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Gartner Reports
Label Printer
Label Printer Label Printer

Label Printer

Label printers are mobile or stationary devices used to quickly print small quantities of labels. Label printers are used frequently, especially in trade and industry. It takes approx. 30 seconds to print a label with a label printer. As a rule, they are network-compatible and therefore feature both WLAN and a USB interface.


Types of label printers

There are different types of label printers depending on needs and requirements. Among the classic differentiators are the label format and the print volume. These features generally result in the following three types: Desktop printers, mobile printers and industrial printers.

Desktop printers are among the most affordable label printers available on the market. They are particularly well-suited for users with print volumes of less than 1,000 labels per day. This type of label printer is a so-called thermal printer, i.e. it works through the application of heat. Desktop printers are usually very space-saving due to their compact design and are not much larger than conventional printers.

Mobile label printers are characterised by their portable size. They are equipped with a rechargeable battery and feature internal storage as well as Bluetooth and/or WLAN. Their size and user-friendly operation are among the main reasons for their frequent use in daily warehouse operations. Mobile label printers can be taken anywhere and used directly at the desired storage location.

The term 'industrial printer' refers to models that are specifically intended for use in industrial environments such as warehouses or production facilities due to their high performance. In contrast to desktop printers, this label printer variant is designed for higher workloads. More than 1,000 labels per day can be printed without any problems. Besides the print volume, the print speed is also higher. Industrial label printers can therefore be used to print a greater number of labels in a shorter amount of time. The label format is configurable in various ways. Although both types of printers look very similar, industrial printers are designed to be much more robust, making them impervious to even dusty warehouses and harsh working environments.

The different printing processes for printing labels

Once you have identified the right type of label printer, the next step is to decide on a suitable printing process. Here, a concrete distinction is made between the thermal transfer processes and the direct thermal process. Each of the three variants mentioned above works with one of these processes. Some models are even capable of both processes.

Direct thermal printing is the cheaper process. As part of this process, a high temperature is applied to a heat-sensitive material, which then discolours. Among the advantages of the process are the aforementioned lower costs and a high printing speed. One disadvantage of this label printing process is the low durability of the printed labels, which is why its use is limited to a few, short-duration operations such as shipping and transport.

The thermal transfer process is better suited for extended-use labels, such as in warehousing applications. With this type of label printing, the quality and durability of the printed products are significantly higher than with direct thermal printing. In contrast to the direct thermal process, thermal transfer printing uses a ribbon that transfers ink to the print substrate by the action of heat. Since most thermal transfer printers are also capable of direct thermal printing, they offer users greater flexibility.

The right resolution for the label printer

Once you have agreed on a printing process, the next step is to determine the resolution. Common standards are 203, 300 and 600 dpi. The higher the resolution, the more detailed the print and thus also its quality. There must also be a corresponding number of heating elements for the respective resolution. 203 dpi is the cheapest option for label printing. While this is the lowest resolution, it is perfectly adequate for barcodes and text on certain storage locations or shelves. 300 dpi is suitable if a slightly higher resolution is required. Graphics with precise contours can be easily printed at this resolution. This resolution is ideal for printing labels if, for example, individual products and goods are to be labelled. 600 heat elements are needed for the highest quality requirements and maximum detail in image or text elements. With a resolution of 600 dpi, even very small objects can be labelled without compromising legibility. This quality has its price, of course. However, 203 and 300 dpi are usually absolutely sufficient for most purposes.

Further Definitions Back to the Lexicon