Hands on – Tharo Systems, PA2000 Print & Apply
We don’t get to play with the Tharo equipment too often so I was happy to have the chance to get hold of one for the Nepcon show recently.
Tharo have a long history in the labeling world, their Easylabel software for example was one of the first WYSIWYG label design packages to be launched.
The PA2000 is billed as being the perfect print/apply system for accurately placing tiny labels in the electronics and other industries. Let’s see if this is correct.
In the past, the Tharo labelers were built around the CAB printer from Germany. The current system uses a Tharo branded printer that is presumably manufactured in the Far East. Some of the other Tharo applicators can be used with some of the Datamax or Zebra printers, but it seems that the PA2000 cannot. I suspect this is because the printer control panel is obscured by the metalwork of the applicator frame. This is a shame because the rather low quality Tharo printer is only available in 203 or 300 DPI, making it unsuitable for many labeling jobs.
Our demo PA2000 came equipped with an H-436 300 DPI printer and a custom tamp pad to work with our 1.75 x 0.25 inch label. We also got a demo version of Easylabel to drive it. Personally I would have preferred to use either Bartender or LabelView, both of which have drivers for the Tharo printer, but we didn’t have the time to experiment. (This is not a criticism of Easylabel, I’m just much more familiar with the other applications)
The Tharo system comes with the main modules already assembled, ready to be bolted together. Everything goes together quite easily and we didn’t need to look at the manual, but the photo on the website was enough to get everything assembled.
Fine tuning everything turned out to be a bit tricky however. The adjustments are simply slots and bolts so there isn’t any fine adjustment on any of the settings. When setting up the system to handle small labels, everything has to be just right and it’s rather annoying when things start to move as the bolts are tightened. This is especially true of the cam that tilts the tamp pad as it moves into position to accept the label. I would have preferred to have had a better adjustment for this that would enable me to quickly get back to a known position. My thought was that this is rather like a prototype solution that still needs to be engineered for production. Having said that, once everything is correctly positioned and tightened, the applicator works really well.
The printer is just like any other thermal printer so there were no problems in getting it set up and printing with the Easylabel software. The only issue we discovered was that the demo version of Easylabel is designed to only print one label at a time. Not very good for a customer wanting to try it out in a production setting. The other label design applications we sell include a 30 day full featured trail period and we would have expected Easylabel to have provided the same.
In any case, a quick call to the Tharo guys and the problem was solved by acquiring a dealer demo hardware dongle.
The Tharo folks were kind enough to make a custom tamp pad that was made for our label size and once we had everything set correctly, the print and apply system functioned perfectly.
We set it up at the show to label printed circuit boards and the system lived up to its reputation of being the most accurate print/apply system on the market – we could make a nice neat stack of labels on the board, all in exactly the right position.
Extreme accuracy of label placement
Automation at a competitive cost
Could use better, more repeatable adjustments for the crucial areas.
The Tharo printer is limited to a maximum of 300 DPI
Can’t use Datamax or Zebra printers – other Tharo models can however.
For a company having to apply small labels to items such as printed circuit boards or small components, the Tharo PA2000 represents a nice upgrade from trying to apply the labels manually.
The PA2000 combined with a 400 or 600 DPI Datamax H-Class printer would be a fantastic combination. As it is, I like the PA2000 and wouldn’t hesitate to utilize it if I were an end user.