Choosing a printing and label solution sounds difficult and overwhelming. But the correct printing solution for your labeling needs can save you thousands of dollars in time and inventory control.
At SK&T, we have over 20 years of experience with printing supplies and media. We’ve collaborated with industry leaders in barcode-scanning and data-capturing devices and worked with clients whose industries span all verticals. We’ve spent decades researching and compiling the pros and cons of each device and its uses across different industries.
When we work with you, we first identify your supply and media needs. After that, we’ll construct a total solution plan that is comprehensive and tailored to your business’s unique goals. We take the following factors into account to find a top-quality label solution for your needs.
1. Product Mobility
Analyze where your products spend their time. Figuring out your product’s day-to-day will help you choose what kind of label material and mobile printing solution you need.
If products have to sit outside, you’ll likely want to invest in thermal transfer synthetic material. This ensures durability and flexibility when it’s time to move products again. We recommend Zebra’s ZQ500 mobile printer line. They’re some of the most rugged handheld devices out there, and they even work when employees are wearing gloves.
Conversely, for indoor products, you’ll probably want direct thermal labels. The Zebra QLn line is lightweight and shock-proof, plus the devices can withstand drops of 5 feet.
2. Environmental Needs
In addition to considering where the products actually sit, also consider what is going on around them. Environmental conditions play a pivotal role in determining the optimal solutions for your unique applications.
Weather and Temperature
Adhesive is extremely important with labels, and extremely high or low temperatures can reduce the label’s efficacy. It matters if you place the label on the product in 75°F and then transfer the product to a freezer that has a temperature of -2°F.
Standard materials are fine if labels are applied above 25°F and move to temperatures from 65°F to 200°F. You’ll especially need thermal transfer supplies and possibly a special adhesive for temperatures outside of these ranges. Zebra’s ZQ500 line is one of the most receptive to extreme temperatures; the ZQ500 devices can take temperatures from -4°F to 131°F.
Abrasion and Chemical Resistance
Labels can become illegible and rendered useless from abrasion. Choosing label ribbons that have higher resin concentrations will keep labels going strong.
Similarly, if labels are near chemicals, no matter how harsh or seemingly innocuous (yes, water counts), you’ll want to take special note. If products are coming into contact with moderate or weak chemicals (bleach, alcohol, water, window cleaners), consider thermal transfer material. But with exposure to harsh chemicals, like bleach, alcohol, acetone, and xylene, a resin ribbon would be the best fit for durability.
The best label solution will depend on your label’s required lifespan and the environmental factors we mentioned above. Direct thermal material is the best option if your labels will be used for less than six months in standard temperatures and a dry environment.
If you’re dealing with exposure to extreme temperatures, harsh chemicals, or moisture, you’ll need specialty thermal transfer labels.
4. Surface Type to Label
Not all labels and label adhesive are created equal. The surface material affects what will be the best label solution for you.
Don’t discount the surface shape and type. You might end up paying more if your chosen solution isn’t the “right fit,” literally speaking.
5. Printer and Label Quality (speed, darkness, DPI)
Prioritize this aspect if your labels need to be printed within a certain time span. The label material that you use is directly correlated with print speeds. For example, synthetic material won’t print in high quality above 6 inches per second (ips), and you’ll need a special high-speed wax ribbon to print faster than 12 ips.
If you want fast printing, you’ll want to increase darkness to ensure better barcode quality. Using higher-grade ribbons uses more energy and more ink since print darkness should be high with higher print speeds.
Last, for labels that have small fonts or detailed graphics, dots per inch (DPI) are extremely important. If that’s the case for your business, you’ll need a very smooth or glossy synthetic material.
The Bottom Line
If you’re worried about the cost of switching your mobile printers to improve your label quality, you may be interested in our trade-in program with Zebra. We can get you up to $650 back for each device you replace with a Zebra alternative.
You’ll know that you have the optimal label solution when your label materials and ribbons remain legible during storage, transport, and shipping. Contact SK&T today for a customized label solution that will serve you well for years to come.