You might not realise it but choosing the right printer can make a big difference when it comes to printing labels.
Some people assume that a printer is a printer is a printer and that it makes no difference whether they’ve got an inkjet or a laser printer (with some blissfully unaware that different kinds of printers even exist). Unfortunately, because labels are a very different medium to paper, the printer you use can make a big difference to the process of choosing and printing your labels.
Labels are made up of a number of different layers (meaning they are thicker than paper AND contain an adhesive layer that you need to be aware of) and are made using a variety of materials, which means they need extra care when printing. Furthermore, many label products are made with materials that are compatible with ONE printing process only (in order to create the best possible print quality), which means customers need to think carefully about the products they choose to use with their printer.
What are the differences between laser printers and inkjet printers?
Laser printers use heat and pressure to bond toner (a dry powder) onto the surface of the material being printed. Lasers are used to charge areas of an image drum (or the material itself) to attract or repel the toner so that it is applied to the drum or material in the correct position. A fuser unit then applies heat and pressure to bond the toner in place.
This has the benefit of creating print that is highly durable AND waterproof.
Inkjet printers, however, disperse droplets of ink from a printhead onto the material below to form the required image; the ink then dries in place with some or all of the ink being absorbed into the surface of the material being printed.
Standard inkjet inks are water based, which means that the print will run or smudge if it comes into contact with water.
What are the differences between the materials used to make laser labels and inkjet labels?
Materials used to make laser labels will have good heat resistance and a consistent, smooth surface that will allow the toner to bond firmly and evenly across the surface to help produce a sharp, clean print. Paper laser labels will also contain moisture to help combat the drying effects of the heat used to bond the toner in place.
Inkjet labels, however, will be made with materials that have a porous surface to allow some of the ink to be absorbed in place; this allows the ink to dry more efficiently and accurately, which improves the quality and resolution of the final print.
Customers should be aware that while choosing a label that is compatible with their printer has the benefit of improving the print quality, it is also a necessity because it is likely that you will not be able to print your labels at all if they are not compatible with your printer. For example, toner may not bond at all with materials designed for inkjet printers, while inks may not dry properly on laser labels, which will result in your print smudging across the surface.
What other things should I think about when using my own printer?
- Always use the media bypass tray to print labels. The standard paper tray is designed specifically for paper (80-90gsm) while the media bypass tray will accept thicker materials AND provide a straighter path through the printer involving fewer sets of rollers (rollers may cause slight rotation of your sheets as they pass through the printer, which can reduce the accuracy of your print positioning). Some basic printers and “All-In-One” models do not have bypass trays and tend to produce less accurate alignment.
- Always check to see if your printer offers specific settings for printing labels. These settings will automatically select the best combination of print settings for this particular medium. Laser printers, for example, often have a specific “Labels” setting (or “Heavy Paper” setting) that slows the printer down and increases the heat applied during printing – this allows the toner to bond firmly in place even when printing onto the thicker and more varied material types used to make labels.
- Finally, check your printer’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations for the types and thicknesses of materials that your printer is able to process. You should NOT exceed or ignore these recommendations as this could cause damage to your printer. Some manufacturers may also supply printing guides for different media, such as labels; if your printer’s manual includes a guide to printing labels, you should take note of the advice provided.