How to print barcode labels with a label printer

In this article I will try and give you an idea of how to print barcode labels with a label printer and what type of printer is needed.

The basics

To determine what type of printer you should purchase, you need to decide how long these printed labels should last and in what type of environment will they be used. If your printed label does not need to last more thanĀ  few weeks and wont be subject to moisture and heat then you can purchase a Direct Thermal label printer. If you require your printed labels to last a long time and durable against scuffing, heat, moisture etc then you will need to purchase a Thermal Transfer label printer.

What is Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer?

Lets first look at the two methods of printing onto labels.

Direct Thermal – with this method you print directly on to specially treated thermal labels. The heat from the print head is directly applied to the paper causing the paper to turn black at the heated areas. The printed label is clear and is ideal for applications where the label is used for short term purposes. Most of the supermarkets use direct thermal printers to print the labels on for example, the packaged meat. The label does not need to last as it will be scanned at the till and then discarded. These labels are easily scuffed and damaged by heat, moisture and chemicals.

Thermal Transfer – this method of printing uses a ribbon between the print head and label. The heat from the print head melts the ink onto the label, producing a long lasting label. These labels are ideal for marking shelves,assets or anyplace where the label should last. The thermal printers are mostly more expensive than their direct thermal counterparts due to the mechanism and sensors needed to accommodate the ribbon.


Thermal ribbons come in various widths and lengths to fit the various printers. Ribbons are available in wax, wax/resin or resin. The type of ribbon you will need will be determined by the type of label you will be printing on. The label supplier will recommend which label material will best suite your application and which ribbon will best match the label material.

Label Printer

Now that you have determined if you need a direct thermal label printer or thermal transfer label printer we can look at the different options.

Label printers are available in affordable desktop models and heavy duty industrial models. The desktop modes can be used for low to medium volume printing up to 1000 labels a day. Printing more than this will wear out the printer and incur repair costs. Using an industrial printer will be a safer bet. The industrial label printers have metal covers protecting the printer in harsh dirty conditions. The printers mechanism is also built to withstand printing in excess of 10 000 labels a day. This option could be better in the long run if many barcode labels need to be printed.

Desktop Label Printer
Industrial Label Printer

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Label design software

The majority of the label printers come with label design software that will enable you to design, print and save the labels. The Argox barcode label printers all come with Bartender UL, drivers and printer utilities. The free version of Bartender is normally sufficient for most applications. If you need more functionality from the software you can purchase the full versions with licenses.

The Barcode Label

Once the barcode label printer has been setup, software installed you are ready to print your first label. The majority of label printers have diagrams in the upper lid explaining how to insert the roll of label and the thermal ribbon. Follow these instructions and close the print head mechanism and lid if applicable. Design your label with text and a barcode, select the number of labels to be printed and select the print icon.

Hope this article has helped to explain how to go about printing your own barcode labels.

Contact the sales staff at JNS Technologies for information and prices on the various Barcode Label Printers. Tel: 011 425 5439 or email sales@jnstech.co.za

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