Guest Column | August 14, 2014

What To Look For When Selecting A Bar Code Printer

Laurel Ciliberti, Marcom and Channel Marketing Manager, SATO

By Laurel Ciliberti, Marcom and Channel Marketing Manager, SATO

Laurel Ciliberti, Marcom and Channel Marketing Manager, SATO

It is commonly known that bar code printers with extensive features and functionalities are available now. However, if you haven’t been in the market for a while, you may be surprised at the extent of recent enhancements and how reasonably priced these models are. A myriad of elements, designed to improve the operator experience, simplifying the use of the printer, and making maintenance relatively easy, are now standard.

When researching bar code printer options, you should be educated on the ABC’s of bar code grading, know the difference between direct thermal and thermal transfer, and be aware of the advertised speeds and feeds of the assorted makes and models offered. What separates the standard from the exceptional are the set of features now engineered specifically for the main stakeholder, the printer operator. 

Things To Consider

Concern: Is the screen easy to read from a distance or in low light?
Considerations: A large majority of thermal bar code printers are installed in a warehouse environment. If a printer’s display is difficult to read, with small, monochromatic icons, the operator may have trouble determining the printer’s status from any distance. Configuring the printer’s initial set up or any subsequent changes might be more time consuming than is desirable if the operator menu is hard to read.

Concern: Is the printer constructed of a solid frame?
Considerations: In reality, many bar code printers are installed in harsh and often unpredictable environments. Therefore, they should be built to endure the conditions in which they’ll be used. A model that has the least amount of frame welds and bent metal is more durable and results in a higher quality product overall.

Concern: Is the printer easy to set up?
Considerations: With a plethora of emulations and connectivity options on the market, choosing a printer that comes with a good selection of on-board emulations will simplify installation into legacy applications. 

Concern:  Are tutorials and training videos offered and are they easily accessible? Considerations: Online training videos are great, but not all printer operators have access to a computer or the Internet via a mobile device, on a shop floor, medical workstation, or warehouse location. The easier it is for the operator to locate useful information while in direct reach of the printer, the better.

Concern:  Are the media path, print head and platen roller easy to access?
Considerations: If these elements are tough to get to, the printer operator is going to spend unnecessary time trying to load consumables or replace normal wear parts, resulting in a loss of productivity or the operator may decide to skip the manufacturer's recommended maintenance intervals — the latter having negative impact to the print quality your application requires.

Concern:  When it comes to consumables, how versatile is the printer?
Considerations: Out of the box, a flexible printer will accept media that is wound-in or wound-out, with no aftermarket internal gear or belt adjustments. 

Concern: How often will media need to be changed?
Considerations: Selecting a printer solution that offers a large media capacity will award you with less operational downtime spent changing label and ribbon rolls. 

When it comes to technology, and bar code printing solutions are no exception, the evaluation and acquisition process has moved beyond the purchasing department. Unlike thermal bar code printers of the past, advancements in features and functions are evolving to fit the users’ needs.  

The best thermal printer options encompass flexibly, operator friendly features, strong and reliable construction, and a means for making the operator refreshingly empowered.