Barcode Printers come in various types, including general-purpose laser and inkjet printers. Then there are printers that support multiple symbologies. They are called Thermal bar code label printers. General-purpose laser and inkjet printers cannot directly print barcodes. That is because these basic printers do not support bar code symbologies and are therefore upgraded to do so. They need to be programmed to support bar coding, which may entail addition of more features and fonts.
Barcode printers employ two major printing methods, namely Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer. Both methods basically involve the same technique to print bar codes with difference in the use of ribbon. They make use of a print-head that applies heat to a surface that is pre-marked. Heated ribbon is used to produce long-lasting images in Thermal Transfer printing, while Direct Thermal does not use ribbon and instead prints the image directly on the label. In Thermal Transfer printing, a large number of materials may be used. This generally helps in creating durable images over a long period of time. Direct Thermal, on the other hand, helps in making put-away labels, receipts and other such small variety.
Ideally, barcode printers can print on labels that are specifically designed for the purpose. However, the printers are also capable of printing on fabrics like polyester. We have printers etching away prints on headbands and even synthetic materials. Quite contrary to popular perception, barcodes are not only black. Barcode printers can print in various colors, but black is generally preferred because a light color may end up with insufficient contrast between the bars resulting in unreadable barcodes.
Nowadays, several security features are available to ensure that there is no counterfeit coding by the printers. The latest thermal printers are capable of printing smart labels that contain radio frequency identification chips within the label media. These smart features go a long way in plugging any loopholes in barcode printing and provide a guarantee of authentication.