Color Label Solutions

Color Label Solutions

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Over A WAN

This post is from our guest, Tim Semic, Support Manager of Color Label Solutions.  

Tim's work found a solution to a difficult and potentially very important problem; label printing over a WAN.  Read about Tim's work to understand the problem and find a solution.

Hello, my name is Tim Semic.  As a technical support specialist for Color Label Solutions, I help customers with printing color labels on-demand; primarily configuring printers and training users.  I would like to share with you an experience that you may find helpful if you ever wanted to install a Epson C3500 on a network.

Recently, I had two customers experience the same mysterious issue with their Epson TM-C3500 Label Printers.  Specifically, they were unable to print to their C3500 printers that were located across their WAN networks.

By using that printing problem as an example, I'll give you a birds-eye view of how support technicians like myself troubleshoot and solve a customer’s problem.

best prac·tice
Commercial or professional procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being correct or most effective.

First: Identify the problem
Troubleshooting is a process.  First, a technician needs to be able to accurately describe the problem to him or herself, so that he or she can understand exactly what is occurring.  In this case I had two printers that would not print across the network.  

While consulting with our customers, I learned that they could successfully print within in the same building as their printer.  However, they were unable to successfully print to the same printer from their remote sites.  When computers and printers are on a network at the same location, we refer to it as a LAN or Local Area Network.  I found that the common denominator at both companies was that the print failure occurred when printing to printers that were located outside of their LAN.  

Both of these companies had set up a type of network referred to as a WAN, which is an acronym for "Wide Area Network".  A WAN is a network that connects LANs at different geographical locations together.  The failure occurred when they tried to print from one to another LAN across their WAN.

Problem Identification:  The Epson TM-C3500 label printer would not print across a WAN; resulting in a non-specified error.

(Note:  If you double click your printer driver it will launch the Epson print monitor where you can monitor and control print jobs sent to the printer.)

If a company's network security was set to block certain traffic across the WAN, these settings could have led to this issue.  But they were not blocking any traffic.  To restate the problem:  They could print to printers that were on their LAN, but not across their WAN.

Second: Determine potential solutions
Once a problem has been identified, a technician will then take steps in a logical order to determine a solution.  The correct order of steps to take may not always include jumping straight ahead to what we think might be the solution to the problem.  

Implementing a fix will involve making some kind of a change to the stream of events that occur when an instruction is executed within a computer environment; such as when you click the Print button.  When a change is made, there is always some amount of risk involved.  Below are a few points that should be considered prior to making a change: 

·         Is there a potential to cause down-time for the customer?
·         What is the potential for something to go wrong?
·         Back out plan - Is there a way of undoing the planned action?
·         When would be the best time to schedule the repair?

Also to be considered: if I fix the problem, will I have a comprehensive understanding of the cause?  By not fully understand the cause, I may make things even worse things by deploying a change.  It would be like bringing your car into the shop to have a flat tire repaired, and the mechanic simply filled your tire with air without patching the leak.

We also attempt to look beyond our first planned action.  Often however, what we discover after making that first change will determine the next step we take.

Third: Take Actions
With the networking issue, I wanted to better understand the problem by using some benign testing methods that would not create any changes to the existing computer environment.  The more I could do to better understand the problem, the better!

Action 1:  I used a terminal program to send a ping to the printer.  Sending a ping is like using sonar on a submarine to see if another sub is in the area.  You can send a ping to any network device as long as you know that device's IP address.  An IP address is like a phone number, and every device on your network has it's own unique IP address, similar to every mobile phone having a unique phone number.  Sending a ping to a device's IP address allows you to see if that device can respond back to you across a network.  From that ping test I learned that the printer was able to return the ping from across the WAN.  So the ping test was successful.

The C3500 hosts a web page that can be used to change some of it’s settings.  I wanted to see if I could access the printer's web interface across their WAN, and I could.  So the problem appears to be that the printer simply cannot accept print jobs across a WAN.

Action 2: I reconfirmed that both companies were not blocking any network traffic across their WAN networks.  If their firewalls were set to block selected traffic across their WANs, the printers may not have been able to receive any print jobs.

Action 3: I decided to examine the printer driver, which enables you to send jobs to a printer.  I found the driver was an older version than what was currently available.  As I am accustomed to frequently updating the C3500 printer driver for my customers, I determined that updating the driver to the current version would be safe.  Updating the printer driver presents a low threat level.  Newer versions of software may contain bug fixes as well as new features, so I was hoping that the newer version of the Epson printer driver had a fix for the WAN issue rolled into it. 

(Showing the current version as of this writing.)

After updating the printer driver, we still couldn't print across their WAN.

It was disappointing that the driver update didn't fix the problem.  Back to the drawing board!

Action 4: I decided to reinstall the printer driver from the Epson Install Navi utility.  The Epson Install Navi utility provides a better installation platform for supporting network connected printers.  Since the issue was related to a network problem, installing the printer driver from the Epson Install Navi utility seemed a good way to proceed.

However, the Navi utility was unable to find the printer during the printer-search function.

Now hey, that's interesting!  The Navi utility could not see the printer!  So now I determined that 1. jobs sent from the printer driver do not find the printer, and 2. That the Epson Navi utility, which is designed to install printer drivers for network printing applications, will not see an Epson C3500 printer across a WAN.  This new information was a good clue, and lead me away from suspecting that there was something wrong with the printer driver.  It redirected my focus onto the software that's resident on the printer itself.  That software is referred to as firmware.

Firmware is software that is typically stored in the flash ROM memory of a device.  Devices such as scanners, set-top units, game stations, and you guessed it- printers, all generally have firmware installed on them, and firmware can be updated!  I located the firmware version that was currently installed on both printers by accessing the Epson "Printer Setting Utility".

The firmware version on their printers was not current!  I knew that a firmware update was available for the Epson C3500 and I had that installer.  However, there is a risk when updating firmware on a device.  The risk is, if something interrupts the flow of the firmware updating process, say like a power failure, or the computer you are pushing the firmware update to freezes during the process, it may ruin the device!!!  We techs say, "it will brick the device", because it turns the device from being something useful, into a big paper weight.  So a firmware update had the potential to not just fix the printer, but also to kill it.

So rather than move forward to update the firmware, I decided next to contact Epson Advance Tech support to see if they were aware of the problem and could recommend an appropriate fix.

Action 5:  I contacted Epson tech support.  Epson tech support was unaware of any WAN issues with the C3500, could not recommend a solution. 

To clarify, I'm sure that someone at Epson knew about this issue, just not the techs who were answering the phone.  So basically no help there, but still an appropriate step in the troubleshooting process.

Action 6:  I updated the printer’s firmware; to version WAD30200.  Considering the printer had issues across a WAN, I decided to deploy the firmware update from the printer side of a WAN rather than across a WAN.

The result:  The firmware update solved the routing issue. Now the printer will receive print instructions across a WAN.

The Diagnosis:  The factory installed firmware did not include the necessary support for printing over a WAN.  Essentially with the older firmware, a C3500 will be unable to route a print job across a WAN, resulting in a non-specified error.  That network software flaw in the original firmware was corrected in firmware version WAD30200.

Since I now knew both the cause and solution to this problem, I entered that information into my case log file, and now as a blog post as well.  :-)

To summarize:  Updating the printer firmware may solve the issue of an Epson TM-C3500 failing to print over a wide area network (WAN).  Hopefully you have gained some additional insight into the process of troubleshooting a computer environment that you will find to be useful.

And be sure to contact Color Label Solutions for help with your color label printing.

Tim Semic

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Graph Expo-2 New Solutions

This past week, I attended Graph Expo (  in Chicago at McCormick Place.  If you don’t know, Graph Expo is the leading trade show for the Digital, Inkjet, Offset, Flexo, Gravure and Hybrid technologies for the Commercial, Converting and Package Printing, Publishing, Mailing, Photo Imaging, Marketing and Industrial Printing industries.

As the label business accounts for only a minor portion of the printing business, I did not see a lot of exhibitors featuring print on-demand color.  However, I did see two technologies that I would like to share with each of you; and get your feedback on the potential fit in your business.

First, do you purchase printed corrugated boxes?  If so, do you purchase a large number of different types and sizes of printed boxes?  If you answer yes, we may have a great, new solution:  Print on-demand color corrugated; the Excelagraphix 4200 digital package printer.

Excelagraphix 4200

The Excelagraphix 4200 prints corrugated boxes on demand.  Although disappointed that I forgot to take a video, you might find this video of interest: 

The Excelagraphix 4200 prints folded and glued boxes up to 5/8” thick at a rate of over 400 per hour using technology from Memjet.  The printer can use boxes from 18” up to 42” wide and from 12” up to 8’ long.  In addition, you can print on both sides of the corrugated offering great promotion ideas to turn your boxes into powerful marketing tools.

More interesting to me is that the printer includes technology to process your artwork making it easy to print; and reprint boxes.  Further, the on-board computer makes it easy to monitor and maintain the health of the printer as well as provide job costing analysis.  Overall, I believe print on-demand color corrugated printing is a great solution.

One potential watchout from this technology; the price seems high at $110,000.  If you assume the printer lasts 5 years, runs 240 days/year and 8 hours/day at ½ the estimated top speed of 416/hour, the fixed cost of the printer equals $0.055/carton.  At this time, I don’t have a good idea of the ink, maintenance or operator costs to provide an overall cost estimate. However, I don’t believe the ink and maintenance costs would add a significant higher cost/box.  Bottom line; you probably can get boxes printed in color and on-demand for approximately $0.10.  But for $0.10, you can print one at a time with no minimum orders.  This tradeoff seems of great value.

In addition to the price, print durability could be a second issue.  The dye-based inks of the Memjet printer are notorious for their lack of durability.  However, most companies understand the importance of keeping corrugated dry.   If you plan to keep corrugated dry, then the Memjet ink should work in this application.

Also, the Memjet printheads have over 70,000 nozzles.  With 5 printheads per machine, the Excelagraphix 4200 has over 350,000 nozzles that could be plugged because of dust coming from the corrugated.  This dust may slow down your print speeds and increase your maintenance costs.  But I do believe Xante has found a way to minimize this potential issue.

You might find some of my other posts on other Memjet printers of interest:

Overall, I’m excited about the potential of printing corrugated boxes on demand.  If you use a large number of printed boxes in your operation, contact me to discuss how the Excelagrphix 4200 could fit your business.

In addition to the potential of print on-demand corrugated boxes, I saw the prototype of the Okidata 5 color label printer:

5 color label laser printer

This laser-based solution offers white toner, which could fit companies wanting to highlight colors by first adding white to the label; or adding increasing color “depth” or gamut by adding white toner.  I’m curious about the potential interest of adding white to basic white labels.

Also, I learned this label printer reduces the amount of label lost compared to other laser printer options.  As all laser printers use a fuser to “fuse” the toner to the media, labels must travel the length of the printer to complete the process.  This length of media becomes wasted material on the next print job.  Okidata has stated they have reduced the amount of this wasted material.

In addition, Okidata says the laser printer will have a wider range of available media; at a lower cost. Hopefully, these lower costs will more than offset the additional costs of laser toner.  Learn about the differences in laser toner cost here:

If you could use white color on your labels, please let me know.

Overall, Graph Expo was not too exciting for the label market.  But I did find these two innovations of interest.  I appreciate your feedback on how these innovations would fit your business.

Guy Mikel

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Apprehension = Good Design

Ranger Distributing LLC is a nationally recognized wholesale distributor located in Texas, proudly supplying Foodservice Equipment, Industrial & Institutional Cleaning Solutions, and Floor-Care Products & Equipment to many local, regional & national customers for the past 24 years.  They conduct business in a safe & efficient manner conducive to a clean, healthy environment--all while providing superb customer service that remains their first priority.

Original Ranger Label
According to Beau LaBeaume, owner of Ranger Distributing, “we had our labels since my father started the business in the 1970’s.  A local printer designed our labels who would print 250 to 500 on a roll for us to apply.  At the time, this label printing method worked well.  But with the GHS requirements, I needed to do something different.”

Ranger Distribution

With the GHS initiative, Ranger Distributing needed to comply like many other companies prior to June 1, 2015.  If you want to learn more about GHS, see our post covering GHS in general:   as well as BS569:  Or see any of the other 44 posts covering GHS by searching our blog.

To start the process, Beau contacted the printer, who kept all of the original art.  Beau said, “I had hoped that we could take the original content and add the pictograms required.  So I asked the printer for the original artwork.  They sold me the artwork, but it looked "copied".  What they provided was very grainy, especially the logo.  The Wrangler Kid logo has been a part of our products since my father started the business.  With the poor quality, I knew I had to take a different approach.

Ranger Distribution Logo

 To get advice how to best comply to the GHS initiative, Beau contacted VM-3 Services,, who is an independent wholesaler of commercial cleaning supplies headquartered in San Antonio, TX; and a customer of Color Label Solutions.  VM-3 is the source for discounted industrial sanitation supplies, custom blended cleaning chemicals, cleaners, sanitizers, degreasers, personal protective equipment (PPE) - gloves, respirators, aprons, janitorial products, paper/facility maintenance supplies, infection control, & personal sanitizers.

Vince and Morgan Maranto, owners of VM-3, suggested to Beau that he contact Color Label Solutions.  And Morgan suggested I contact Beau; so I did.

After our first conversation, Beau provided me with an example of their existing label and SDS.

With this information, I created an example GHS label using BarTender.  I copied and pasted the information from the SDS into an Excel file; and then connect the Excel file to the GHS label template.  Once finished, I printed samples of the draft label to send to Beau.

At this point, I need to remind the readers that I am NOT a graphic artist!  At the time, I provided Beau an estimated ink and label cost along with a quote.  Based on this information, Beau purchased a C831 printer, labels and BarTender Professional edition.

After purchasing, Beau had apprehension about designing and printing his labels.  “I am not a technological guru”, said Beau.  “But I knew this type of work had to be done.  With support from Guy and informational video’s from Seagull Scientific website, I created new labels; easily. I really liked the fact that the text boxes would adjust the fonts to fit the size.  As these labels have so much information, I needed a means to fit all of the text onto the label; or to the side panels I created.  And I believe the labels turned out nice.”

Beau continues, “Since beginning to print labels, one of our manufacturers ask about the cost of our labels.  I told him that our total cost is less than $0.16 per label.  For their own products, our OEM manufacturer still copies the label and then paints glue to the copy to adhere it to their products.  I think using the color printer and durable poly labels works much better than the system they have been using for many years.”

From Beau, I’ve learned that creating and printing on-demand color or GHS labels is not as daunting task as it may seem initially.  Plus on-demand printing gives you complete control, enabling you to make each individual label unique as well as severing you from professional printers with large minimum purchase orders. Contact us if we can support your move to printing GHS or on-demand color labels.

Guy Mikel