There are such a wide variety of labels out there that it makes one wonder if a format ever goes discontinued. Lets take a look at the formats that have been in the market to get a base understanding of how many there are.
In the beginning there were pin feed labels used by most businesses as computer labels for address labels. Companies would have a pin feed printer with the green lined computer paper feed into the printer for printing reports and running end of day sales. These printers allow a quick and easy change out to load and align label stock and the alignment was guaranteed by the pin track on the edge of the liner. This pin track lines up with the tractor feed that contains a sprocket, which grabs the perforated holes at both sides of the form and pulls it through uniformly.
Other names for these printers are the dot matrix printer or the impact printer used in data processing for years. These printers have a print head that runs back and forth on the page striking an ink-soaked cloth ribbon against the paper or label, much like a typewriter. The difference between a typewriter and this printer is that the letters are drawn out of a dot matrix, allowing for a varied font and arbitrary graphics to be produced. Because the printing involves mechanical pressure, these printers can create carbon copies and carbonless copies.
Along came laser printers and ink jet printers. This technology changed the format to a sheeted format for laser labels and ink jet labels on legal size paper or standard 8.5 x 11 inch sheets. The sheets either had the matrix removed or still on the sheet providing a consistent thickness for clean feeds.
Thermal Transfer and Direct Thermal Printers
Thermal transfer and direct thermal printers then came on the scene and provided a few new formats. The first is the label on a roll with a 3 inch core and an 8 inch outer diameter. The next is a smaller roll with a 1 inch core and 4-5 inch outer diameter. The last is a fan folded thermal transfer or direct thermal label allowing the labels to be feed in from the back of the printer in stacks, much like the pin feed labels are feed.
Now in the world of labels, this covers a great majority of the formats, but there are still many more. When you look at the Dymo labelers and other hand held and mobile units, the formats can really get specialized.
Since there is such an installed base of pin feed printers in the market place, the pin feed labels have been evolving to meet many new needs. For example, there is the basic label that is printed on a white smudge proof facestock and has permanent adhesive. Another type is the pin feed label that creates 2 images, one on the facestock and the other on the liner so that once the label is removed, a record of what was printed remains on the liner.
Another type is a dual image piggyback label. This pin feed label has 2 labels stacked on top of each other and when you print on the top label, the image also prints on the second label. This will allow a user to take one label and mark the product and use the other label to mark the sales sheet keeping a clean record of inventory.
A third is a basic piggyback label that has 2 labels on top of each other but the image only prints on the top label leaving the bottom label blank. Many users will use this to mark product in a way that the marking can be removed leaving only a blank label upon sale.
Continuing with the other pin feed types we must include a white pin feed removable adhesive, a fluorescent pin feed permanent adhesive, transparent polyester permanent adhesive, card stock, and paper wafer tab seals.
So, the bottom line is do people sill use pin feed labels? The answer is a big yes! Why is that? Well, dot matrix printers offer the lowest cost variable data printing method around. Ink ribbons cost much less than laser toner, ink jet cartridges, or even thermal wax ribbons. Many businesses have data systems that have been running for many years.
Some businesses have upgraded their printers to high-speed continuous laser printers for quicker runs and higher quality. The standard permanent EDP (electronic data processing) pin feed labels feature laser compatible acrylic adhesives and a label face sheet suited to anchor laser toner. Matching these to the EDP format is very easy to make the migration, but the cost is still more for the toners, making a cost trade-off with the speed of printing.