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How to choose a barcode printer

27 June 2017

Having the capability to print your own barcodes allows your business to better manage its inventory, track its assets and maintain good vendor and supply chain relationships. There are many ways to generate barcodes. You can even print a limited number on your standard office printer. However, if you intend to grow your business, sell and distribute your products, using a standard office printer will generally cost much more than using a separate barcode printer.

Buying a dedicated barcode printer is a smart investment that will show return on investment in reliability, quality and ​efficiency.

What are the benefits of a barcode printer?

While cost is certainly a major reason for opting to use a barcode printer, it is far from the only reason to make the switch. There are many reasons to invest in a high quality printer for barcodes including:


Printers designed specifically for printing barcodes can handle a larger volume than most multipurpose office printers. This type of printer will also generally require less maintenance and have less downtime than a multipurpose printer.


Unlike a standard office printer, a barcode printer lets you print one label at a time. You don't have to print an entire sheet. This makes better use of your time and material resources.


Since they are more efficient, barcode printers can help you save money over printing labels on your regular office printer. The supplies required for barcode printers, rolls of labels and sometimes thermal ribbons, are less expensive than the label sheets used on standard printers. In addition, reduced downtime can help you save money on lost productivity.


The quality of your barcode labels reflect your professional image. Poorly printed, illegible labels can lead to missed sales, chargebacks and even downtime for your business.

Types of barcode printers

Desktop label printers

This type of printer is made for small volume applications that are making fewer than 500 labels per week on average. Small in both size and price, desktop label printers are perfect for low to medium volume printing: on average fewer than 500 labels per week on average. They are used for retail inventory and product labelling, light manufacturing, asset labels, wristband printing, healthcare labelling and receipt printing. 

Industrial label printers 

Industrial label printers provide reliable and durable printing for demanding high-volume mission critical labelling runs. Designed to hold more media, they can print all day long, 24x7. If you are printing any type of media in large volumes, industrial label printers are your most reliable option. Typical applications include asset management, cross docking, inventory management, receiving/shipping, information labels and order labelling.

Mobile label printers 

If you need to make labels or receipts on the go, a mobile label printer will provide you high quality print in a compact package you can bring anywhere. Create high quality labels or receipts in any environment, indoors or out. Through Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or a USB connection, communicate to mobile computers, tablet computers and smartphones. Mobile printing is perfect for direct store delivery, fleet management, proof of delivery and pickup, ticketing, field service and retail inventory.

Wristband printers 

Standard barcode label printers can create wristbands, however for applications that use high volumes of wristbands - such as hospitals, theme parks and concert venues – it’s worth looking at a dedicated wristband printer. While other printers have their media on a roll, wristband printers like the Zebra HC100 have cartridges that simply drop into place to keep you printing with almost no downtime. These printers also have a higher print resolution standard for clear, accurate printing of images or logos. In addition, some models have special anti-microbial casing to meet demanding healthcare environments. 

How are you using your barcode labels?

All these barcode printers use thermal transfer or direct thermal printing technology because of their superior ability to consistently print durable and accurate barcode images. To choose the right method for your barcode label depends on its specific use, the length of time that it is in storage or transport, and what conditions the barcode label is exposed to after it leaves your facility. Here are some things to think about:

  • Chemicals: Is your label likely to come into contact with oil, grease, cleaning agents and/or other chemicals?
  • Light: Will your labels be exposed to sunlight that can cause fading
  • Abrasion: Are your labels subject to extreme wear and tear? If so, polypropylene or synthetic labels will hold up better than more common paper labels
  • Outdoor environment: Will your labels run in the rain or be exposed to rain, heat and extreme cold? If so, a barcode printer will help to print durable labels that will survive and look attractive despite the environment.
  • Covered outdoor environment: Even when your labels are covered by an awning or other canopy, they may require special treatment, such as that offered by a barcode printer.
  • Extreme temperature: Extreme heat or cold, like you find in a freezer or oven, can make your labels become illegible or fall off.
  • Moisture: Moisture and humidity also need to be taken into consideration when shopping for the right barcode printer.
  • Industrial vs. office setting: An industrial setting often produces higher demands for a printer than a traditional, low-volume desktop printer
  • Surface: Is the surface that your labels will adhere to smooth or rough, flat or curved? Your answers will determine the type of printer that will best suit you.

How many labels do you print?

Barcode printers are available in low, medium and heavy-duty models. The number of labels you print each week will help determine which model you'll need.

  • Low-volume generally refers to companies that print fewer than 100 labels per day. This might include companies that use barcodes for inventory control and asset management. Using a desktop printer will usually be adequate for low-volume users.
  • Medium-volume refers to companies that print around 100 to 300 labels per day. This may be companies that use barcodes for tracking delivery, for service applications and higher-volume asset management. 
  • High-volume generally means companies that print more than 300 labels per day. This type of volume usually means a warehouse or manufacturing facility that prints labels 24/7.

What printer connectivity should you choose?

To receive print requests, barcode printers must be connected to a computer. Choose the connectivity option that is appropriate for your computer and your printer.

  • Industrial table-top style printers: USB or serial, Ethernet and/ or Wi-Fi
  • Desktop printers: USB, Ethernet or Bluetooth.
  • Mobile printers: Bluetooth, WI-Fi, or USB.

Barcode printing technology can be confusing. Taking the time to carefully evaluate your business requirements and selecting the right barcode ​printer is ​a good investment of your time.

To learn more or discuss the needs of your particular application, contact our consultants today. 



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