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Publication Date: 02/1/2008
Archive >  February 2008 Issue >  Special Feature: Components and Distribution > 

New Label Printing Technology Helps Lean Manufacturing
On-demand labels speed lean manufacturing processes.

One of the biggest challenges for small and mid-size electronics manufacturing and wire identification firms is to build the labeling process into their other lean manufacturing processes. Every product has its own specific labeling requirements and material

specifications, and each client may have specific needs as well, making it difficult to find efficiencies in the process.

Until recently, many industrial label printers involved calibrating and formatting labels. With such printers, the user must enter the size of the label, the correct burn setting for the label material, and the software being used. Then the user must run test labels to set correct font size, print mode, and label orientation. Label waste (and the increased costs resulting from it) is a result of this printer calibration process. If problems happen during this process, for example, entering the wrong label size, even more labels are wasted, increasing production time and overall costs. According to James Gross, OEM Systems Category Manager and Director of National Accounts at Brady Corporation, "Making labels is a pain point for companies, especially if they're doing low-volume, high- mix manufacturing — that means you're switching label products on a regular basis, and there's a lot of label waste."

In response to the demands of "Right Time, Right Place, Right Quantity" production, Brady Corporation has introduced the Brady IP Series Printing System, a thermal transfer printer for industrial applications. This new system uses bidirectional smart cell technology to solve the problems inherent in printer calibration, making it easier for small and mid-size electronics and panel manufacturers and wire identification companies to build the labeling process into their lean manufacturing environment.

Smart Cell Technology
The Brady IP Series Printer System is the first system of its kind that lets the printer, material, ribbon and software communicate with each other. Users can simply load the material, click the software interface, and easily print a variety of labels, tags, and sleeves. This hassle-free design enables on-demand, just-in-time printing to help electronic manufacturers streamline production and control costs.

These printers dramatically cut setup time and reduce material waste, because the printer recognizes the correct material and ribbon combination, automatically adjusts for material parameters, print speed, and heat settings. This is a huge advantage for companies with highly specialized needs, such as heat requirements or chemical resistance. These special applications require the correct ribbon and material combination to maintain the integrity of label data over periods over time. For example, a wire in an airplane cannot lose its numbering sequence over time; it has to remain readable and durable for many years.

For electronics manufacturers, the printer system can save time and money in the production process by reducing material changeouts, reducing label waste, and speeding up the entire labeling process. The new system offers considerable time savings over other printers, according to Timothy Mendez, Senior Technician, Quality Control for Panel Control Systems: "With the old machine it takes probably 10 to 15 minutes to change materials. With the new machine, it's about five minutes at the absolute most. It's pretty much load the material, close the lid, open the software and you're ready to go." By streamlining the labeling process, manufacturers like Panel Control Systems are able to make their panels and not have to wait for the signatures to arrive before they can ship. They can print the signatures themselves as they need them, label the product, and deliver that panel to their customer right away.

Less Downtime
Using either BradySoft or LabelMark software, the printer automatically adjusts material parameters, print speed, and heat settings to reduce setup time and allow users to print faster than ever before. The software also simplifies material change-outs and eases operator training. This helps companies cut down on setup time, reduce waste, and improve the integrity of their labels — all of which leads to increased productivity and a more cost- effective, lean manufacturing process.

Many people underestimate the cost of labeling problems in the production process. According to Gross, "I had a situation where a customer was having a problem making labels and they needed a fix — it was holding them up from shipping out million-dollar locomotives. With this new IP printer making it so simple for your workforce to print labels, you can get the million-dollar piece of equipment out right away. You wouldn't think a label could cause that, but it can."

With current thermal transfer printers, it can be difficult for users to know the correct combination of label, ribbon, and heat setting to get the optimum result. Through its smart cell technology, the printer recognizes the correct material and ribbon combination, visually tracks usage levels and adjusts sensor position — providing users with quick access to vital printing information. The visual indicator on the printer's LCD reveals not only the ribbon and material combination but also has a "gas gauge" to show how much of each material is left. This information lets users know if they need additional labels or ribbon for the next shift, or when they need to order more materials from their distributor. This quick visual guide makes it easy for users to avoid downtime in the labeling process. That's where bidirectional smart cell technology presents a huge advantage — the printer actually gives users the information they need to maintain the integrity of their labels and the ability to know the quantity of labels and ribbon available on the printer.

Small to mid-size manufacturers in particular operate most effectively with a cross-functional work force, and that's where the system's ease of use presents a great advantage. This printer makes it simple for companies to train their employees, maintain cost efficiencies and provide optimal print integrity for their labels. Ultimately, this translates into a more productive environment and a better quality end product.

Innovative New Design
Beyond the smart cell technology, the printer delivers a new design that makes the IP Series Printing System easier to use than any other industrial thermal transfer printing system currently available. The printer has a straight path to loading media and ribbon, eliminating the need to wind and thread material through a complicated series of mechanics. Plus, the ribbon spindle is automatically centered, helping to reduce ribbon wrinkle. The centered sensor with adjustable media grips reduces print drift and improves calibration so customers print exactly what they want the first time. In addition, automatic self-calibration reduces label and sleeve waste to help consumers cut material costs. The top- loading design and lightweight construction save work space. The Printer System is available in 300 or 600 dpi models, is easy to install, and companies can take advantage of the manufacturer's StressFREE Printer Set-Up Service to have a Brady representative walk them through the system installation by phone.

For more information, contact: Brady Corp., P.O.Box 571, Milwaukee, WI 53201-0571 800-541-1686 or 414-358-6600 fax: 800-292-2289 Web:

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