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Print barcode labels or use pre-printed labels?

SageData is based in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Preprinted, or Print Your Own

barcode labels

A frequent opening remark from a potential client runs along the lines of we want to install a barcode system, so the first thing we need is a barcode printer.
For many stores applications, and for most warehouse applications, where items are tracked by SKU, then demand printing is necessary, and demand printing necessarily means an in-house printing capability. But for many asset management applications, where items are tracked by a UIC (a unique identification code), preprinted labels can often be used.
Compared to other functions within computing generally, printing is often problematic. It involves lots of mechanics as well as the stock materials.

So our first piece of advice, is that if you can go with preprinted labels, then do so. And if your application involves item level tracking, for asset management or for tracking high-value items or for items which must be rigidly controlled or for file tracking or for confirming inspections, such as for firefighting equipment, extinguishers, and so forth, then preprinted labels are generally the better solution.

Printer and Materials

The next decision to be made is around print technology. The standard barcode labels used in most applications are produced using thermal transfer technology. The basic stock consists of a label material, which is usually polyester. The ink is provided on a ribbon and during the printing process this ribbon is held tightly against the substrate, and selectively heated. The heat causes the material from the ribbon to be deposited on the substrate to form the barcode or text that is required. This technology provides extremely sharp edges without the blurring that is visible on the high magnification for other print technologies. As such it provides the most accurate barcodes and therefore the highest read rate. This technology is particularly appropriate for asset tags, which are required to last for several years and which will be read repeatedly during that time.

Label printer Zebra ZT600

It is of course possible to print barcodes onto paper labels using a standard laser printer. Specialized software is best used to print these labels, particularly to ensure that the barcodes are to specification. The advantage of this method is economy - no special equipment is required and the label stock is cheap. There is no special setup or maintenance procedure for the printer.
There are, however, two specific disadvantages. The first is that labels can generally only be produced by the sheet. So if there are 60 labels to a sheet, you always get 60 identical labels, whether you want three or 13 or 58. The second disadvantage is durability.
Paper labels will not last as long as polyester stock, though, depending on your application, this may not be a material issue.

For more detailed information, please contact us. We would be happy to help.

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