Barcode Label Buying Guide

August 27, 2022
barcode label guide

How to Choose the Best Barcode Labels

If shipping or selling products with barcodes on them is part of your business, you will need to be able to produce barcode labels. However, understanding what is the best barcode labels for your specific business or application is often confusing. In this post, we’ll help you learn the differences among labels and which label is the correct for your application.

What to Consider when Selecting Barcode Labels?

Some of the important criteria to consider when choosing the best labels for your printing application include size, surface the label will sit on, whether or not the label will be exposed harsh or rugged environments, and how long the lifespan of the label needs to last. You will also need to consider the type of printer you will be printing labels on.

Barcode Label Types

There are two main types of barcode labels and methods of printing. Thermal label types include direct thermal labels and thermal transfer labels. Lets understand how these two printing methods work and which application is best for each one.

Direct thermal – This method of printing labels involves a printhead and a direct thermal printer which works by heating specialized, chemically prepared label stock. The label stock darkens in some places when it is heated, which eventually produces the print. Direct thermal printing can be used to produce labels at a minimal cost and best used for more temporary labels. For labels that need to last more than six months, a thermal transfer printer is advised, while for labels that need to last less time, direct thermal labels.

One benefit of direct thermal printing is that it is a less expensive printing alternative and does not require ink or a ribbon. Direct thermal labels are better for products and packages with a shorter shelf life and that not be used in rugged environments where the label will be exposed to the elements.

Thermal Transfer

On the other hand, thermal printers use heat to adhere a thin layer of wax or resin coating to a label. Thermal transfer printing is the name of this method. Although the printhead on these printers may wear out more quickly than using a printer that is used only for direct thermal printing, these printers frequently have the ability to produce direct thermal labels.

Thermal transfer labels benefits include higher print quality and longer durability, a wide-range of label stocks, some of which are resistant to a variety of harsh conditions (heat, sunlight, water, acids), and finally, a large selection of stock ribbons and label colors.

Which Size Should be Used?

Paying attention to label sizes is another important consideration when choosing the right labels. You do not want to make the mistake of having a label that is too small or large. Typically, a barcode label that is bigger is going to be more easily scanned which may be important to your workforce or anyone that may be scanning the label even though today’s modern scanners are quite forgiving in this regard.

Barcode labels come in a variety of sizes to it is important to get the right label size for the application. For UPC labels, a very common size is 1.469 x 1.02 inches high with common smaller size coming in at 1.175 x .86 inches and larger sizes coming in at 2.938 x 2.04 inches.

A variety of other sizes are out there and the size you need may depend on the application, package size and other factors. Talk to a Barcode Giant specialist if you need help finding the right size.

Which Label Material Type Should You Use?

When evaluating which label types to use, you will definitely want to consider which material your label will need to be made of. Lets go over what materials are available and what their best application would be.

Paper Labels – paper labels, while fairly standard, can provide some great benefits. They can be an excellent and cost-effective option for labels that will be exposed to lighter environments where they are not likely to be exposed to weather elements or environments where they can be possibly worn or torn. Paper labels are found on all kinds of different products that are stored indoors.

Polypropylene – Unlike paper, polypropylene labels are a great choice for environments where paper labels may not hold up. As a synthetic material, polypropylene can stand up to increased heat, water and are less prone to tearing or ripping. Additionally, polypropylene labels have an increased life and can last up to several years depending on the environment and quality of the label. Common applications for polypropylene labels include:

  • Plant nurseries
  • Shipping yards
  • Warehouse labeling
  • Rack labeling
  • Store shelves
  • Retail labels

Polyester – Polyester-made labels also protect against certain environmental conditions such as moisture and extreme temperatures. Generally, polyester is the most rugged and best suited for the harshest environments the outdoors can offer while polypropylene is stronger than paper but maybe best suited for indoor environments. Some applications for polyester labels include:

  • Equipment labels
  • Marine/outdoor labels
  • Steel industrial applications
  • Warning/chemical labels
  • Electronic applications
  • Circuit board manufacturing labels

What Barcode Printer Should be Used?

In-addition to the label size and material type, the printer you use to print these labels is another important consideration. Some important criteria to consider would be the amount of labels you will need to print, thermal transfer or direct thermal printing, and printing location.

Amount of labels you’ll print – Whether or not you’re printing large volumes of labels is important as certain printers have higher and faster print volumes.

Thermal transfer or direct Thermal – Many printers are capable of printing both label types which is an added convenience. Make sure you get the correct printer for the label type of printing application you will require.

Printing location – If you’re only printing in a certain location such as an office or warehouse, an industrial printer is probably your best bet. However, if you will need to create prints in the field, a mobile or wristband printer that has in-the-field printing capabilities will be your best option.

Talk to a Barcode Giant printing specialist for assitance in choosing the correct printer that best suits your needs.

barcode guide

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