Laser or barcode printers ?


Recently several of our clients contacted me about getting our software changed so that magazine labels can be printed on a laser printer, as they feel it is cheaper; I, personally, am not so sure that it is cheaper. Still, since we always provide our users with choices, we are creating an update that will do this. The patch should be available in a few weeks.

My thoughts are that since barcode printers do not use ribbons, ink or toner they are cheaper to run. The labels have all the relevant
information on them. Barcode printers are easy and quick to use. You just put the labels in and away you go. Peeling them off is simple.

Let us look at laser printers.

Many of our users have used other systems that print using laser printed labels, so I asked them.

The biggest problem with laser printers is waste. Laser printers print on a whole page so they are not ideal for small batches of labels.

This struck me a few days ago when I met a newsagent using another system. An incredible number of perfectly good label sheets were in the rubbish bin.

I decided to write a simulation program on waste, the kind you could expect, assuming you print several runs a day. As you can see the waste is increasing dramatically! Total sheets are shown in red. Incomplete ones are shown in blue.

Clearly with laser printers you need to do a few print runs as possible per day because of the wastage rate increases dramatically.

Seeing the number of unused labels remaining on the scrap sheet I asked them why they didn’t reuse these perfectly good labels. They replied that they tried. However, first they had to estimate how many dummy labels they needed, then waste toner by printing a dummy batch and then print the labels they needed. It was messy. Also, the labels themselves would curl up inside the printer if the label sheet was reused.

I then asked why they were using an expensive label sheet. They replied that they could get cheaper sheets but were reluctant to use them as sometimes the labels leave traces of gum inside the laser printer causing it to jam. I too noticed this when I looked at the gum residue left behind by the more expensive label sheets.
The other problem was it was a bit of an art to getting the paper lined up correctly in the laser printer. If it is not correctly lined up it causes problems.

Although it did not concern them, I do know that laser printer manufacturers may void your warranty if something goes wrong because you put label sheets through the laser printer.

The laser labels are not as good. Not surprising, as a barcode printer is made for labels and can print finer details. See for yourself by checking the middle and the bottom labels.

Also, in newsagencies, labels need to endure rough treatment, rubbing and sunlight. Labels need to be read by people and by the barcode scanner. So I ran my fingernail several times over our laser printed label and our barcode printer label. See how the laser printed label on top smudged quickly? The barcode label printed below, despite even worse treatment, was unaffected.

Finally, laser printed labels darken faster with age. I noticed this particularly on the cookbooks.

If you look at this page, which I used in a previous blog for the running costs of a laser printer, you can see that it varies from 3.5 cents to 7.5 cents a page. The figures for labels are an underestimation as label paper is much dearer than plain paper, also toner and drums costs are much higher as they use more ink. Printing many pages of labels can be a very expensive exercise solely in terms of ink and toner costs.

Of course, no printer is perfect for all types of printing but a barcode printer should be used for small runs.

With Posbrowser you can use either a barcode printer or a laser printer or a combination.

The choice is yours with posbrowser.