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5 questions to ask before buying a label printer

Published on
January 6, 2022 3:19:00 PM PST January 6, 2022 3:19:00 PM PSTth, January 6, 2022 3:19:00 PM PST

Thermal transfer label printers are commonly used by professionals in a wide array of industries for equipment identification, pipe marking & safety labeling. Because printing requirements differ based on several criteria, it is important that you select the right label printer for your next project. The purpose of this label printer selection guide is to help you narrow your choice of desktop or handheld label printers based on 5 basic questions. 1. How many labels are you planning on printing per day? 2. What size are the labels you will be printing? 3. What will you be printing? 4. Where will you be printing? 5. Will you need label printing software?


Background:

Before we dive into our printer selection questions, let's go over the two types of label printers carried by Hansen Supply. Our printers can be categorized as either "lock & load" printers or "traditional wound" printers. Lock & Load Printers Lock & load label printers are slightly more expensive per label, but load easily and print with less waste. These printers also have the most preconfigured heat and speed settings built into their cartridges. Primarily designed for shorter run labels, Lock & load printers are ideal for professionals who switch materials or label sizes often. Most of these printers come with either a manual cutter or an automatic cutter. All handheld or mobile label printers fall into the lock & load category. The following lock & load label printers are engineered for efficiency, loading speed and ease of use: S3100, BBP33, BBP85, BMP21-PLUS, BMP41, BMP51 Traditional Wound Printers Traditional printers need to be wound up and loaded. Feeding the ribbon and the tape through the print mechanism is often cumbersome. Heat and speed adjustments are a manual operation which requires trial and error to achieve maximum print quality. The printers typically have a lower cost per label, but they take more label waste to calibrate after each loading. Most traditional printers do not come with a cutter mechanism, although they are available. They are usually sold with a tear bar or a peel and present mechanism. These printers are ideal for customers that print large to medium runs of the same label, but are not designed for printing 10 to 20 labels, and then switching materials. The following label printing machines have more robust mechanisms for longer label printing operation: i7100, i7100 (600 dpi), i5100, BBP12 So, now that we have covered the two main categories of thermal transfer printers, we can investigate the 5 most important questions to ask when selecting your printer.

1. How many labels are you planning on printing per day?

Low-Quantity Printing: 1-500 prints/day The following printers are ideal for printing a lower quantity of labels due to their easy-load cartridges, basic print heads and manual cutters (on most models): Applications: Safety Labeling, Electrical Labels, Pipe Marking Printer Selections: BMP21, BMP41, BMP51, BBP85 Medium Quantity Printing: 501-1,000 prints/day The following printers are ideal for printing medium quantities of labels due to their increased print head capabilities, gearing, and integrated software, which allows for longer print runs: Applications: Wire Labels, Healthcare, Data Communications Printer Selections: BMP71, BBP12, S3100 High Quantity Printing: 1,001-5,000 prints/day The following printers are ideal for printing high quantities of labels due to their compatible label-making software and robust print heads, which are geared for 8 hours of printing work per day: Applications: Packaging, Laboratory, Retail Printer Selections: BBP33, i5100, i7100 Very High Quantity Printing: 5,000+ prints/day The following printers are ideal for printing very high quantities of labels due to their robust gearing and extremely adjustable print heads. These print heads are able to print on difficult materials, and are engineered for very long print runs and easy maintenance: Applications: Aerospace, Transit Mfg., Electronic Mfg Printer Selections: i7100

2. What is the maximum width you will need to print?

Standard label print width sizes are range from 0.5” to 10”. Prints up to .75” wide labels: BMP21 Prints up to 1” wide labels: BMP41 Prints up to 1.5” wide labels: BMP51 Prints up to 2” wide labels: BMP71, BMP61 Prints up to 4” wide labels: S3100, BBP33, i7100, i5100 Prints up to 6” wide labels: PR360 Prints up to 10” wide labels: BBP85 Small Label Applications: Wire labeling, Circuit Board, PCB, Medical, Inventory Large Label Applications: Safety Labels, Facility Identification, Shipping, Warehousing

3. What will you be printing?

It’s important to consider the size of the text on your labels. Text smaller than 6 points is better suited for 600 dpi printers, while all other font sizes are best produced with 300 dpi printers. The following printers are ideal for printing barcodes due to their efficient loading mechanisms: i5100, BBP12, i7100 The following printers are ideal for printing heat shrink labels due to their adjustable print heads & ease of calibration: i7100, BBP33 The following printers are ideal for printing OEM labels for marking equipment: i7100, i5100 The following printers are ideal for printing laboratory labels in small runs with less material waste: BBP12, BBP33, i5100 The following printers are ideal for printing pipe marking labels due to their automatic cutters, even head temperature, and ability to print large text: S3100, BMP71, i7100 The following printers are ideal for printing safety labels due to their built-in keyboards and labeling applications: S3100, BBP30, BMP71 The following printers are ideal for printing arc flash labels in small to medium print runs and feature the ability to read files from a database: i5100, BBP33 The following printers are ideal for printing bin & inventory labels due to on-demand printing & adhesive capabilities: BMP21, BMP71, i5100 The following printers are ideal for printing circuit board labels due to head temperature control, tough material compatibility, and tight registration: i7100


Printer Selections by Material: Paper: BBP12, i5100 Vinyl: S3100, i7100 Polyester: i5100, i7100 Metallic Polyester: BBP33, i7100 Tag Stock: i7100 Heat Shrink Sleeve: i7100, BBP81 Polyimide: i7100

4. Where will you be printing?

Stationary Bench Top Label Printer Selections & Applications: i7100: Wire & Cable ID, General Manufacturing, Aerospace i5100: Laboratory Marking, Packaging, Compliance Labels, Rating Plates BBP81: Wire & Cable ID, General Manufacturing, Aerospace Mobile, Hand-Held Label Printer Selections & Applications: BMP71: Warehouse, Maintenance, Electricians, Data Communication BMP51: Warehouse, Maintenance, Electricians, Data Communication BMP21: Warehouse, Maintenance, Electricians, Data Communication

5. Will you need label printing software?

If you already have label software from another manufacturer, or if the printer has a keyboard and screen, you might not need software. However, if you want to create complex lists, a rare barcode type, or non-sequential numbers when printing, then software would be a good add-on. All of our bench top printers without a screen and keyboard require software to operate. Our Label printing software and printers were designed to work together. Partnering the printer with the correct software is critical for print quality and proper label formatting. Software is generally less expensive when purchased in a bundle with a machine. Some software from Hansen Supply features two-way communication with the printer, which helps to relay what’s loaded and how much material remains. Software Selections: LabelMark: for almost all applications Codesoft: for large companies with multiple users printing from an SQL database Markware: for safety and facility labeling, pipe markers and GHS

Recap:

At Hansen Supply, our hope is that this guide has helped you find the right thermal transfer printer based on your specific needs. Should you have any additional questions, feel free to fill out our quick contact form, call us at (800) 782-1235, or live chat with a dedicated representative to help you solidify your printer selection.