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  1. #1
    Senior Tech 100+ Posts Jeff M.'s Avatar
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    Super high volume label printer

    Hi all.

    I've got a customer who prints over 20,000 labels per day. Currently, they're using the Zebra ZT610s. They were using the Zebra ZT410s, but were going through printheads every few months. My current vendor said the ZT610 was a continuous duty (24/7) printer, so I sold them 3 of them. Two for use (two separate locations), and one for a backup. They printed 2.7 million inches on the main printer from 8/1/ to 9/25, then they started to get blank lines on the labels. I replaced the printhead, and two days later (45,000 labels/135,000 inches on this printhead) and THIS one started leaving blank lines. I replaced it again, and this one lasted for 1.2 million inches (about a month) and started giving trouble. I sent the printer into Zebra (via my vendor), along with the labels my customer is using (direct transfer, no ribbon) and they checked it out, ran 400 labels, and said it's fine. I'm still trying to get the first two printheads replaced under warranty (I had to purchase two of them to keep the customer going), but that's a different story.... The second printer doesn't get used as hard. It has over 1.8 million inches on it, and it still on it's original printhead.

    My vendor can't tell me what the life expectancy of a ZT610 printhead is, but if it's rated for 24/7 printing, it should be pretty high. If it's only (?) 1 - 2 million inches, my customer isn't going to be happy replacing a printhead every two months at $700 each. I know... 1 - 2 million inches is a lot, but we specifically asked for a printer that can run 24/7. I guess I should have asked what the printhead life is. The printers actually run great, just the printheads fail. I've serviced the ZT410s so they can also use these when the ZT610s fail. Just cleaning, platen rollers and printheads for these, also. Great printers, but I don't think these are the right printers for this application.

    Is there a printer that's designed for this super high volume? Anyone else have this problem?

    Jeff M.

  2. #2
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    Re: Super high volume label printer

    The ZT610 is Zebras top tier industrial printer. It is rated for high volume scenarios, that being said the average print head life expectancy is about 2 mill inches via thermal transfer, and 1 mill in direct thermal. I've supported thermal printers for over 10 years and the life expectancy above is pretty spot on. We have had a few go past life expectancy, but this requires much cleaning on the operators end. There have been a few scenarios were the printheads were being damaged by external issues (diamond ring scratching during print head cleaning, small debris on label face scratching elements during print, power spikes). The biggest factor in printhead life is the print intensity/print darkness value. Zebras run between 0-30. If your level is close to the 30's, you cant expect it to last for the expected life. Heat dissipation is the primary reason for printhead elements burning out.

    As for other printers on the market, I would first find out what speed, and darkness levels they are running the Zebra at. As mentioned before the ZT610 is zebra top tier printer, there are a few other manufacturers that offer some pluses with a few fallbacks.

    Is one of your customers main concerns compliance chargebacks?

    Look forward to helping you out!

    JC

  3. #3
    Senior Tech 100+ Posts Jeff M.'s Avatar
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    Re: Super high volume label printer

    Hi JC. I appreciate your reply. We have been supporting the Zebra printers for about 5 or 6 years, but only occasionally, so it's not a large part of our business, although I would like to do more.

    The darkness is 14.5, the speed is 5.0 IPS. After discussing this with our Zebra vendor (we purchased these from another dealer, as we are not authorized), they recommended a daily cleaning, so we have the customer cleaning the printheads with an alcohol pad between every shift. The shift supervisor is doing it herself, and she is very good about it, wanting to have as few problems as possible and is willing to do what she can to help. We did have a couple of damaged printheads that were their fault (scratches and nicks) but they are also keeping a close eye on that now since I pointed it out to them. So far so good.

    In your experience, do you have any placements that are doing this kind of volume? If so, are you replacing printheads every few months and the customer is OK with it? I've asked my vendor this question directly numerous times, but they will not give me an answer. Looking at it from the customer's viewpoint, it just seems excessive.

    I don't know what "compliance chargebacks" are. They print barcoded labels, mostly 2" X 4" and 4" X 4". If the pixels burn out and leave a blank line, it screws up the bar code and it's useless. That's their main concern.... when this happens it's a waste of time and labels.

    I received the printer back from Zebra on 12/13/18, but as of now I still don't know what they found or what they did, and I still don't have any replacement printheads under warranty. I inquire, and they say "we're waiting on Zebra". My vendor recently underwent a takeover by a larger organization, and I just get excuse after excuse. They used to be very helpful (and some people seem like they are trying) and I hope they will be again after the dust settles, but for now let's just say it's less than satisfactory.

    Thanks again for your reply.
    Jeff M.

  4. #4
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    Re: Super high volume label printer

    Jeff,

    Good evening, I hope all is well. Sorry for the latent response its been a busy past few days. The heat and speed settings are good, I always say 15 darkness, and 6ips are where you want to be at. As for the level of cleaning, we always recommended to clean the printheads after every ribbon change (thermal transfer) or about every 2000-3000 lbls (direct thermal). If the printheads are reaching about 1mill inches on direct thermal, I would call it about adequate life. There are a few other printers that offer better warranties, Citizen barcode systems has been one of my go-to's. Well priced systems, with printheads that run around $200-$300. Exceptional build quality, and great ease of use. If I am not mistaken they warrant their equipment for 2 years from date of purchase, and warrant printheads for 1 year. They have a good printhead warning feature that prompts the operator of a burned out element, and requires the operator to manually press "OK" on the interface to continue printing (great feature!).

    You mentioned that your customer prints 2 x 4's and 4 x 4's. Are the 2 x 4's 1 or 2 accross? If they are 1 across do you normally see your printheads buring out in the middle of the printhead? If so this would be caused by the surrounding liner space/gap. This is normally a silicone compound (so that the labels peel easily). Silicone, also is considered a very abrasive, so running a few thousand of these labels (2"x 4") and than switching over to the wider label (4" x 4") would cause a line in the middle of the 4" x 4" label over time.

    On a different note, Zebra provides free printheads to customers that use their consumables (labels and ribbons). Their consumables are priced higher, but your customer would have peace of mind on the printhead front (I've attached the Zebra flyer)

    If purchasing labels from Zebra is out of the scope, you can always purchase 3rd party printheads. If interested shoot me a message, as I have a source that OEM's for Zebra, Datamax, Intermec, etc. at a fraction of the cost.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!

    JC

  5. #5
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    Re: Super high volume label printer

    My apologies, I forgot to attach the flyer!

    JCprinthead-protection-fact-sheet-a4-en-us.pdf

  6. #6
    Service Manager 1,000+ Posts
    Super high volume label printer

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    Re: Super high volume label printer

    I am in the industrial label printer industry for 10 years.

    That 20k labels per day is on three printers? To me, this is a fantastic sales opportunity plus a big recurring revenue money maker! Maybe more revenue than copiers, so pay attention to to this account. Tell your boss, I need more money to take care of this account because it is SUPER important to PROFIT!

    This account is 100% in the logistics industry and they do not want any excuses that impair productivity.! This account if properly executed will lead to other major label printer accounts in your area.

    I am currently involved in the lobster export market to China and the crazy high volumes can be comparable.

    At 20k labels per day, the price of the hardware does not really does not matter. The industrial reliability (with redundancy) of label printing productivity cannot be comprised.

    One Boeing 747 shipped to China full of lobsters is an enormous amount of money. The liability of being denied access to the Port of Entry because of bad labels is unacceptable.

    If so, Toshiba (#2 globally, after Zebra) has a great printer for that volume. I would recommend minimum 3x Toshiba BEX4T2.

    You 100% got to have redundancy! The Toshiba is way less money for a superior product compared to the Zebra. The BEX4T1 has an awesome ribbon saver feature that could save big $$$ at this volume.

    Zebra label printer prices are increasing 10% in Jan 2019. Zebra label printers are 100% manufactured in China and pre-tariff inventory shipped in summer 2018 is mostly depleted.

    Toshiba label printers are made in Malaysia. 100% tariff free!. Toshiba label printers are 100% Zebra ZPL compatible.

    Toshiba print heads cost way less than Zeba and come with a 1 million inch or one year print head warranty. It totally blows away Zebra.

    Become a Toshiba dealer today and stop dealing with middlemen plus get way better technical support!
    Last edited by SalesServiceGuy; 5 Days Ago at 06:43 AM.

  7. #7
    Service Manager 1,000+ Posts
    Super high volume label printer

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    Re: Super high volume label printer

    So dude, you said your customer is printing via Direct Thermal. No ribbons!

    The global market pricing for direct thermal labels is crashing upwards every day due to a global shortage and environmental fines imposed on the harsh chemical used (almost 100% made in China) to create thermal transfer labels.

    You or your customer can probably not get firm prices for more than 30 days. Have you already experienced increasing prices? I have. It is not going to get better.

    Time to think about thermal transfer. Toshiba has the longest ribbons on the market at 600' for less end user intervention which saves time and money.
    Last edited by SalesServiceGuy; 5 Days Ago at 06:45 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Tech 100+ Posts Jeff M.'s Avatar
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    Re: Super high volume label printer

    Thanks, JC. The 2X4's are 1 across: 4" across, 2" down. The printhead failures can be anywhere on the printhead, not just the middle. Actually, they have yet to fail in the center... mostly to the sides or 1/4 in from either end. Thanks for the info on the Zebra agreement. Is this agreement for the end user or for the dealer? It looks like the customer deals directly with Zebra.

    If you can send me some information on your source for OEM printheads, I would appreciate it. You can email me at jeff@nbomachine.com. Thanks!

    SalesServiceGuy: The 20K per day is on one printer, the second printer (in another location) does a bit less (maybe 5K per day) and the third is for backup. They just purchased these Zebras last July, so I know they will not purchase any more just yet. The cost of the printer really didn't matter to them at that time, but the cost of operating them does. Yes, these are necessary to their business, but they are very mindful of what it costs to keep them going. That being said, the Toshiba does look like a more durable printer.... IF the printhead lasts for around 3 million inches like it says. Zebra is saying 1 million for theirs, so 3 million would be much more palatable to the customer and may have been a better alternative, had I known about it. I had only dealt with Zebra machines in the past, and another make was never suggested to me from my current vendor. Is the 3 million for thermal transfer only, or direct thermal also?

    As for becoming a Toshiba dealer, that's probably not going to happen as we're only a small 3 man operation, and label printers are a small part of our business. We would need a reliable source for hardware, service manuals and information, technical support for questions we may have with servicing them, and parts availability. It all sounds great, but in reality, is this available to someone like me? Any information I can get is greatly appreciate. Thanks!

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