Part of the Peripherals glossary:

A barcode printer is a printer designed to produce barcode labels which can be attached to other objects. Barcode printers use either direct thermal or thermal transfer techniques to apply ink to labels. Thermal transfer printers use ink ribbons to apply the barcode directly into the label, while thermal transfer printers use heat to blacken the barcode onto the label.

While both are effective, barcodes produced from direct thermal printers are more likely to become unreadable if exposed to elements such as heat, sunlight, and chemicals, and therefore don’t have the longevity of barcodes made with thermal transfer.  Because of the longevity of the barcodes produced thermal transfer printers, as well as their overall printing quality and higher expense of production materials, they tend to be more costly than direct thermal printers. Barcode printers can be used for small business to industrial use, and are most commonly used for shipping products. 

It is important to know what kind of label longevity you’re looking for as well as the quality expected and price spectrum when comparing printers. While dot matrix or ink jet printers can print barcodes, they are not the best choices when it comes to barcode printing. They cannot print on many different materials because of ink splatter and bleeding, and are usually limited to printing paper. Laser printers are the least compatible with barcode production because of their inability to produce small or single barcodes, tendency to heat the adhesive on the labels, high rate of waste and high cost of ink. All are important factors to consider when purchasing a barcode printer.

See Also: symbology, barcode reader

Learn more about barcode printers:

Implementing a barcode project isn't always as simple as it seems.
Zebra Internal Printer Parts- Thermal Barcode Label Printer.
Barcode problems on IPDS laser printer connected to iSeries.

This was last updated in November 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms

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  • Peripherals

    - Terms related to peripheral devices including definitions about keyboards or mice and words and phrases about printers, monitors, digital cameras and scanners.

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    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

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