Color Label Solutions

Color Label Solutions

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Continuous Improvement With On-Demand Color Labels

If you or your customers have a room or warehouse as this picture shows:


Then you have a great opportunity for continuous improvement with on-demand color labels.

King Brothers Industries (KBI) (www.kbico.comis the preferred source for plumbing and irrigation valves and adapters for both pool contractors and homeowners worldwide.  In 1970, King Brothers Industries owner Bob King developed his first product in a tool shed in Fillmore, California. This initial product was the Flex Riser which sold over 100,000 units instantly.

I learned of KBI while attending the Hardware Tradeshow in Las Vegas in May ( Neway Packaging (  While walking the show, I met the sales manager from KBI who was kind enough to give me the name and contact information for the Operations Manager.

After the show, I had the opportunity to meet and complete a demonstration for KBI.  When we first met, Donald Kersey, Operations, said, “we have been trying to move to on-demand color labels for some time.  We just had not found a color label printer that works.”

Like other companies, KBI had always used black-only labels with barcodes and text produced on thermal transfer printers.  Then, Donald says, “Sales wanted to improve the look of our labels; to make them more modern.  At that point, we begin using preprinted labels.  With over 19,000 SKU’s including different products, sizes, and brand names, it was not long before we had a large inventory of labels given the minimum order quantities required by our printer.  With necessary changes that occur from time-to-time, we ended up discarding thousands of dollars of inventory annually”.

Donald continues, “when I got involved with KBI, I changed from maintaining preprinted inventory for each label to using formats with pictures that represented a variety of sizes.  Although this processed reduced inventory, our obsolescence and other costs were still too high.  I had to find a better process.”


At this point, KBI started looking for printers to improve their labeling process.  Donald says, “we tried the Primera LX900, but did not get the results we needed.”

After my demonstration, Donald wanted to insure he had media that worked; including giving his existing vendor the opportunity to supply the inkjet labels.  After getting samples, I worked with the KBI vendor to test labels to insure they worked well with the TM-C3400.  After some time, KBI purchased printers and media for both their operations in Valencia and Tijuana.  In Valencia, KBI is using Easy Label ( to design and print their labels.  For the operations in Tijuana, KBI designed new label formats, printing the JPEG files using Windows making the implementation very simple and easy.

Over time, KBI will reduce their label inventory, obsolesce, and administration costs significantly by using on-demand color labels.  I encourage you to look at how a continuous improvement process like the one implemented at KBI will improve your or your customer’s business.

Guy Mikel

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Label Expo #2: More The Merrier

On September 12th and 13th, I attended Label Expo Americas 2012 (   During this event, I had the opportunity to see on-demand color label printers from a few other companies:  Primera, KG Digital, Colordyne and Ownx.  I like to share with you my thoughts on what I learned and saw at this event.

But before I give my specific views, I like to make one observation for all these companies.  All of these companies showed examples of printing “Prime” labels.  If you don’t know, a prime label acts as the main identification of a product. This label is designed to attract attention; and contains information to appeal to a buyer.  Most prime labels are produced by printers or in print shops.  The labels shown by these companies were 100% covered with ink, commonly referred to as “flood coated”.

On the other hand, Epson recommends the TM-C3400 for “secondary” labels.  These labels contain supportive information.  They are usually placed on overpacks or on the sides or backs of products.  These labels contain pictures, logo’s, graphics and/or text commonly in different colors.  Secondary labels are produced typically on the shop floor.  FYI:  I discussed this topic in an earlier post on prospects for on-demand color labels in the hardware market:

In the Primera booth, I discussed the LX900 with the sales representative:  

Primera LX900 with labels
In the booth, Primera was using the LX900 to print this prime label covered with 100% ink.

Primera Produced Prime Label

With 4,800 dpi and 4 colors, this $2,995 list price printer produces prime labels for products such as wine or olive oil very well.  However, this printer runs very slow at higher resolution, comes only with a USB interface and uses die-based inks that may run or smear when wet. 

For this printer, Primera uses inkjet print heads from Lexmark.  However, Lexmark announced in August their plans to exit the inkjet business.  According to the sales representative I met in the booth, Primera has purchased a large volume of print heads to allow them to keep manufacturing this product.  In addition, the Primera representative said Lexmark will keep manufacturing the ink cartridges for some time.  However, the WSJ article above states Lexmark is winding down all inkjet activities.

In addition to Primera, I saw the SwiftColor 4” and 8” printers in the KG Digital booth.   KG digital, a division of Kanematu of Japan, has the 4” available currently and will launch the 8” version shortly as I was told.

SwiftColor 8" printer

SwiftColor 4" printer

According to the person I met in the booth, the $10,000+, 4”, 4-color printer uses die-based inks to print up to speeds of 8” per second.

SwiftColor 8" Prime Label

SwiftColor 4" Prime Label

They could not tell me when the 8” version would be available.

In the Colordyne Technologies booth (, I saw both the 1600C and the 1600S color label printers.  Colordyne uses print engines from Memjet (  

Colordyne printer

 The 1600 C is a 4-color, dye-based ink, high resolution printer that uses continuous labels and prints up to speeds of 12”/second.

Colordyne printer

The 1600 S is similar to the 1600 C, but prints only sheet-fed stock.

According to the people I spoke with in the booth, these printers cost between $10,000 and $15,000.  Here is example of the prime labels they were printing in their booth:

Colordyne Prime Label

As a part of the solution, Colordyne has a relationship with Niceware and Wasatch to deliver a label software with color management capability.   Based on my discussions, I believe this technology may best fit in print shops; and not on the plant floor operations.  Color matching is a very technical subject; and not something most non-graphic artists could do.

In addition to Colordyne, Ownx ( had their Memjet-based, Speedstar printers on display.


With a built-in computer and software, this 12” per second, 4-color, $23,500+ prime label printer produced very good labels that were shown going through a cutter after printing.

Speedstar Label (black smudges are from my scanner)
Although fast and high resolution, Memjet may have trouble printing in the real world:

Some of you may be wondering, why am I making you aware of these companies?  From my perspective, the more companies promote on-demand color labels, the more the entire market for this technology will grow.  I see this growth increasing the global automated data capture/barcode printer business significant; and a real opportunity for value added resellers in this market.  So the more companies, the merrier for you!

Guy Mikel

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Label Expo #1: Epson Family

On September 12th and 13th, I attended Label Expo Americas 2012 (  Although this show is primarily targeted at label converters and printers, Epson America used the show to demonstrate on-demand color label printing.  I like to summarize in this post what the System Devices division of Epson exhibited at this tradeshow.

As you might expect, Epson showed the TM-C3400 (in the foreground in the picture above) printing poly labels using Bartender.   In addition, Epson showed the TM-C3400 integrated with a Labelmate unwinder and rewinder ( enabling large label print jobs.

Of the converters and resellers I met during the show, most had not heard of on-demand color label printing; and the Epson TM-C3400.   These discussions confirm my perspective that most industry participants do not understand the availability of this label printing capability.  After demonstrating the printer and discussing the markets, most converters and resellers thought of customers and prospects for this relatively new technology.  I bet you can also.

In addition to the TM-C3400, Epson showed two new products; the TM-C3400 LT and GP-C831.  The TM-C3400 LT is an all-inclusive label printing terminal; all you need to do is add your application:


 On this label terminal printer, Epson loaded Nicelabel printing color tag samples.  According to Carla Macaluso, Business Development Manager for Epson, “I believe this terminal fits markets such as retail or food preparation markets.  For example, I recently visited a bakery that printed labels in several places in the plant.  I can imagine this baker using the TM-C3400 to print labels for their cakes, pies and pastries at each of these distributed locations.”

With a list price expected to be approximately $2,700, the TM-C3400 LT will be available to purchase next month. 

In addition to the TM-C3400 LT, Epson showed the GP-C831, the first pin-fed, industrial inkjet printer.  As an ideal component for printing labels to meet the new GHS set of requirements for drums and larger containers, this device can print up to 8” wide labels, perfect size for this application.  


To learn more about GHS, take a look at this earlier post:   At this station, Epson was showing with Teklynx the GP-C831 with Teklynx Central GHS application ( using BS5609 certified Kimdura media ( which enables companies to meet these new set of requirements.  According to Tiffany Scheible, Global Marketing Director for Teklynx, "the TEKLYNX CENTRAL GHS software solution is designed to help companies meet industry mandates for label security and traceability with the ability to modify labels, view reports and print on-demand from virtually anywhere in the world."  You may know of other applications that need this durable label printing capabilities.

Carla says, “The GP-C831 is the latest in a natural progression, from serial/line matrix or laser pin-fed printers, to the GP-831.  It is great for those customers looking to print color labels and move away from those legacy printers. At a max width of 8", it should be a perfect fit for those chemical companies who need to print various sizes of on-demand color labels to meet the GHS requirements.” 

You will be able to begin purchasing the GP-C831 printer beginning the end of October with a list price of approximately $1,900.

As of Label Expo, Epson has now a “family” of label printing products; take a look.

 Contact me to discuss how you or your customers can utilize these new products.

Guy Mikel

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Flipping For Productivity

Flipping Fun ( describes itself as the “ultimate party favor”.  This company produces 60 page “flip books” at parties and events providing guests with a valuable take-home memento.  

To learn more about this company and process, take a look at this video:  

Before using the Epson TM-3400, Flipping Fun created flipbooks on-site at events using a four step process - printing, cutting, collating and binding.  To print the books, the company used consumer printers and business card cutters.  After collating, they bound the books using custom covers that had been preprinted prior to the event.  Although able to produce a book, Flipping Fun decided to look for a different process for several reasons.

First, standard office/consumer printers are discontinued or fundamentally changed on a regular basis.  Therefore, finding printers that meet Flipping Fun’s requirements became problematic.  According to Meredith Barrett, owner of Flipping Fun, “No sooner would we find a printer that was light enough for transport, and substantial enough for our workload, and it would be discontinued.”

Second, business card cutters demand skill to control, making it challenging for the production assistants to perfect.  Meredith says, “cutters created the opportunity for mistakes; making unusable books inevitable. Also, having to cut twelve flipbook pages out of 8.5 x 11” cardstock produced huge amounts of paper cuttings that were both messy and wasteful.”

Third and most important, Flipping Fun decided to develop a new process to produce a flip book more efficiently.  This goal led Flipping Fun to contact me.

After some initial test prints, it was clear that moving to an on-demand label & tag printer like the TM-C3400 with the built-in cutter would improve the process to produce a flip book.  But to provide the total solution, we needed to help Flipping Fun with two key development steps; software integration and media selection.  The Epson Technical Support Engineer for the TM-C3400, Ernie Villarreal, worked with the company to make sure the software operated with the TM-C3400.

At the same time, Doug von Dollen, the Epson Media Expert, working with Aaron Heller, Account Manager for General Data ( begin providing different type of tag samples to enable the production of the 60-page, 2” x 3” books.  According to Aaron, “we provided several types of tags as well as difficult-to-peel glossy labels.  After extended testing of different media, Flipping Fun selected a photograde tag stock on a continuous roll that provided the flipping characteristics they required.”

By using the Epson TM-3400, Flipping Fun now utilizes a two-step process to manufacture flipbooks.  After a performance is captured in a seven second video, Flipping Fun’s licensed software extracts 60 frames that are sent to print.  According to Meredith, “We are now able to print and cut a flipbook simultaneously, streamlining our process, saving significant labor, while creating photo mementos for customers.” 


At their first event using the Epson TM-C3400, Flipping Fun produced mementos for the Fashion’s Night Out party for fashion icon, Diane von Furstenburg.  Here are some images and video captured from the books they created: 

After the first event using the TM-C3400, Meredith provided me a very enthusiastic testimonial.  Meredith says, “The Epson TM-C3400 is a tiny printer that packs a punch!  It has the ability to cut our photo-book frames flawlessly from tag stock that works perfectly with Epson inks.  Also, the custom-size rolls provided by General Data eliminate paper waste, important at our events. In addition, the printer requires little skill to operate and control, thus simplifying our training regimen.  Next, our clients find the glossy finish and print quality impressive; a very important part of our offering.  But most importantly, we have been able to substantially improve our production process while realizing all of these other benefits.” 

Although producing flip books is different from the manufacturing, healthcare, logistic, retail, identification or the markets you or your customers operate, the key point is the same;  Moving to on-demand labels and tags will improve many different processes.  Contact me to discuss how you and/or your customers can capture these benefits.

Guy Mikel

Saturday, September 8, 2012


Recently, I got my hands on a Primera PX450 color printer ( to complete some test prints.  I like to summarize my experience printing with this device.  Please remember; I am not a Primera expert and only wanted to learn/share my thoughts about this printer.


As a reminder, the PX450 is a 3 color, USB connected printer that produces labels, receipts, tickets and other types of output from 1” to 4.25” wide. When I first saw the machine, I was surprise the size; it has a small footprint and is light:  only 7 pounds.  One key point:  Primera describes this printer as a POS printer.  This fact was news to me.

I first downloaded the driver from the Primera website:  Also, I checked for any firmware updates; none were available.  When I first downloaded the driver, I could not find the driver on my computer; only a set of instructions popped up.  I tried to find the driver; but could not. In the instructions, I learned the driver was stored on the C drive; and stepped me through the process.  Easy.

After installing the driver, I went to the driver defaults to setup the printer:

Generally, the driver seemed very easy to understand. 

To start, I placed die-cut, 4” x 4” media obtained from Primera into the printer:


No matter what I did, I could not get the media to register correct:

primera labels

Trying to troubleshoot this issue, I learned to two key facts about this printer.  First, Primera does not recommend this printer for die-cut or any labels.

What seems strange about this restriction is that the printer driver has the settings for die-cut and blackmark.  In addition, the printer has a gap and blackmark sensor.  Finally, the instructions show how to print these label types.

Second, I learned the max OD for media in this printer is 5”.  The roll of labels I had from Primera was 5.5”.  After stripping off the extra labels, it still would not print the die-cut labels correctly.  It seemed the roll was just too heavy for the printer to pull through the printhead.

In order to test other types of media, I tested a 4” continuous gloss paper roll.  Very quickly, I got this printer to print the media.  Every time, however, the printer would not cut the media correctly.  One end would not cut:


Given the problem with the cutter, I tested a 3” matte poly label.  Immediately, I knew I had a problem as the printer would not cut the poly label material:

On the label, you can see the marks from when the printer tried to cut the poly material.

Next, I tried a 3.25” matte paper label; and printed labels at both level 4 (left) and level 2 (right) print quality.  Both prints were completed using the graphics mode.

I felt the print quality was very good, even at the lower quality using the PX450.  In fact, the lower quality produced better looking barcodes.

In the process of printing these two 3” x 3” labels, I used my iPhone to measure the time it took to print the labels.  At the level 2 quality, it took 22 seconds to print one label; from the time I hit print to the label was cut.  At the level 4 quality, it took 59 seconds to print one label.  To produce the same label using the same material, the TM-C3400 took 15 seconds (configured for low print volume which costs 3 to 4 seconds per print job).  The print quality seemed slightly better for the TM-C3400 set at the Level 3 setting than the lower level 2 setting of the PX450.

To summarize my thoughts after testing the PX450:

·         * Produces high quality images
·         * Not recommended for die-cut or blackmark labels; maybe any labels
·         * Prints slow, especially at higher resolutions
·         * Unavailable Ethernet connectivity

Based on these findings, I would not recommend the PX450 for any production process or situation.  It may work as a device to complete test prints; say for a graphic artist designing labels.

I hope you find this information of value.  In the near future, I want to test other color label printers.  If you have one, loan it to me to test.

Guy Mikel

Monday, September 3, 2012

Durability = On-Demand Color

Labeling Solutions ( a full service provider of labeling, tagging and bar coding solutions including label printers, labels, tags, ribbons, and supporting equipment such as asset and inventory management software and hardware including bar code scanners and handheld mobile computers. For thousands of customers in the US and Canada, Labeling Solutions is their one-stop source to address a variety of labeling requirements.

Located in South Portland Maine, Labeling Solutions has expertise serving customers in the seafood industry across the US.  According to Donald Tomkinson, President of Labeling Solutions, “we had an opportunity in the seafood industry with a customer who needed to classify fresh-caught inventory on a daily basis, quickly and accurately replacing tedious manual counting.  Based on these requirements, we started looking for a color printer that could produce on-demand, color-code tags with 2D barcodes and text.  Most importantly, we had to find printable, durable tags that could withstand 3 or more weeks in salt water.”

Based on this requirement, Donald contacted me to find a solution for the opportunity.  As for the ink part of the solution, I was not worried.  In the TM-C3400, Epson uses Durabrite inks; an aqueous-based pigment ink that is significantly different than inks used in most inkjet printers.  To learn more: 

The durability of these inks is one of the key enablers for Epson to obtain the BS5609 Certification with Kimdura media from Neenah Paper.  Take a look at my earlier blog post on this topic:   To receive this certification, the ink and media are required to withstand more than 3 weeks in seawater.

To get a durable tag, I contacted Stafford Press (  Since 1991, Stafford Press has been a leading supplier of "custom" labels to many AIDC resellers across the country. They take great pride in providing solutions for their dealers and product identification requirements.

According to Dave Long, President of Stafford Press, “after testing showed our existing 4 mil poly tag was not stiff enough, we developed a new 8 mil poly tag to meet the Labeling Solutions requirements.  For both the 4 mil and 8 mil poly tags, we use the same material certified in the BS 5609 test.  This tag material is not only durable, but also produces very good print quality.”

Labeling Solutions developed a comprehensive solution comprised of several “best of breed” components:
* Epson color printer
* Bar Tender label software from Seagull Scientific
* Durable color tags
* Handheld Mobile PC with Windows Mobile and 2D scanner
* Notebook PC
* Physical Inventory Counting Software

The scanning handheld mobile PC scans and stores inventory levels as well as provide output for business application to reconcile. To design the tag formats, Labeling Solutions uses BarTender software from Seagull Scientific (  According to Donald, “I quickly moved to BarTender when I came into this business 7 years ago.  With the basic label and database capabilities combined now with the extended integration capabilities of modules such as Commander, I prefer this market leading labeling software.”

With the printer, tags and application completed, Labeling Solutions completed their first deployment.  Donald says, “For the first print job, we printed 6,000 tags with 32 different classifications.  Each tag has a 2D barcode, text, and color code to make it easier for the workers to identify quickly the category of seafood.  It was a “layup” to use durable color tags as a part of this solution. ”



If you like this story, you may find my earlier post on the use of color to classify products of interest also:

Moving to on-demand color labels and tags will improve all types of work processes; including classifying, fresh-caught inventory.  Contact me to discuss how color can be added to your or your customer’s business.  

PS:  I have an update to this story.  After 7 months in salt water, Donald sent me a picture of the tags.

According to Donald, "The color coding and bar code on the tags have no apparent degradation after 7 months in salt water.  These results are a testament to the ink and tag material combination used on Epson TM-C3400 color printer."

These results really do show the durability of the ink/poly media combination.

Guy Mikel