What I Want in a Colour Label Printer

Color Printers ID TechnologyBringing digital colour technology to on demand label printers is something that is picking up some momentum.

Regulatory requirements, such as GHS, are causing printer users in industry to take a hard look at options for colour printers and there are a lot of other great reasons for wanting to be able to print high quality colour labels, whether spot colour or full photo colour.

Here at the WincoPlex (part of ID Technology), we have found that we are often asked for ways to bring colour to our client’s labeling operations. To be honest, it has been frustrating – the printer manufacturers are only slowly bring technology to the market that meets the needs of the demanding labeling end user.

So far, we have worked with CMKY Thermal Transfer printers (from Toshiba TEC), inkjet printers from Primera and VIPColor and we are currently flirting with Memjet based technology products. None of these could be described as an overwhelming success.

I don’t think the TEC printers are made these days, although there is a new contender to the colour thermal printer world in the CAB XC Series which looks to be a nice solution for GHS labeling. The XC printer adds a second ribbon mechanism and printhead assembly, allowing it to print two colours. Not full colour printing by any means, but might well be a solution for certain applications.

The Memjet printers are the flavor of the month and getting a lot of hype at the moment. If I had the task to buy a high speed digital printer for in-house print jobs, I’d go with one of these for sure.

Here’s where I start to have issues with the current Memjet concept. Memjet printing is great for use in your office (I believe Memjet powered printers are the fastest available for printing 8.5 x 11 inch full colour sheets) or for mass producing digital labels – we have one at our Logmatix facility, but that isn’t what our clients generally want.

speedstar memjet printer logmatix

Speedstar Memjet Printer at IDT Logmatix

They don’t need to print thousands of labels at 12 inches per second on an 8 inch wide web. They want to print 4 inch labels on demand – one at a time when needed and the print speed isn’t as important as the data to print time.

Also, a lot of our clients are tough industrial people. They don’t want something with a lot of tiny parts – they are used to big beefy printers like the Zebra Xi series.

So what would I really like to see for the industrial colour label printing market?

First off, this is an on demand printer, not a roll to roll digital press. The existing Memjet printers (like my cool Trojan) already have the small digital press part covered.

Technology. Memjet(ish) would work for me. Especially if inks could be developed that would work on conventional label materials rather than specific inkjet ones. (wishful thinking I know). Oh, while I’m at it, let’s have durable print that meets BS5609 durability standards. not much to ask, I’d say.

Print Width. 4 inches works for me. This would handle 90% or so of all the labeling jobs

Memjet Printer VP700

I’ve been getting good results with this VP700 Memjet printer

out there. No need for the extra cost, complexity and size of an 8 inch wide printer.

Form Factor. I’d like my printer to fit in a Datamax H-Class body or maybe an Intermec PM43.  Space is always at a premium and I don’t want my printer to be any bigger. I want all the proper connectivity options, USB, Ethernet, Wireless (none of that charging extra for Ethernet, please!)

So What’s Out There?

Memjet’s – lots of them. Not a huge amount of differentiation because all the key parts are provided by Memjet.

Toner based printers – hmm, client feedback has not been positive on these

Inkjet printers – Primera, VIPColor, that kind of thing. These can do a decent job, but are way too $99.00 desktop from BestBuy machines for my personal taste. Slow too!

QuickLabel Kiaro! – this one comes close, but QuickLabel is the world’s most channel unfriendly company meaning that solutions companies like us miss out on the fun.

So my big hope is that one of the big industrial label printer companies comes out with a rugged, 4 inch, colour printer to really shake up this market and give us a great solution to sell. How about it, Zebra? Datamax? Intermec?

In the meantime, I have to say I’ve been enjoying seeing how well the Memjet based VP700 printer is performing in our office. Check out my review here at Labeling News.

What do you think? Would digital colour on-demand printing help in your organization? Have I missed any obvious alternative printers or technologies? (I usually do!)

Give me a call at 603-598-1553 if you want to talk colour!

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  1. As you mention the CAB XC Series, there is another solution from Godex: synchronised printers.
    Ok, it’s an desktop only, kinda botched way of doing two colors, but if you have more than one Godex printers anyway and don’t need color all the time…

    I found an article and video on (german):

    And i agree with you: A full color rugged industrial printer is somewhat missing.
    Zebra has those retransfer color card printers, if they would make them for labels, that could be a step forwad, don’t you think?

  2. David Holliday says:

    Hmm, using two printers isn’t the most elegant solution, but I’m sure it works – would also be a pretty low cost solution compared to some of the alternatives. Those 2 colour CAB printers are pretty expensive here. LSI (part of our group of companies) has done something similar, making a two colour print/apply system using two print engines: http://idt.gs/18qQ2sq

    I’m inclined to think that Zebra is the most likely of the printer makers to come up with a solution. As you mention, they have the colour technology in the card printers and have also played with those thermal IQ Color labels too.

    The wait continues, but I might try the 2-printer trick with a couple of Datamax E-class printers!

  3. Hi! Any new ideas out there on current options for color? Amen to needing the rugged color printer. I am really considering the Zebra IQ technology. We manufacture over 85 body products at our small business and are in desperate need of a more manageable system than paying for inkjet or laser in house labels. We are currently labeling using Epson systems and just tired of the pallets of toner cartridges. We need to print our own labels as we produce and introduce new and varied products all the time. The headaches we have gone through with having our labels done by a contractor and the time it has cost us put us in many a pickle! Looking for options all the time to this problem since 2008. We have up until this year primarily focused on wholesale and are just stepping out into retail space so here we are! This problem is so common in the small business world… Branding without dying over the timing constraints. Greater demand than ever before for custom type products… etc! Really feel the need for technology to catch up. Thanks for the info!

  4. David Holliday says:

    Hi Elizabeth,

    The Zebra IQ technology is rather cool, but I don’t think it is ideal for your product labeling. IQ is great for simple spot colours, but you probably need something that can do proper colour printing for your application.

    The Memjet based printers like our VP700 or QuickLabels’s Kiaro! might be a good fit for you. Let me know if oyu’d like more info or some sample labels to check out.

  5. I am from Malaysia and I happen to be stuck at this problem months ago like Elizabeth. We were once a VP700 user but realised that support is pretty lacking in this part of Asia , the inks do not stay on as long as they claimed. (They gave us all the figures presented but fact is the ink are really not as lasting when we have our products shipped out with the labels..) , We happen to look around and saw Quicklabel Kiaro printer. Its been a good 6 months and I must say it has never fail us a bit.

  6. David Holliday says:

    Hi CJ – you are correct, the print form the VP700 is not very durable so you have to be careful with that. There is a new version, the VP750 which is supposed to produce more durable prints. I don’t have any personal experience of this one.
    The Quicklable printer is a nice little machine – good news that is has worked out for you.

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