Depending on the type of application, the bar codes can be printed off-site or in-house. Having them printed off-site is less expensive because you don't have to invest in all of the necessary equipment but you will have to know your bar code needs well in advance so you have them when needed. In-house printing allows bar codes to be done on-demand and will allow you to use some advanced bar code technology, such as EDI and JIT systems. The most common printing methods are listed below:
Dot Matrix Printers
This is the least expensive way of printing bar codes. The bar codes are printed on roll stock or fan-folded stock. A special bar code software is used to create the labels. This is a satisfactory way to print bar codes on-demand in low quantities. The quality of the labels on a dot matrix printer is not very good and is a poor choice if you have serious bar code applications.
The excellent output of the laser printer makes it a more desirable choice than the dot matrix printer even though it is more expensive. The extra cost of the printer is offset by the quality of the bar code and the ease of working with the simple software. You can create complex bar codes that will be easily read by all types of scanners. A problem that may arise is that, when printing bar code labels, most laser printers print an entire page at a time. If the application prints a number of bar codes per page, there may be some waste that occurs if all the bar code labels are not needed.
The thermal printer's quality is much better than the dot matrix printer and does not require that you print an entire sheet of labels as on the laser printer. The printer uses roll or fanfolded stock. There are two different types of thermal printing. Direct Thermal uses a heat sensitive stock. When heat is applied, an image is formed. This stock cannot be exposed to temperatures above 140° F (60° C) or prolonged ultraviolet light, such as sunlight. In Thermal Transfer printing, heat is applied to a special ribbon to transfer the image. The stock is not heat sensitive so it eliminates the exposure problem but adds the need for another consumable product, which is the special ribbon.