Sunday, March 8, 2015

C3500 Surprise

While working with a prospect, I had positive surprise; Epson released a new driver for the C3500. 

TM-C3500 New Driver

You may remember my first driver surprise this year that enabled 8.25” wide printing: http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2014/11/gp-c831-surprise.html

 After the initial introduction, I learned my prospect wanted to print small labels with color codes. The color helps the organization and their customers distinguished similar products in inventory. In our discussion, I told him that the TM-C3500 is limited to 0.6” label height.  Given this limitation, he created BarTender files and sent them to me to print.  I printed and scanned the 3” x 0.6” barcode labels with no problem.
TM-C3500 Printing Barcodes

The prospect then wanted to see a demo of the printer printing these small labels. While conducting the printer demo, I learned he was currently using the Primera LX900 printers to produce the labels.  However, many of the labels were not able to be scanned.  It seems the labels moved during printing; thus producing poor barcodes.  In addition, he was not able to add the printer to the network; forcing them to use USB connectivity and making the IT group very unhappy.  More important, he shared that their ink costs were very high to produce these little barcode labels.

The prospect also shared that the label real estate was critical; they could not use a label taller than 0.375”.  Based on this requirement, I suggested we could print 2 of these labels in a 2.75” x 0.75” area.  It seemed, however, the prospect company’s current process required printing one label at a time.  To learn more about printing narrow labels, check out my earlier post:  http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2014/10/printing-narrow-color-labels.html  

Once I understood what he really needed, I recommended going back and looking at label design options to produce these small labels. Back at the office, I emailed Epson to say that we may not be able to help this customer given the requirements. Within minutes, I received the reply from Ken at Epson: 

“We just released a new version of the 3500 driver / FW that accommodates heights down to 0.31. “

After getting samples of the prospect’s 2.75” x 0.375” labels, installing the new driver and thanking Ken, I set up the media height as 0.375”:

TM-C3500 Media Size

 and received a message which I should have expected:

As I had the previous WAD20200 version of the firmware loaded in my printer, I went ahead and printed using BarTender.  The labels printed great and the barcodes scanned easily using my phone.  However, each print job skipped 3 labels:

Given this issue, I adjusted the gap sensor to insure the printer was reading the gap correctly.

TM-C3500 Gap Sensor

And I adjusted the print start position (which need to be adjusted slightly anyway).

TM-C3500 Print Start Adjustment

But each print job still skipped 3 labels.  When I contacted Epson to ask why, their first question was, “did you update the firmware of the printer?”  As I hadn't, I immediately updated the firmware; and the 0.375” labels printed perfectly.

Given these results, this prospect is now a new customer of Color Label Solutions.

When printing small/short labels, please know barcodes can be an issue.  For example, this ~.25”/X dimension of 15 mils Data Matrix barcode scanned just fine using my phone when printed:

TM-C3500 Data Matrix Barcode

But this ~.125”/X dimension of 12.5 mils Data Matrix barcode did not scan using my phone:

If you want to print short or small labels, contact us.  We’ll help you get started printing these seemingly difficult labels quickly and easily.  If you have a C3500 printer and want the latest driver/firmware, contact us as well.  We’ll get these updates to you. 

We want to help you become one of our important customers as well.

Guy Mikel

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

First Of Many II

Smark Company (www.smarkcompany.com)  of South Gate, California prides itself in the reputation that has been established over the years of providing their customers with superior industrial chemicals and dyeing auxiliaries distribution services.  With hundreds of different products and specialty chemicals, Spark has the products you need for your business, providing them in 1 gallon to up to truckload quantities.

I first contacted Smark after Michael Garcia, Supply Chain Manager, requested information on printing color labels on demand to meet the requirements for GHS.  In our initial discussions, I learned about their interest in stopping the use of preprinted and laser printed color labels.

According to Elisabeth Dondiego of Smark, “we’re spending over $0.50 for each for our labels.  We need to find a way to reduce our label costs and preprinted label inventory.  Plus the toner from the laser printer can smudge and spread over the labels; and these laser labels are not chemically resistant.   Finally, the labels jam many times, taking over 1 hour just to print 30.  The need to produce GHS labels has caused us to look for a new printing solution.”

Soon after our initial discussion, I met with the team at Smark, to demonstrate the GP-C831 printer to produce drum labels; and the TM-C3500 for their smaller package sizes.  To demonstrate the printers, I loaded the drivers for these printers on their computer and had them printing labels quickly.

Based on the demonstration, Smark purchased a GP-C831 and a TM-C3500 along with ink and labels.  While installing the GP-C831, I made an easy-to-do mistake configuring the printer.  To set the page size in the driver, you need to use the actual label width (8.375” in this case); and the perforation-to-perforation distance (14”) and not the label length (13.875”).  This difference in length causes the label to “creep” moving the image off center by 1/8th inch.  You can read more about setting up the new C831 driver here:  http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2014/11/gp-c831-surprise.html

Also while installing the GP-C831, I mentioned to Michael about the new TM-C7500.   He immediately visited our blog and website to see the printer running:  http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2015/01/my-new-printer-is.html 
Based on our discussion and the website, Smark decided to return the C3500 and purchase the brand new TM-C7500 printer. According to Michael, “we decided to return the C3500 and get the C7500 as the new printer was faster and more cost effective.  We’re working to improve our overall labeling process and the new C7500 seemed like the best option.”

Fortunately, we were able to get one of these limited-availability printers from Epson and install at Smark.  We installed the printer on the network and had them printing on both paper and poly labels immediately.

Although the new C7500 printer was installed and running, we did not have their 4” x 8” matte poly labels available at the same time.  The combination of producing on demand, customer’s unique label configurations and increased requirements means it may take some time to produce and deliver the initial order. Producing your labels on-demand is further made more difficult as our plants are full.  Planning ahead is critical. One solution which our customer find convenient is the use of blanket orders; pre-assigned quantities and delivery schedules insure your labels are delivered when you need them.

Smark Company’s initial reaction to the new printers is positive.  According to Elizabeth, “the new printers look good, we need a way to reduce our costs and produce GHS labels more efficiently.” Smark was our first install of the new C7500 printer.  You may want to read about my first install of the TM-C3500 printer here:  http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2013/09/first-of-many.html

I am very fortunate to have customers like Smark.  The team at Smark has treated me wonderfully and are truly nice people open to new ideas and options.  And more important, Smark has a good solution to produce great looking GHS labels affordably and on-demand.

The install at Smark is hopefully the first of many of these great new printers.  If you need to produce GHS labels or want the new TM-C7500 printer, contact us.  We’ll help you get started printing labels quickly as well.

Guy Mikel

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Applying Productivity

Headquartered in Plymouth, Minnesota, Primera Technology, Inc. is a developer and manufacturer of specialty printing equipment including the LX-Series Color Label Printers, AP-Series Label Applicators, LP130 Laser Marking System, the CX1200 Color Label Press and the FX1200 Digital Finishing System.  Primera distributes its products in more than 222 countries with service and support for North America, Latin America and South America from Plymouth, Minnesota. EMEA customers are serviced and supported from Wiesbaden, Germany through Primera Europe. Primera Asia Pacific, located in Hong Kong, serves customers in Asia Pacific.

Recently, I sat down with Katherine Lee, Sales Representative, for Primera to learn more about their label applicators; the AP360/AP362 for cylindrical containers and the AP550 for flat surfaces.  If you are applying labels manually to either types of containers or flat packages, the number one way you can increase productivity is to move to semi-automatic labeling.  According to Katherine, “With the AP 360, you can apply up to 1000 labels per hour onto bottles; all in the exact same location.  With the AP550, you can insure your labels are applied in the same position, smoothly (with no wrinkles) on flat surfaces quickly and easily.”

With the AP360/AP362, the only slightly complicated part of setting up the applicator is threading the leading edge of the labels in the applicator.  Katherine says, “both applicators have a diagram on the side on how to thread the labels”

“In addition, you need to set the thumbscrews/guides to set the location of the label on the bottle” says Katherine. 

AP360 Label Applicator

Continuing, Katherine says “you need to make sure the label/gap sensor is touching the label.”

AP360 Label Applicator

With the mode function, you can set the applicator to apply 1 or 2 labels, even setting the distance between labels.

To see Katherine apply a label to a wine bottle, watch this video.

If you want to see the official AP360  video.... 

One of the questions I get frequently is applying labels to small bottles; especially given the increase in the e-cigarette market.  When applying labels to smaller bottles, Katherine says, “you need to keep the arm pushed down; forcing you to almost insert the bottle between the arm and the rollers.  As small bottles are light in weight, the arm holds them in place to insure the labels are applied correctly.

“Again, you can use the AP360/AP362 applicators on any container you can roll.  If the container rolls crooked, the AP360/AP362 will apply the label incorrectly” says Katherine.

For flat surfaces the AP550 works well.  Take a look at Katherine applying labels:

If you want to see the official AP550 video....

From my perspective, consistent label application is the biggest benefit of the flat surface applicator.  No way can you apply a label in the same position every time manually. 

If you need to increase your productivity on printing and APPLYING color labels on-demand, we can help.  Contact us to learn more about these semi-automatic label applicators.

Guy Mikel

Sunday, January 18, 2015

GHS Needs An "Erin"

Since 1967, Engineered Lubricants has been an independent manufacturer of lubricants, metalworking fluids, rust preventatives and cleaners. Providing products and services across the globe, EL formulates products specific to its customers’ production requirements. EL has one of the most advanced testing laboratories in the United States, offering its customers extensive physical and analytical testing capabilities.

With a foundation built on conservation and savings, EL has been an industry leader in preventative maintenance programs, which are designed to reduce consumption, provide cost savings and help anticipate and eliminate potential problems. Regular lubrication surveys help reduce maintenance costs and ensure proper equipment lubrication.

Almost 1.5 years prior to the deployment deadline of June 15, 2015, Erin Weber of Engineered Lubricants found Color Label Solutions, www.colorlabel.solutions and www.ghs.solutions,  and contacted us about their requirements to produce GHS labels.  At that time, Erin was “exploring the different options that are available in regards to the new labeling required by GHS.  The majority of our shipments are 55 gallon drums and 5 gallon pails.” After discussing the options, I demonstrated a potential printer, producing sample GHS labels, 4” x 6” and 8” x 11”, in color and with pictograms using one their existing products.

I produced these samples using BarTender and a simple Excel database.  You can learn more from my recent blog post:  http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2014/09/ghs-drum-label-template-database.html.

 After seeing the demonstration/labels and testing the labels, Engineered Lubricants purchased TM-C3500 and GP-C831 printers; along with 2.25” continuous labels and 8” x 11” pinfeed labels.  With the purchase, I helped Engineered Lubricants get started printing labels quickly and easily using the printers as well as BarTender. 

Almost immediately, they put the TM-C3500 in production of sample bottle labels. According to Erin, “we get samples of lubricants used in our customer’s machines as a part of our preventive maintenance service.  Although these labels are currently printed black only, we’ll add pictograms and secondary labeling in the near future.”

Engineered Lubricants started producing sample bottle labels using continuous labels, but soon had troubles with the cutter in the printer and the continuous labels.  As a part of the troubleshooting process, we contacted the Spare-in-the-Air (SITA) warranty program (http://pos.epson.com/pos/PDF/SITA_Collateral.pdf)  that Engineered Lubricants purchased along with the printers.  Epson replaced the TM-C3500 quickly.  After replacing the printer, Engineered Lubricants decided to move to die cut labels; which actually saved them money compared to the continuous.

After receiving the die cut labels, Engineered Lubricants had another question on the printing.  Erin asked, “I was printing labels from the small printer yesterday and the bottom couple of lines looked like they were not printed all the way, kind of “blurry”.  Luckily, I had recently learned how to troubleshoot this issue and responded to Erin”

“Make sure you have set the “SHUTTERS” on the inside of the front door to match your paper width; especially for the narrow labels like 2.25”.  Look at the decal on top of the TM-C3500.  You need to close the outside 3 SHUTTERS on each side of the inside of the front door.

The TM-C3500 uses a vacuum to hold the paper to the printhead.  With narrow labels especially, you need to make sure the vacuum is only on the label, and not in the open.  A friend at Epson describes it as like “spitting in the wind”.” 

By closing the shutters, Erin immediately eliminated the blurry print.

Now Erin is completing the really hard work: classifying their products, and adding the appropriate hazard and precautionary statements.  Also, they are completing their initial label designs using BarTender.  In this sample label, you can see where Erin has included spaces to add variable data such as lot number and net weight at print time:

Although more work to do, Erin has made great progress on the SDS and GHS Label project prior to the deadline.  Every company working on moving to GHS labels needs an “Erin” to insure their new SDS and GHS labels are accurate and completed prior to June 15.

If you need assistance on your GHS label project.  Contact us and we’ll help you move forward like Engineered Lubricants.

Guy Mikel

Friday, January 9, 2015

My New Printer Is

I’m excited to announce that we can start taking orders for the new TM-C7500 with shipments to start approximately February 1, 2015.  When thinking about this new color label printer, I say:


My New Printer Is Fast!

Take a look at my printing and rewinding 100, 4” x 6” labels in one minute. 

TM-C7500 Label Rolls
TM-C7500 Label Rolls

Over this short run, you’ll see the printer running at approximately 10” per second at a 1,200 x 600 dpi resolution.  That’s fast and high resolution.  During the video, you probably noticed the printer stopping for maintenance.  To keep the inkjet nozzles from drying and clogging, the C7500 has a choice of settings for print head maintenance:

With “Continuous Printing”, the printer does not stop for maintenance; but “spits” tiny droplets of ink occasionally while printing.  The droplets can be seen with a magnifying glass; but are barely noticeable otherwise.  From my past work, I know the Memjet technology has the same type of maintenance function.  With “Pause for Maintenance”, the C7500 stops periodically and checks/cleans the printhead; that’s exactly what you are seeing in the video.  With this setting, the C7500 still averages approximately 10” per second.

Although the C7500 is a fast color label printer, I don’t believe this feature is most important.  In fact, I see three other aspects of the TM-C7500 as more important.

1.      1.  My Printer is High Resolution
At 1,200 by 600 dpi, the C7500 has much higher resolution than then C3500 or the first generation C3400.  Low resolution printing, especially for “flood coated” labels is the major objection I’ve faced with these earlier printers.  This new printer will provide much higher resolution, offering better looking on-demand color labels; especially for prime labels.

2.      2. My Printer is Durable/Requires little to no Maintenance
Over the years, we’ve worked with printers that require a lot (relatively speaking) of maintenance and consumable items such as printheads, transfer belts, fusers, image drums, and other items.  In addition, we’ve elected not to sell color label printers like the Swiftcolor and don’t recommend the Kairo printer from QLS given the requirement to dismantle the printer to change one of four printheads.  In production, maintenance requirements are a hassle.  And replacing consumable parts gets expensive.

In addition, most these printers require “return to factory” for repairs; therefore requiring a manufacturing operation to purchase a “Hot Swap” printer to use in case the first printer breaks.

With the C7500, little to no maintenance is required.  For example, the printhead lasts the life of the printer.  You do need to replace the “maintenance kit”, but this change takes only a few seconds and occurs only occasionally based on how much you print. 

As for repair, Epson will have the Spare-in-the-Air warranty program which sends out an overnight a replacement in case a printer requires repair.  It’s a great deal.  In addition, I understand Epson is developing an on-site offering as well.

When placing a printer into production, you must consider service and maintenance; and the C7500 is durable and easy/inexpensive to maintain.

3.      3. My Printer has ZPL Emulation/Native BarTender Drivers
Potentially the most interesting feature of the new TM-C7500 is the ZPL emulation.  With this feature, you’ll be able to store in the printer the background image of your labels; then send only the variable data to print on each label.   Plus, you’ll be able to “colorize” ZPL to add color fonts/text; and add variable color images.  This feature means the new C7500 will be plug n play with existing Zebra applications; allowing you to replace easily your inventory preprinted labels with on-demand.

Preprinted Label Inventory
Preprinted Label Inventory
The ZPL feature along with the lowered cost ink offered by the TM-C7500 could change a large part of the label printing market; and offer you a much easier solution for printing labels with color.

If you want more information, read my earlier post on the TM-C7500:  http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2014/09/first-review-tm-c7500-at-label-expo.html

If you are interested in a high resolution, durable/low maintenance and ZPL enabled printer for your operation solution; or just interested in the price of the new C7500, contact us.  We’ll help you move to this new evolution of technology.

Guy Mikel

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Dyeing" For GHS

Pylam (http://www.pylamdyes.com/) is an industry leading supplier of dyes, pigments and colorants to the global marketplace. Their colorants are used in an extensive array of products that range from cosmetics, soaps, candles, plastics, and even industrial applications. Pylam focuses on providing the highest grade products with an unsurpassed level of support and flexibility; offering a wide range of package sizes of all colorants.  Their products include not only commodity items, but also custom-made blends designed to satisfy exacting specifications.

Like other companies in the chemical market, Pylam needed to comply with the new GHS requirements.  However, Pylam wanted to change their labeling process as well.  According to Aaron Reynolds, Vice President, “we had been using an HP Color Laser printing plain paper and covering with tape on the package.  As a part of the new GHS requirements, we decided to switch to “drum size” durable labels with adhesive to improve the look of our products being shipped.  We wanted our labels to look robust and durable” says Aaron.

GHS Label
Pylam Sample Label
During our first conversation, I learned Aaron was interested in purchasing a GP-C831 printer.  You can read about this printer in one of first posts:  http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2012/10/gp-c831.html.  In addition, Aaron wanted to know the estimated ink cost for his labels.  To give him an estimated ink cost, I asked Aaron to send me a label (he sent the label pictured above).  To produce this label on the GP-C831 using an 8” x 11” label, the estimated cost for ink was $0.022 each. 

GP-C831 Ink Cost
GP-C831 Ink Cost
 At $0.022 each, the ink cost is very low for this label; especially compared to laser or thermal transfer options.  If you want to see the cost comparisons, read my earlier post here:  http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2013/12/trust-me.html

You can purchase ink for the GP-C831 printer here: http://stores.colorlabelsolutions.com/8-5-x-11-pin-fed-poly-label/

After Pylam purchased the GP-C831 printer, I helped Aaron configure and learn how to use the printer.  We had him printing labels quickly and easily.  According to Aaron, “the labels look very appealing; and communicates positively about our products.  I believe our customers appreciate the new look of our labels.”

Printed GHS Label
Printed GHS Label on Matte Poly

Like many companies, Pylam has a lot of work to do to meet the GHS requirements.  “With thousands of products, we have only scratched the surface on completing our SDS’s and GHS labels; especially since we add new items all the time,” says Aaron.  

Continuing, Aaron says, “our customer come to us with the specific specifications and requirements.  For these requests, we create and produce products to order.  Once the product is made, we print, apply and ship on very short time-frames.  It’s important to us to meet our customers’ needs quickly, and the capabilities of the Epson label printer helps with attaining many of our goals.”

Although printing labels for a short time, Pylam is happy with their new GP-C831.  Durable, low cost and attractive labels printed exactly when needed is exactly what Pylam has achieved with this solution.  If you need to meet the GHS requirements like Pylam,  Contact us; we’ll make sure you get started printing beautiful and durable color labels as well.

Guy Mikel

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Creativity With Color Labels

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to a writer for Package Design (http://www.packagedesignmag.com/)  about the impact of print on-demand color labels on design.  If you don’t know this magazine, Package Design elevates the value of design as a strategic business competence in the brand marketing mix from concept to shelf.  This magazine helps improve business effectiveness and fosters a community for all stakeholders.

Shelby Lewis

After our and other interviews, Package Design published, “The Digital Shift”, http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/STMG/packagedesign_20141112/#/48,  about the marketing options provided by moving to digital printing; and specifically, print on-demand color labels.   Check out my comments at the end of page 42 and 43 as I see tremendous creativity benefits of printing color labels on demand.

The Digital Shift
On-Demand Provides Flexibility In Label Design

In many of my past posts, I discussed the productivity benefits of printing color labels on demand.  Some of my favorite posts on this topic include:

But the point of this article was the marketing benefits realized with the move to digital printing.  As a part of this article, the author, Tara Pettit, spoke with our customer, Shelby Lewis of Vape Dudes, http://www.vapedudes.com/.  Vape Dudes business model is to offer customers the specific option that meets their taste requirements; effectively producing customized products on-demand.  Offering hundreds or even thousands of different product combinations, Vape Dudes needed a means to produce their labels on-demand as preprinted labels do not work.  You can read about Vape Dudes here in this earlier post: http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2014/06/couldnt-be-happier.html

In addition to Vade Dudes, we have many other customers creatively using print on-demand color labels.  One of my favorite is Hummingbird Market, http://hummingbirdmarket.com/. Douglas Everett, owner of this company, has produced some of the most beautiful labels I’ve seen; on Epson’s first generation color label printer, the TM-C3400:

Also, I’ve posted ideas on how to use color on labels; or the benefits of digital printing. Check out this post on using color to improve marketing:  http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2013/09/juice-your-marketing-using-color-on.htmlOr this post on color labels in the digital marketplace: http://colorlabelsondemand.blogspot.com/2014/03/labels-in-digital-marketplace.html

And I’ve posted about companies creating interesting products:

Printing color labels on demand offers many different creative and process benefits.  I’d love to hear how color improves your marketing efforts.  Or contact us to discuss how we can help you add color to your on-demand labels.

Guy Mikel