Bringing your label printing in house to reduce costs - you will be surprised how cheaply you can do it!
Written by Oliver Stockton, Managing Director, CILS
This brief guide explains how you may already have what you need to print highly durable labels.
Whether you want to print durable labels for industrial hoses or cryovials in a biotech lab, the equipment you need will be the same. All you need is a computer, printer, software and the correct labels. Get in touch to talk to a specialist.
Why buy new equipment?
Do you already have a Laser Printer? You can print your own durable labels using the same black toner laser printer that you have in your department. If you don’t have one, they can be bought from most business computer suppliers for less than £200. Avoid using document printing stations which are really designed for high throughput and quick printing which may compromise print quality and durability.
You must always use the original manufacturer’s toner for the highest level of durability. Colour laser printers can be problematic when printing onto durable materials.
In terms of printer features, it is definitely a case of ‘less is more’. A good quality low-cost desktop HP laser printer will be perfect. Speak with a technical labelling specialist to see if your printer will work.
Have you already got a Thermal Transfer printer? If you already have a Thermal transfer printer you can certainly use it to print durable labels but there are important factors to note.
You need to make sure the printer prints using a ribbon. If you have never loaded a ribbon into your printer you have what is called a ‘direct thermal’ printer. This means that you are printing labels that react (turn black) under the print head to create a printed image.
Durable labels typically need to resist outdoor conditions and higher temperatures than packaging labels, therefore direct thermal printing isn’t appropriate. Check to see if a ribbon can be loaded into the printer because it may be that you have a ‘thermal transfer’ printer but are using ‘direct thermal’ settings. This would be good news because you still wouldn’t need to buy a printer.
Make sure you use the correct ribbon
If you have a thermal transfer printer that uses a ribbon it is important to match the correct ribbon to the durable label that you wish to print onto. For instance, if you are currently printing onto a paper label for packaging, the ribbon you are using will have a very high wax content to give a great print onto the fibrous paper however, this ribbon will not work on synthetic durable labels. You may get a print on matt polyester labels but the print quality and durability may not be great. It certainly won’t print onto gloss synthetic labels.
For durable and glossy labels you need a ‘resin’ based ribbon. There are many different grades to choose from and durability varies between ribbon manufacturers. Ribbon selection is very important for reliable printing and it is always best to speak with a technical label specialist so you get it right first time.
If you don’t like the idea of switching labels and ribbons through the day, or you do not have a thermal transfer printer you can purchase a CAB Mach II printer for as little as £370 which will give you great results.
Can I use Free Software?
There is a lot of free labelling software on the internet and Microsoft WORD has label printing functionality but you get what you pay for and they are not usually intuitive, especially if you are printing using a Thermal Transfer printer. Laser printers are ‘plug and play’ and very easy to use whereas Thermal transfer printers are more technical and require the correct print drivers etc.
A lot of thermal transfer printers, including the CAB Mach II come with easy to use basic labelling software. Check to see if the printer you have, or intend to buy has labelling software and that it is sufficient for your needs.
If you can use free software then that’s another cost-saving but if you need professional intuitive label printing software, NiceLabel is the market leader with many different versions available. Their entry-level ‘Designer Express’ is excellent at £260.
Standardise your labelling into application groups for the economy.
I wrote ‘The complete guide to Computer Imprintable Labels’ to help businesses understand the technicalities of computer imprintable durable labels and from it you will see that there are many label material options to choose from.
Unfortunately, there is no one label material or adhesive that will work for every situation, but quite often one label material may be suitable for a number of circumstances, thus limiting the number of different label materials that you need. Standardising to the lowest number of label materials and creating a generic label size that will suite the majority of your needs will provide the greatest economy.
Speak with a technical labelling specialist to discuss what you need to label, what the label will need to stick onto as well as resist and the purpose of the label. They will then be able to give you the most economical options.