Intelligent Label Printing
Friday, August 04, 2017
by Al Nichols
Dealing with the development organizations of various printer manufacturers is rarely the highlight of my day. It’s probably just as nerve-racking for them as it is for me, though, since it means one of our mutual customers has reported a very difficult problem. More often than not, some critical document won’t print correctly or a particular hardware “feature” of the vendor’s device is not working well with their LRS software.
However, I had a pleasant surprise a couple of months ago when SATO Group (SATO), a leading global provider of Auto-ID solutions, contacted us and asked us to test their latest printer application for VPSX Bi-Directional PJL support. To date, label printers have been fairly basic devices. In my opinion, the manufacturers seem to concentrate more on “ruggedness” than on providing the advanced functionality that an output management system (like VPSX) is built to deliver. A classic example of this is Bi-Directional PJL support, which allows devices to restart printing on the exact next page in case of a device failure and which correctly monitors and displays the status of the printer during printing.
This functionality gap has now been closed by SATO’s unique AEP (Application Enabled Printing) technology. Their new app is easily installed directly onto the printer via USB or internal network transfer and takes care of all PJL-based communication using the LRS solution. This app does not interfere with any other printer functions, so the printer can be reliably used within the customer’s existing environment. Updates and additions can also be incorporated into the app and then rolled out from a central environment control center. This makes the print function flexible and responsive to evolving customer requirements.
Labels are really a very good example of business-critical output. Missing and/or duplicate labels can wreak havoc on business processes. In logistics and clinical settings, label printing needs to work as perfectly as possible to ensure that expensive and time-consuming errors do not occur. SATO’s new app, which fully supports our Bi-Directional PJL features, is a great step forward for assured printing on dedicated label printers, eliminating at least some of the issues leading to duplicate or missing labels.
SATO’s programmer did an impressive job in a very short time to develop this functional capability. (Magnus, if you are reading this, thanks for the very elegant implementation.) They implemented this as an application that can be loaded onto any of the SATO CLNX line of printers using the existing firmware. It has been tested on firmware release 1.9.0-r9, but should work on 1.8.4-r1 as well.
It is worth noting that SATO supports a ZPL interpreter in addition to their own SATO Barcode Program Language (SBPL) format, and that the PJL feedback works well with RFID label support. As a result, if an RFID write fails, appropriate action can be taken in the output management system.
I look forward to the rollout of this new app, knowing that both of our firms have made a great contribution to a very critical printing area.