Bar Code Printer Review - Zebra ZT-230

Zebra ZT-230 Bar code printerBar code label printers are the workhorses of many industry verticals ranging from retail to healthcare. Anywhere there are bar codes, shipping labels, shelf and rack labels, you'll find a printer spitting out labels by the bunches.

That's why we wanted to take a look at one of these printers, and thanks to Zebra, The BarCode News was able to see the ZT-230 bar code printer up close.

According to Marty Johnson, Product Marketing Manager for Zebra, desktop label printers like these capture a sizeable piece of the market in North America, estimated at $200 million annually.

New line of industrial bar code printers

Released earlier this year, Zebra's new ZT200 series of industrial bar code printers offers ruggedness and reliability in a very compact package.

Designed as a replacement for printers like the S4M and Zebra Stripe, the ZT-220 and ZT-230 remain at the same price point as their predecessors, while offering upgraded features and a smaller footprint.

Johnson added that these printers are designed to produce thousands of labels a day, with a middle of the road type duty cycle.

Redesigning a bar code printer

Before beginning the design process, Zebra studied the market for these desktop printers, talking with current customers to find out how the bar code printers could better serve the market niche.

Two important factors led many wish lists.

First, customers mentioned the physical size of the printers. With space at a premium in verticals like healthcare, users wanted a bar code printer that would easily fit on a desk or table.

And with high numbers of transient workers in today's economy - including contract and temporary employees - many users asked for simplified printer controls, cutting down on training time for new users.

Zebra responded with the smallest bar code printer in its class in the market today, slicing a quarter of the volume of the previous generation printer, the S4M. And they removed the LCD interface on the lower end model, streamlining operations for users.

Bar code printer specs

Geared toward higher volume users, the ZT-230 desktop model has a rugged metal case, and features an LCD display and a full-function keypad.

Zebra ZT-220 bar code printerThe other printer in the line, the ZT-220, offers the same level of robustness as the 230, but with a smaller footprint, a reduced duty cycle, and an impact-resistant plastic case.

Designed to print thousands of labels each day, these bar code printers are used in industrial manufacturing applications, warehouse shipping and receiving, retail, healthcare and many others.

Both bar code label printers feature 300 dpi print resolution (serving you well for all but the smallest bar codes) and can handle labels up to 4.7 inches wide (104mm). The ZT-230 takes a 450M ribbon while the ZT-220 needs a 300M.

Both the ZT-230 and ZT-220 can handle all common linear and 2D bar codes, offering high quality printing capability. And Zebra offers a Fonts and Graphics downloader software which allows you to add logos and other graphics to bar code labels.

Getting started with the ZT-230 bar code printer

When you unpack the ZT-230, you can't help but be impressed by how compact the printer is. And because of the bifold loading door, you won't need a lot of headroom around the printer to load labels and change the ribbon.

One issue that always comes up with a new printer is that of making sure the label software knows where to start printing the label. That's why Zebra has taken the extra step of ensuring the new line of bar code printers maintains the same first dot location and the same sensor design as the S4M and Stripe printers.

Because a label format is centered on the label based on the "first dot location," when the ZT-230 replaces an older printer, there's no need to change any of the settings in the bar code label software.

And since the sensors detect elements on the label, making sure each advances properly and positions the next label in the right place, label media used with the previous generation printer  won't require adjustment.

One last thing. The height the labels exit the printer is also the same as for the previous generation S4M. That means your existing printer enclosures will take the ZT200 models without missing a beat.

All in all, the ZT-230 is a solid addition to the compact, desktop bar code printer market.

(Images courtesy of Zebra.)

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