Useful in many contexts and increasingly widespread, the label printer is a small office tool rapidly depopulating, experiencing a moment of important ascent. Increasingly used in various contexts, ranging from automatic document archiving to the printing of adhesive labels for addresses, backs of folders, identification tags for visitors, and much more, as far as business uses are concerned. At the same time, at a domestic level, with smart and lighter technologies, it can have a thousand uses, such as labeling preserves and jars.
Definition of a label printer
A label printer is a daily work tool in various fields and sectors. This type of printer is mainly used for printing receipts and labels, such as those used daily in logistics for tracking packages or in the food sector to identify products.
A label printer differs from laser or ink printers because it uses thermal printing technology, allowing data and images to be imprinted on paper more quickly and professionally.
Label printers: what they are, how they work
From a simple mechanism similar to common printers, office labeling machines were born, tools for printing strings and alphanumeric information on adhesive paper tapes on input from a connected computer.
In the basic version, the machines contain a roll of pre-cut adhesive paper in the standard format, covered by special protection generally made of plastic. When the operator sends the print command, the labeler is activated, printing in sequence on the roll and sliding the paper out of the machine.
In addition to the possibility of using pre-cut labels according to the buyer’s needs, many printers allow you to make non-standard cuts as they are equipped with a serrated blade, an accessory that can be used manually to obtain labels of different sizes, or automatically to cut with precision continuous rolls or folded papers. Among the accessories that may come within the scope of these printers, the external rewinder is used to roll up the outgoing ribbon.
At the same time, the internal one, set to the emission mode, has a traction system comprising a return roller and a pressure mechanism, from which the ribbon unwinds to transport the paper to the print head.
How to navigate the world of label printers
Undoubtedly, the goal of each user is to choose the most suitable machine for their needs, which is also versatile and adaptable to any changes in use. The models currently in circulation are extremely compatible from a technological point of view, adapting perfectly to connect via USB to desktop or laptop computers and proving efficient with any operating system. Still, they remain static regarding the width of the print area.
Suppose the length of the cut can be easily set. In that case, the horizontal dimension of the ribbon to be printed tends to remain in a defined range and with very relative tolerance, directly proportional to the size of the machine.
In most of the models on the market, excellent results are guaranteed concerning print quality and resolution. Finally, pausing for a few moments on their uses, labeling machines are essential for the transition to digital archiving of documents. This procedure requires labels bearing a barcode to be printed and affixed to documents. An optical scanner reads the code on the label, virtually scans and archives the document, and, if necessary, connects it to a further reference (a classic example is the transport document-invoice connection).
How a thermal printing technology label printer works
A label printer works thanks to overheating: the main actor of the operating mechanism is the print head which, as it is made up of thermal resistances, is activated and heats the areas of the paper where logos, images, and texts will be printed.
In addition to the print head, other elements come into play inside a label printer: a slot for the reel of labels or continuous paper (such as receipts) and one for the print ribbon (used in the type of thermal transfer printing).
Direct thermal printing and thermal transfer printing: two types of operation of the label printer
At this point, it becomes appropriate to distinguish between the two types of operation of a label printer :
Direct thermal printing
Thermal transfer printing
Typically, a thermal transfer printer is also capable of printing with direct thermal technology, whereas, conversely, a direct thermal technology printer is not designed to use thermal transfer technology.
Direct thermal label printer
When we talk about a direct thermal label printer, the print head, by heating up, acts on a heat-sensitive paper (called thermal paper) which blackens in the parts where it comes into contact with the head. This type of printer is used in commercial activities to generate receipts because they have a very simple operation and lower printing costs.
Thermal transfer label printer
First, it is important to specify that a printer requires a cartographic ribbon called ribbon. The heat generated by the print head causes the chemicals on the ribbon to imprint on the paper, thus transferring images, texts, and logos.
Thermal transfer printing guarantees better print quality and a greater choice of colors and allows the use of different types of supports: in fact, it will be enough to choose the right type of ribbon based on the type of support you want to print.
There are, therefore, different types of ribbons classified into three categories:
- Ribbon in wax for printing on paper materials;
- Ribbon in wax and resin for printing on laminated paper;
- Ribbon in resin for printing on plastic materials and synthetic materials.
A thermal transfer label printer will produce labels with excellent print quality, resistant over time, even after prolonged exposure to sunlight.
THE LABEL PRINTER: HOW TO CHOOSE THE PERFECT ONE
Choosing the best label printer for your needs depends on a series of evaluations concerning the use and frequency of this printer, the type of labels, the working environment, the information to be printed on the label, and so on.
To choose the perfect label printer, first, you must ask yourself what you use it for if the product is for office use, for example, or professional use. For professional use, you must also opt for a color printer that makes the brand more recognizable. It is necessary to evaluate whether the label printer can also print information, barcodes, print quality, and the speed with which the label printer works.
CHOOSING THE LABEL PRINTER: QUALITY AND SPEED
If you use your label printer for office or home use, you may overlook poor-quality printing. In the case of professional use, on the other hand, print quality is an element to be considered carefully to be able to interface seriously with customers. For an excellent quality print, you need to look at the highest resolution, expressed in DPI, and guarantee a professional print, even of the images. The label can then have a certain number of lines depending on its complexity: if it is a question of complex labels, opt for a label printer that can satisfy this need rather than a very cheap one. Even the printing speed, if you have to print many labels, plays a fundamental role in the choice of this printer. For industrial label printing, more than a small label printer is needed. You need to invest in industrial printers that can supply thousands of labels daily, even working in non-ideal conditions (humidity, dust). You can opt for a more compact product for the office, but you mustn’t skimp on the print quality, which customers will pay attention to. You always have to ask yourself the format of the labels you need: there are many types. You can use a direct thermal label printer (for short-lived labels) or a thermal transfer one (for labels that suffer wear and tear and have to survive rain, humidity, and sun).
As a result, it is a specialized device designed to create and print labels for various purposes. It is a valuable tool in industries, companies, and even for personal use that provides convenience and efficiency in labeling tasks.