RFID and UID Labeling – Which Printer?

Printing Compliance Labels

We are often asked for advice on which printer a customer should buy for UID and RFID labeling. To be honest, there isn’t a standard answer to this, since every customer has very different needs and production situations.

When a customer has to comply with the labeling rules for MIL-STD-129 and 130, quite often there will be a label printer already in place that is capable of printing the UID and some of the MIL-STD-129 labels (when there is no RFID needed). As long as this existing printer has at least 300 DPI resolution and is in good condition (no missing pixels on the printhead) it should be just fine.

Quite often though, gearing up to meet the standards will need new equipment. At this point let me come clean and mention that my company, Winco Identification is a motivated partner of Datamax Corporation so the solutions I suggest will be built around Datamax products.

One of the first things to decide is whether one printer is going to be able to handle both the RFID and UID labeling. There is no technical reason why this can’t be done – indeed many of our customers do this very successfully. The issue is how this would work from an operational point of view. Quite often UID labels are printed in the production or QA areas while RFID labels are produced in shipping. Clearly it can often make sense to have a printer in each location, especially when one considers the time it takes to change over from one job to another.

Many customers also ask if they can upgrade their existing printers to be used with RFID. The answer to this is usually no, but there are some cases when this can be done. For example, if a Datamax H-Class printer was originally purchased as “RFID Ready” it can be easily upgraded and the new Datamax M-Class MarkII printers are RFID Ready as standard. Please note that the Datamax I-Class range cannot be upgraded to RFID, even if a printer was purchased as RFID Ready since I-Class RFID support has been discontinued.

So what equipment would I suggest for UID and RFID labeling?

For UID labeling, my favorite resolution is 400 DPI. This gives excellent print quality and allows printing of the smallest UID barcode allowed in the standard of 0.0075. My printer of choice for this would be the Datamax H-4408.

I believe that 300 DPI is the best resolution for the MIL-STD-129 labels and I have two good options to choose from.

Datamax H-Class PrintersIf my production volume was high, I’d stick with the H-Class and get the H-4310 RFID. If however, my volume was lower or space was at a premium, the new M-4306 MarkII RFID offers most of the features of the H-Class in a smaller form factor (and at slightly lower price as well). As I already mentioned, the new M-Class is designed as RFID Ready, so is a good choice of printer for general labeling, especially if there’s a chance of having to produce RFID labels in the future.

If I wanted to put together a complete solution for RFID and UID labeling, I’d add Bartender label software (with my MIL-STD label templates), the Siemens LDP UID Verifier and a handheld RFID reader along with Winco durable and RFID labels and I’d be good to go.

If you have the task of putting together a plan for MIL-STD129 and 130 compliance, feel free to contact me at david@labelingnews.com

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