. The printer heats areas of a thermal transfer ribbon above a certain temperature — approximately 250°F (121°C). Pigment is melted and absorbed by the label material.
Thermal transfer labels have much better quality and durability than direct thermal technology provides. They can also be chemical, ultraviolet and temperature resistant. Thermal transfer labels are better for permanent product identification for outdoor and industry applications (including medical and laboratory rooms).
Images made by thermal transfer printing have very good edges (no pixel structure), which is important for bar code scanning and automatic recognition.
Some thermal printers (including direct termal) allow to print on plastic and fabric tapes. Thermal transfer printers allow printing on wide range of materials with special characteristics, like: polyethelyne, polymide, nylon, polyester and many other.
Some types of polyester ribbons have life term up to 5-8 years.
Printer manufacturers usually produce labels for their printers.
The good side:
All this makes label printers perfect for low-volume or occasional printing — especially if you appreciate ease-of-use and can't afford wasting a minute on what should take just a couple of seconds.
The bad side:
Seiko Instruments produces Smart Label Printers. The current line-up consists of two models SLP-440 and SLP-450, superseding the older SLP-410, SLP-420 and SLP-430 printers.
SLP-440 is the most basic model, and SLP-450 is about two times faster.
The printers use Direct Thermal technology.
|Maximum Label Width||2-1/8 in (58 mm)||2-1/8 in (58 mm)|
|Resolution||300 dpi||300 dpi|
|Label Purpose||Envelopes, file folders, bar codes, packages, diskettes, Zip® disks, name badges, 35mm slides, Rolodex® cards and more||Same as SLP-440, but prints faster|
|Approximate Print Speed||2-3 sec. per label||1-2 sec. per label|
See Seiko Web site for more details.
Brother's QL series includes QL-500, QL-570 and QL-1050 models, compatible with Windows and Mac OS X operating systems. The printers use Direct Thermal technology.
|Maximum Label Width||2.4"||2.4"||4"|
|Speed (labels per minute)||50||68||69|
Brother printers have some features not found in other printers. They are equipped with cutters — manual in QL-500, automatic in QL-550 and 1050. They are bigger than printers from other manufacturers because they have the power adaptor built in. Also, they feature easy to use drop-in label rolls of several preset sizes, which makes the label changing process fast.
See Brother Web site for more details.
The LabelWriter 400 series is similar to the more recent 310 and 330 series, but provides higher print speed. Two others are remarkable because can handle two label rolls at the same time.
|LabelWriter 400 Turbo||LabelWriter Twin Turbo||LabelWriter DUO|
|Number of rolls loaded at the same time||1||2||2|
|Label size||Up to 2.3" (58 mm)||Up to 2.3" (58 mm)||Up to 2.3" (58 mm)|
|Resolution||300 dpi||300 dpi||300 dpi|
|Speed (labels per minute), standard 4-line address||55||55x2||55|
Read an article about Dymo printers for more details.
Zebra Technologies provides a large range of barcode and receipt printers, widely used by businesses world-wide. Zebra printers employ a proprietary programming language - EPL or ZPL (in the newer models).
Below are the specifications of some of the most popular models supported in Mac OS X:
|Programming Language||EPL (2824)
|Maximum Label Width||2.2" (56 mm)||4.09" (104 mm)|
|Resolution||203 dpi||203 dpi|
|Speed||4" (102 mm)/sec||4" (102 mm)/sec|
|Approximate Price||$250-300||from $350|
LP series printers use Direct Thermal technology, while TLP series printers use Thermal Transfer.
See Zebra Technologies for more details.
Last reviewed: March 2009