5 Best Ways to Print Barcode Labels

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Barcodes are a vital part of business. They make the whole retail process easier – from stock tracking to sales to returns and refunds. As a result, it’s key to have clear, accurate barcodes on all your products or packaging. And while it may seem like a simple procedure – any old printer can issue black and white images, after all – there are a lot of factors that can complicate your barcode output.

Many small manufacturers and suppliers start out by creating barcodes in Word or Excel, and printing them from the office printer. This can be extremely time-consuming and inefficient. Plus, it’s difficult to get a quality finish, meaning your barcodes may not scan successfully. This creates problems all along the supply chain, from the warehouse to the customer. Many larger retailers use a more advanced printing technique – but is it the best method for your product?

There are many ways to print barcode labels – it’s just a case of deciding which is best for your needs. Here’s a rundown of the 5 best ways to print barcode labels to help you compare.

Laser Printers

Laser printers can be used for small-scale barcode printing. They’re widely available – you probably already have one in your office – and quality laser printers can output highly accurate results. If you choose to stick with your trusty office printer, your financial outlay could be minimal. This can be attractive for smaller enterprises.

However, for printing barcodes long-term or on a larger scale, laser printers are expensive and inefficient. Barcodes use a lot more black ink than text documents, so you’ll get through a lot of ink cartridges. You’ll also need to be careful with the type of labels you choose to print onto. Laser printed ink is liable to smudge on certain types of media, which can make your barcode unusable.

Continuous Inkjet Printers

Continuous inkjet (CIJ) printers offer a range of ink options, which can work if you have more specific barcode printing needs. For example, you can choose from food-safe, UV, pigment and dye ink options. This makes CIJ printing a viable option for food brands, or for packaging that will be stored in sunlight. Continuous inkjet printing is suitable for printing on various media, including paper, plastics, and a range of other materials, so it’s a versatile technique if your print surfaces are a little unorthodox.

But CIJ printers can be bulky, taking up valuable factory or warehousing space. Like laser printing, they also require regular replacement of ink cartridges, increasing your maintenance bill. And although they can produce a reasonable dpi, thermal printers offer a much higher resolution, as continuous inkjet printing tends to sacrifice print quality for speed.

Pre-Printed Labels

If you don’t want to bring label printing production in-house, you can purchase labels that have been pre-printed with a barcode. This can be useful if you have a small-scale operation, as pre-printed labels are relatively inexpensive. Many pre-printed labelling companies also allow you to customise the look of your label, so it’s a good option for adding extra design value to your barcode.

However, pre-printed labels usually only work if you need them for small quantities of barcodes that include minimal non-variable information. If you offer a variety of products, or you want to add unique values to your barcodes, chances are pre-printed labels won’t work for you.

If you don’t want to compromise on expense, efficiency, or ease of use, print and apply machines offer a fantastic solution to your barcode printing requirements.

Print & Apply Label Machines

Print and apply label machines are designed to improve efficiency for your retail business. With high print speeds, variable graphics, and a user-friendly interface, you can abolish the need for labour-intensive barcode printing.

Print and label applicators use thermal transfer and direct thermal printing methods for accuracy, speed, and quality. Here’s why thermal transfer and direct transfer print and apply label machines are the best contenders for your barcode printing.

Thermal Transfer

Thermal transfer is the most durable printing method available – so it’s ideal if you need a long-lasting barcode. The thermal transfer technique prints using a heated ribbon on carefully treated media. This can produce images that withstand exposure to light, heat, moisture, chemicals and more. The barcode can’t be erased or smudged, offering a crisp, high quality finish.

The ribbon required for thermal transfer printing generally isn’t recyclable, so this type of printing loses points for sustainability. The ribbon may also need replacing intermittently, although this is a similar process to replacing ink cartridges in other printing methods. Thermal transfer printing is renowned for its high-resolution capabilities. If your barcodes require precision for easy scannability, this is the ideal solution for your business.

Direct Thermal

Direct thermal printing is a simpler process than thermal transfer, as it doesn’t use a ribbon – but it’s still effective. This technique relies on printing on specially treated media, which reacts with the heated print head as it passes beneath it. As a result, you don’t need ink, toner, or ribbons with direct thermal printing – meaning lower overheads and better value for money.

While it can last longer than CIJ or laser printing, direct thermal printing isn't as durable as thermal transfer. A direct thermal barcode is liable to fade if exposed to light, heat, or moisture. However, if you need barcodes for shipping, receipts, or retail, this method is ideal, thanks to its low maintenance costs, ease of use, and simplicity.

Want To Know More About Print And Apply Labelling?

Many brands offer different types of print and apply label machines, so all your barcode printing bases are covered. Whether you need a simple handheld machine for applying labels to shipping boxes, or a standalone machine for on-demand or batch printing, There are many options on the market.

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