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How to Choose the Right Industrial Printer

Factors to Consider in Choosing the Right Industrial Label Printer for Your Warehouse Operations

No one notices printers on the shop floor when they’re working well and keeping up with throughput. However, when printers are under-performing or they fail, operations come to a standstill.

When to Choose Desktop, Industrial or Mobile Printers

If your printers are failing or you’re due for a printer refresh, it pays to know the strengths and weaknesses of your options in desktop, industrial and/or mobile printers.

Each of these models has a unique design with high-performance capabilities. Thermal label printers are great for creating high-quality barcode labels, tags, wristbands, receipts and more. The specific type of thermal printer you choose depends on your volume of printing, the operational environment and whether you need mobility. Here are the three main options:


Desktop Printers

Desktop printers are perfect for light-duty labeling in an office, retail store or similar environment. They’re ideal for producing up to 500 labels, tags or receipts per week. Our recommended Zebra desktop printers produce the same quality and support, and the same media as much larger printers, but they’re designed for lower-volume printing with a correspondingly lower price. They can communicate through a wired connection or wirelessly.


Industrial Printers

Industrial printers are designed for high-volume print applications in demanding environments. Industrial printers are larger and more rugged than desktop printers.  These printers reliably print thousands of labels, tags or other media every day. If you’re printing labels in large volumes, and if your printer will operate in a rugged environment with extreme temperatures, dust, debris or other challenges, an industrial label printer is your best option.

The latest Zebra industrial printers are ultra-rugged and print labels as small as 3mm and handle requirements all the way up to 14” in print width. They also support a wide range of communication options, including serial, Wi-Fi, USB, Bluetooth, Ethernet, and more.


Mobile Printers

Mobile printers are not made for high volumes, and they have limited roll capacity and smaller print widths. But, they enable printing on the go, wherever it’s needed—both indoors and outdoors, along with wireless Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity.

A mobile printer, such as Zebra’s QLn Series, can provide high print quality in a compact package that conveniently fits on your hip. It’s perfect for delivery drivers and field service or sales agents, as well as warehouse workers that need access to on-the-spot labeling.


Direct Thermal vs. Thermal Transfer Printers

Once you know the type of label printer you need, you’ll next need to choose between direct thermal (DT) and thermal transfer (TT) printing. This all depends on how long you need the label to last and the material that comprises it.


Direct Thermal Printers

Direct thermal printing is ideal for short-term labeling applications, such as shipping labels. They’re not suited for applications where labels are exposed to heat, long periods of sunlight or abrasion. However, to help with these issues, thermal labels and tags are often top-coated to resist these elements.

In direct thermal printing, heat-sensitive labels are used, and they blacken as they pass under the printhead. There’s no ribbon involved. The process produces sharp print quality with good scannability using only one consumable.


Thermal Transfer Printers

Thermal transfer printers use a ribbon, which is melted onto the label by the printhead. This makes it easy to use specialized non-paper label materials for harsh or outdoor environments.

Thermal transfer labels are more durable, and they have a long shelf life when printed. This makes them ideal for product labels and asset tags. Since thermal transfer uses a ribbon, you can also change color and print in colors other than black.

It costs a bit more to print thermal transfer media, but the benefit is durability and improved readability without ever needing to reprint.


Finding the Right Label Printer

Looking for advice in choosing the right printer? We’re here to help.

Contact our label printing experts at Logistyx for a free consultation and recommendation.