Datamax MP Series – Hands on Preview
Our friends at Datamax recently dropped off one of their new MP printers – the MP Compact4 Mobile – for us to check out. A very interesting little device it is.
The MP printers were originally manufactured by Markprint, a Swedish maker of thermal printing systems. Over time Markprint was acquired by Image, a French business in the inkjet market. When Image was in turn purchased by Dover Corp, the printers from Markprint found their way into the Datamax range.
When I first saw these new MP printers, my thought was that here was my solution for a small, high quality printer to meet the need for distributed printing. A quick glance at the pricelist showed that this was not going to happen.
However, there is one version of the MP, the Compact4 Mobile that just might fill a need in the US market.
In many warehouses, there are a lot of items that need to be identified, so most enterprises are using thermal printers to produce barcode labels. Currently there are two ways to do this – desktop printers, which force the operators to return to a print station to pick up labels and mobile printers that can be worn on a belt or mounted on a forktruck.
The problem with these mobile printers is that they are all designed for relatively low volume applications, not for the tough industrial warehouse world.
The Compact4 Mobile printer seems to address the problem nicely, industrial level construction combined with tiny footprint and the ability to work on voltages from 12-48 volts.
So what are my thoughts?
My first impression was “Wow! This thing is heavy” Printer companies all like to boast about how beefy their products are, but there is a lot of heft to this machine, especially considering the tiny size. (The tiny size was my second impression).
The printer is designed to be mounted in just about any position, giving great flexibility in how it can be installed. On our test unit, the clip holding the printer to its bracket was way too stiff to operate, but that’s probably because it is a demo unit and been bashed around a lot.
Threading the labels (it takes 4 inch wide labels and rolls up to 4 inches in diameter) is simple; the idea is that a fork truck driver wearing gloves can thread the printer without difficulty.
So far everything looks good, but of course in real life there is always a problem or two.
The first is that the Compact4 Mobile uses a proprietary programming language. Most people writing applications for warehouse or logistics management are used to using the code for the US made printers, ZPL, DPL etc. Having to use something else is just a pain and is something Datamax need to address as soon as possible. These days most printers offer some kind of emulation that allows various programming languages to be used and I would expect this to be offered for the Compact4 Mobile before too long.
Another major issue is the lack of any wireless connectivity. I really don’t understand this at all, a mobile device without wireless? Since Datamax inherited this product it’s hardly their fault, but all the same, I’m hoping to see this remedied in the very near future. Until then, the only way to communicate with the printer is by having a computer mounted on the fork truck.
I really hope that Datamax addresses these issues (and perhaps devises a more customer friendly pricing program) because the Compact4 Mobile really does seem to fill a need in the market place. Tiny form factor, robust and simple to use – I can see this being used in a lot of tough warehouse applications.
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