A Special PP&P Buyers' Guide: Bar Code Printers

December 2005 - Vol. 2 No. 7

IN SEARCHING OUT THE RIGHT BAR CODE PRINTER FOR YOUR PHARMACY’S packaging applications, it is important to consider the following factors:

  • Printer technology
  • Bar code symbology
  • Printing volume
  • Label size
  • Label durability

Bar code printers are equipped with one of two basic technologies: thermal or laser. Laser printers are typically more cost effective for printing large batches of labels, because the label stock generally has multiple labels per page. High-output laser printers are best used for highvolume printing, while desktop laser printers can be used in situations in which high volume is not as important to the application. Thermal printers use heat to physically change the color of coating on the label stock (direct thermal) or to bond a wax or resin image to the label stock (thermal transfer).

In selecting a bar code printer for your pharmacy’s packaging applications, it may also be important to your overall facility that the bar code symbology used is consistent with the bar codes found elsewhere in the continuum of care. For instance, if your facility wants to move towards two-dimensional or data matrix bar codes, you will want to examine printer options that can produce those codes. This will keep you from having to replace your bar code printers in the near future.
Volume is another important factor to take into consideration. Determine how many bar coded labels you will need to generate a day— and how much time you will have to generate them—and match that number to a printer with a suitable production speed.

Also weigh the size of the labels produced by the printer during your selection process. Make sure the labels are small enough for your unit dose packages, and consider using a specialty labeling system for oddly shaped items like syringes, vials, and ampoules.

You should also take the durability of the label stock into account. You need to ascertain if the label will hold up well under refrigeration if the medication being labeled requires refrigeration. Additionally, find out if the label will be easily damaged by certain chemicals, such as alcohol, especially if the label is likely to come in contact with them. You will also want to look for label stock that will hold up well against the abrasion that could occur during both delivery to and storage on the nursing unit.

PP&P has designed the following resource to help you as you examine your product needs in the bar code printer marketplace. Containing detailed information on a variety of vendor products, the buyers’ guide can help you determine which bar code printer best fits your pharmacy’s needs.

Brady Corporation:
TLS 2200 Thermal Transfer Printer
The TLS 2200 labeling system from Brady is a lightweight (2.75 pounds) hand-held thermal transfer printer. The portable TLS 2200 is capable of printing bar coded labels for vials and other small items, and its internal memory allows you to create and save legends in lists and recall them with a few keystrokes. The printer also reads the type, size, and style of labels you’re using and automatically adjusts itself. Using Brady’s LabelMark software, you can import lists from a spreadsheet to LabelMark and print directly to the TLS 2200 printer. The TLS 2200 system provides continuous labeling with fixed length and banner printer options. Print up to 50 characters using the largest font size, on continuous labels up to 4 feet long, or customize the length of the label to any size you need. Autotext sizing allows the TLS 2200 printer to read your label style, select a suitable type size, and register it for printing.

TLS PC Link Thermal Labeling System
Brady’s TLS PC Link Thermal Labeling System, a rugged, small, and lightweight desktop and/or portable printer, provides thermal transfer bar code printing capabilities and accommodates a variety of label sizes. The TLS PC Link can be connected to a desktop PC, and used with Brady labeling software or any other Windows application. Brady Programming Language (BPL) provides a communication language through which the end-user can create their own programs and send controls to the printer for printing labels. The language allows the printer to be integrated with non-Windows based equipment. The AC power supply charges the battery, so there is no need to purchase an external charger.

Cognitive Solutions, Inc:
Advantage LX Desktop Series
Cognitive’s Advantage LX printers are specified to print more than 5,000 labels per day and support 21 bar code symbologies.

With up to four megabytes of memory, the printers are available with direct thermal / thermal transfer technology and a 300-dpi printhead. The printer’s small footprint (5 by 6.1 by 9.4 inches for the LBx24-2043 model or 6.8 by 6.1 by 9.4 for the LBx42-2043 model) allows for easy placement on a desktop or work surface.

EasyCoder PF2i and PF4i
Intermec’s EasyCoder PF2i and PF4i bar code printers feature compact footprints—15.6 by 7 by 7.6 inches and 15.9 by 7 by 9.6 inches respectively—making them easy to install on a pharmacy work surface. Both models print up to 76 labels per minute using direct thermal or thermal transfer technology, and support a wide array of bar code symbologies. With easy-tochange magnetic QuickMount printheads, both the PF2i and PF4i can print at 203 dpi, with the PF4i capable
of printing at 300 dpi.

Precision Dynamics Corporation:
PDC 600 Bar Code Wristband Certified Printer Series
The PDC 600 Bar Code Wristband Certified Printer Series from Precision Dynamics Corporation offers high-speed label printing from a desktop machine, and is able to print 4 to 6 inches per second at 300 dpi. The printer also features a small footprint, drop-in media, and a centered alignment for fast loading, a clear window for accessible printing, and the ability to print a variety of bar codes. The PDC 600 Series uses the exclusive Printer Application Language (PAL) to ensure the printer is ready to work with any system as soon as it is plugged in.

Zebra Technologies:
H 2824-Z Healthcare Starter Kit
The H 2824 Healthcare Starter Kit from Zebra Technologies is designed for printing bar coded patient wristbands in one easy step, and includes Zebra’s H
2824-Z direct thermal bar code printer and a supply of Z-Band Direct thermal wristbands. The kit helps ensure positive patient identification, and can enable health care providers to meet JCAHO and HIPAA patient safety and privacy standards. The compact H 2824-Z bar code printer is one of the smallest two-inch desktop printers for wristband printing in the industry, and the starter kit enables printing on several sizes of wristbands, including a narrow pediatric width.

Zebra’s Z4Mplus printer can quickly process intricate, variable-information labels, and supports advanced symbologies, networking, and memory formats. Used in conjuction with the ZebraNet PrintServer, the Z4Mplus enables remote con-
figuration, monitoring, and control via an Ethernet network. Maximum print width is 4.09 inches, or 104 mm, and an optional 300-dpi printhead is available. The printer is available in direct thermal and thermal transfer models, and supports RSS and RSS composite symbologies for the labeling of small items, such as unit dose packages.


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