a. What do I need to print bar codes?
To print bar code labels, a label format must be created with software that supports bar coding. To print bar codes on documents or reports, the application software needs to support bar coding or additional programming will be required. After the label or form is designed, it needs to be output on a printer that is capable of producing bar codes and supports the specific symbology that is used. Because data is encoded using differences between light and dark (and narrow and wide) elements—which are measured in mils, or thousands of an inch—a good quality printer is essential for producing crisp lines and accurate, readable bar codes. Finally, the media must support bar code print quality by not bleeding, running, fading, or otherwise defacing the symbol.
b. Do I need a special printer to print bar codes?
Many common laser and ink jet printers are capable of producing bar codes, but need to be set up to do so. They often do not have native support for bar code symbologies and need to be upgraded with additional fonts or programming to support bar coding. They also lack many of the special features that provide excellent bar code print quality.
c. Can I use my laser printer to print bar code shipping labels?
Yes, but be prepared to deal with excessive material waste and printer wear, potential jamming caused by the label adhesive, limited symbology and software support, and delays while media is changed to support label or document printing.
d. There are so many bar code printers. How do I choose?
Narrow the field significantly by determining the size of labels that need to be printed. Analyze the conditions the label will be exposed to and its required life span to determine the print method (direct thermal or thermal transfer) and required media support. Printers also differ significantly in the interfaces and network connectivity that they offer. The symbologies, graphics, and international characters supported are other important differentiators. Durability and printing volume are also important. For most applications, 203 dots-per-inch (dpi) resolution provides sufficient print quality. However, when higher quality printing is required, such as for very small labels or some 2-D symbologies, 300 or 600 dpi printers should be used.