How to set-up your badge printer for live full color badge printing

Recently I wrote my first post in English about the international growth of the ExpoBadge products. To be honest I was surprised by the enormous amount of positive responds. So, on request of many, I have started on my second post in English. And, for how did not read my first post, or the ones how don’t remember a little quote of my first post to start with:

Event ExpoBadge“I’m dyslectic and Dutch is my first language, the article could have some typing errors. So, for this I apologize in advance, but please remember, it is the message that counts, not the way it’s written.”

In this post I will try to explain the basics concerning how to set-up the Epson ColorWorks TM-C3500 inkjet label printer as a Badge printer to use it with the ExpoBadge products. We will start with a little background regarding the printer we will use as a full-color badge printer.

The Epson TM-C3500 printer

As stated above the Epson TM-C3500 inkjet label printer, from the Epson ColorWorks range, is in origin a label printer. The most currently used thermal badge printers are also in origin a label printer. So far the similarities and from here on we will only talk about badge printers.

The biggest difference between the them a thermal and an inkjet badge printer is, maybe a bit obvious, the fact that an inkjet printer, such as the Epson TM-C3500, can print full-color where a thermal badge printer can only print black (or any other single color when using a colored thermal transfer ribbon). This also makes controlling the print-out a little different. A thermal print can for instance be controlled with ZPL. But we will get to creating a print out later on.

Full-color badge printers

As in all markets, the Epson TM-C3500 as it’s counterparts. In the market of inkjet label printers, or in this case badge printers, there are a lot of brands but those can be brought back to only 3 print technologies. The inkjet print technologies in the market are the following:

1.                 MemJet (used in brands such as Trojan, VIP-color, I Cube and Afinia)

2.                 CANON Bubble jet (used in brands such as Kiaro! And SwiftColor)

3.                 Epson Micro piëzo technology (not shared with other brands)

I won’t bother you with all technical differences. The main differences in usage when comparing the Epson with all other brands, and which are important for the choice of the Epson TM-C3500 as a badge printer are to keep it short:

1.      Lower costs per print-out based on ink consumption in combination with costs per ml.

2.      Life time printhead, no need to change the printhead

3.      Pigment based inks for water proof printouts

4.      Extremely fast drying of inks to avoid ink on fingers

This combined with a very good pricing of the printer and the relative low weight and size makes the Epson TM-C3500 in our opinion the best inkjet label printer to become a full color badge printer. Click on the upper picture to find some research comparing the print technologies based on costs per print.

Installing the TM-C3500 badge printer

Epson has done a very good job by making the installing of the drivers easy as can be. Just run the “Install navi” to make a complete installation of the printer and needed utilities. Please avoid installing only the driver since this will complicate some settings. And, maybe obvious but still important, use the most recent “install navi” or just send me a mail so I can send you the correct files. This installation is for both USB as Ethernet use, just like all steps here will be the same. When using the printer in a network with ethernet please make sure you assign a static IP to the printer.

PrinterSetting

When you have completed the installation the Epson TM-C3500 the printer is not completely ready to start printing. Since we handle this as a badge printer, using the rear feed instead of an internal roll, we have to change some settings of the printer. If installed correctly you should be able to find “PrinterSetting” with an icon that looks like the Epson TM-C3500.

In this program you can, after selecting the printer, change all kind of settings in the printer. We take these steps one by one and will only address the most important steps, more advance settings can be made in which case I will be willing be assist you personally, if needed don’t hesitate to contact me.

First step will be telling the printer what kind of media you will “feed” him. For this navigate to “General ==> Media settings”. For the ExpoBadge you should change the Media source to “Fanfold paper” and media detection settings should be on “Die-cut label (Gap)”. After changing these settings press the button “Apply settings”. A window will pop-up and after the settings are complete you will be asked to place the “feeding guide” in to place (you’ll find this underneath the rear feed cover), after placing the feeding guide you should turn off the printer and turn it back on to finalize these settings. Depending on the type of ExpoBadge that is going to be printed you should also open or close some vacuum holes inside the front cover, guide line of how many should be opened or closed can be found on top of the printer. After following these steps you can feed the ExpoBadge badges in to the rear feed of the full color badge printer.

More advanced settings like printhead alignment, disabling off buttons on the printer, notifications, etcetera can be made. If any assistance is needed, please contact me.

Media settings

Now you have completed the printer settings the printer is waiting for it’s first print job. When sending a print job to a badge printer you’ll also need to send the paper size along. This paper size can be created in the media settings (can be found in the driver and in the printer properties).

With these settings you can set the correct paper size, in case of the butterfly badges you should set the size of the complete printable area from gap to gap. You also can give the paper size a name (you should do that!) and select the print out quality (Q2 for high quality but slow print out, Speed for fast print out but lower quality or Q1 for the best of both worlds.

For the ExpoBadge products there is an easy import file available which quickly imports the ExpoBadge sizes in all 3 settings.

Printing software

In very short, you have more or less, a basic Windows printer which prints-out all kind of files like PDF, AI, PNG and many more. Select the correct file and set the correct paper size for the output and your printing. But for a badge printer there are many variables which make up the design of the badge and printout. Here comes the biggest challenge.

Where the common thermal badge printer often is controlled by ZPL code, only telling where to print what and thereby placing print dots without color control, the full-color badge printer will need a complete other way of controlling. ZPL simply doesn’t support color.

There are many ways to create a good out put to the printer, some base their application on Nicelabel software, also created for labels in origin. Nicelabel allows you to take complete control and build very easy a complete application including a custom interface and can work with many kinds of input to come with the correct output. Nicelabel offer a 30-days free trail of there software so it’s easy to check if this is the correct solution, and from telling we even understood that 60-days trails are sometimes possible on request.

Custom build software is the most common solution. This can either work with a so called “Hot folder” where the created badges is automatically saved by the badge software. The hot folder software then sees the new file, sends it in the correct way to the printer and deletes the file or places it in an “Handled folder”. Also, custom software is being build which has the driver included. If needed an SDK (software development kit) from Epson is available for the ColorWorks printers.

Questions or remarks?

You should now be able to setup your full color badge printer. Many customers will be asking for full-color live printing of badges for optimal personalization, I would say, don’t wait until you are losing customer by lacking the possibility but win customers with full color live event badge printing.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and did not find writing errors that irritated too much. Many other, more advance, options and settings can be made to create the perfect output. Please feel free to contact me for any questions or support to make the best output possible.

Smart2B is an GOLD-partner of Epson ColorWorks and not an Event organization or software company. Smart2B concentrates on selling Epson ColorWorks inkjet label printers and needed print media.

Ivar van der Molen

Smart2B B.V. – ivar@smart2B.nl – +31 318 590 212 – The Netherlands

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