SATO’s recent slew of marketing emails has piqued my curiosity. The company looks all set to announce its new industrial printer model during MODEX 2014. This is pure speculation, but to me, it looks like they are launching a thermal color label printer. That would certainly be a most interesting addition to their existing line of barcode label printer offerings. While interest is building in color thermal printing technology, vendors have largely refrained from dedicating R&D dollars to it because of associated challenges and costs involved – both from their own perspective as well as that of their customers’. Engineering complexities typically make such projects cost prohibitive. Users looking to incorporate color into their traditional label designs, either due to industry compliance regulations or for aesthetic appeal, have the following investment options:
- Two-color thermal printers from the companies mentioned above
- Two-color label stock from consumables vendors
- Traditional on-demand color inkjet label printers
In the past 18-24 months, GHS (Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals) labeling compliance regulations have opened up the use of color label printers in chemical manufacturing environments. My conversations with leading vendors in the thermal barcode printing market indicate that this is certainly an opportunity worth pursuing, especially for those that already have color printers as part of their portfolios. Vendors such as cab Produkttechnik and Carl Valentin GmbH, both based out of Germany, are among the only ones that can boast of dedicated thermal, two-color label printers as part of their existing product lines. However, their use is restricted to fairly niche applications today where they also face stiff competition from the more established (and cost-effective?) inkjet alternatives. Will SATO’s potential entry into this space be a game changer? Stay tuned for updates.