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Blank labels for less



Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

There are dozens of printer brands available and hundreds if not thousands of models to choose from.  So which one is the best and how do you choose?  I must start by saying that most printers will do the job and that almost all brands are great, so the question you should be asking is "which printer will best fit my need?"  

Below are some things you need to consider before making a purchase:  

1) Number of labels you will need on a daily basis:

If you are going to print a few shipping labels a day you may be able to get away with a smaller printer such as the E Class from Datamax or the popular Zebra's LP or DA series.  These printers were designed to keep your initial cost low and allow you to print a few shipping labels a day (from 1 to 20 a day) without investing too much money. 

The down side is that if they break it will cost you more to fix them than to buy a new one.  So, if you are looking for a production printer to print labels to be placed on your products and are looking to print 20 to any other amount (up to the thousands), then you need to consider a heavy duty printer such as M-Class, I Class, Zebra 105SL or better.  It will have a higher initial investment, but if properly used and maintained these will last you 10 years or more.

2) Size of label you will use:

There are countless applications and countless types and sizes of labels that these printers can produce.  The only thing to consider however is the width of the label.  Most printers can print any length (most go to up to 34 inches - almost like a banner), however the limitation comes to the width of the label.  Printers can only print up to the length of their print head.  The standard size is 4 inches and this usually takes care of about 90% of the cases.  The printers you want are I Class or M-Class from Datamax or 105SL and 140XiIII from Zebra. 

There are also 6 and 8 inch machines that can print longer widths for people who are looking to label barrows or gallon containers.  They are the H Class or DMX-600 or 800 from Datamax or 170XiIII or Z6M from Zebra.  Another thing to consider is price of print head replacements.  If you do not need a 6 inch printer than don't buy one.  They not only cost more, but print heads cost a lot more also. 

An average 4 inch print head costs $250-500.00 and the 6 inch print   head costs $600-900.00.  The 8 inch one is over $1,000.00 so consider this when buying.

3) What you need to print:  Are you going to print logos? 

Are you going to print barcodes and what multiplier is that barcode going to be?  What is the smallest font you will use in your label?  These are things to consider because different printers have different resolutions.  And for graphics, barcodes, and fonts resolution is the key. 

Standard printers come in 203dpi (dot per inch) but for higher quality or smaller fonts you may need a 305dpi printer.  For cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry you may need an even higher resolution like a 600dpi printer (Datamax's I-4604 or Zebra's 90XiIII).  Again, if you don't need it don't buy it.  Print head prices also go way up due to resolution.

4)  How much will you invest: 

If you are willing to invest a bit more I suggest buying the latest out in the market (whether used or new), but make sure you get a guaranteed working printer like the ones in Datastream Technologies Inc.  Otherwise they are just large paper weights. 

If you are just starting out in business and want to make a more conservative investment, then buy the older generation machines such as the M-Class from Datamax or the 105Se, XiI or XiII family from Zebra.  But don't go too old school like a Plus or 105S or Xi printer.  It's not worth the investment and they are getting harder and harder to fix due to obsolete and discontinued parts.

5)  Are you going to print in color or monochrome: 

Multi color printers are available but are very expensive?  AstroMed and Toshiba are the only two thermal transfer available and range from $12,000-30,000.00 to own.  A simpler solution may be a VP2020 from VIP or LX-810 from Primera.  Note however that these are ink jet label printers and not thermal. Their durability does not compare but have a much higher resolution than the thermal ones. 

The thermal ones can print up to 300dpi only and the VIP is 600dpi and the Primera 2400dpi (both considered photo quality).  If all you are printing is ingredients and such you should strongly consider continuing using a single color thermal printer and get pre-printed labels to put only the variable information.

Notice I mentioned Datamax and Zebra several times.  There are many other brands available, but these two hold about 90% of the U.S. Market simply because they are manufactured here.  Zebra is located in Chicago, IL and Datamax is in Orlando, FL. 

The other brands such as Sato, TEC, Intermec, etc are just as good, but these are easier to deal with and easier to repair since parts are readily available.  After 15 years in the industry I highly recommend them.

All and all, the best thing to do is ask an expert.  I am available to assist you in your purchase.  Just email me your application at mbennett@datastream-tech.com and I will guide you on what to invest your hard earned money on.  Thanks for taking the time to read this guide and best of luck on your investment and new venture.