All posts by Miles

This Week (in the Exciting World of Label Compliance) – BPA-Free Thermal Labels-!!??

Are You Ready to be BPA Free?

Compliance is a part of doing business and I thought I’d take the chance to update you on BPA free labels.   BPA will be banned in the EU next year and this is a chance for you to be a step ahead of your competitors with your BPA compliance.

What is BPA?

BPA (Bisphenol-A) is a chemical used in plastics and is also used in some thermal label materials.

BPA Free Thermal Labels
Thermal Labels like this contain BPA

Thermal labels, if you remember, are the kind that don’t need an ink ribbon to print.  They are usually used in short life labels like free food or courier labels.  If you’re not sure what yours are – hit the Web Chat button in the bottom right of the screen or Phone us on 01359 271 111

BPA is thought to be involved in a long list of health conditions from cancer, brain problems, heart conditions – in fact it could be blamed for pretty much every ailment that affects us.  Whilst there’s little actual medical evidence to prove beyond doubt, it has been decided by regulators around the world that the world is probably a better place without BPA.  So, on 2nd January 2020, BPA will be banned in Europe.

Is BPA in all thermal labels?

No. It only appears in some economy grades of thermal labels.  There are too many label brands to list here – but if you contact us, we would be happy to confirm if you are compliant or not.

What do I need to know about BPA Free Thermal Labels?

Many of our suppliers are working hard to remove BPA from their thermal labels and be BPA free before the UK deadline.

Certainly most of our direct thermal labels will be BPA free in the next few months, if not, there will be BPA Free thermal labels alternatives we can help you with.

After January 1st, 2020 it will be illegal for us to supply Thermal Labels containing BPA.

Where can I find information about the changes?

Contact us here at Expert Labels Ltd – on the chat button on the right of the screen, by phone on 01359 271 111 or email at and we’ll be happy to help.

Useful Links

Take a look at the UK Food Safety Agency’s page on BPA in plastics.  Click here.

Updated 13 Jun 2019.

Choosing the Right Label Printer-!!??

There are hundreds of different thermal label printers available from dozens of different manufacturers.  The aim of this article is to help you decide which thermal label printer suits you the best.

If you want to talk this through with one of the team, click the Chat button at the bottom of the screen, call us on 01359 271 111 or visit the contact us page.

Alternatively, follow our Printer Chooser – a simple questionnaire that will guide you through deciding what printer you need.  Click here.

We’ll cover:

  • Printer size – mobile, desktop or industrial
  • Print width and label size
  • Durability
  • Connectivity
  • Performance
  • Label Life – direct thermal or thermal transfer
  • RFID
  • How it will be put to use.

Printer Size – Mobile, Desktop or Industrial

Mobile Printer

Typical portable label printer
Typical portable label printer

Deciding if you need a portable label printer is pretty obvious. I guess you know that early on in your buying journey – just in case you don’t – portable printers are generally small enough to be carried over the shoulder or clipped to a belt.  They are perfect for shelf edge labelling or printing sample labels in the field – where you want to print and stick labels when you’re standing next to where the labels are used.

Generally portable printers are no good for long life labels or labels subject to high temperatures – as portable printers are mostly direct thermal printers.

Desktop Printer

ZD620 Desktop printer
Typical Desktop printer

If you’re limited in space then a desktop printer will be your preferred choice.   Less durable (because they’re made of plastic) and need refilling with labels and thermal ribbons more often than a larger industrial printer, they cost less and are perhaps a little easier to use.

Industrial Barcode Printer

Zebra ZT410 Industrial Printer
Industrial Printer

Industrial printer – generally metal cased, fast and can keep printing for longer without needing to change ribbons or labels.  They’re more expensive and take up more space.  They’re durable and will keep printing 24 hours a day 365 days a year.

Print Width and Label Size

Once you’ve decided on the size of printer you need, the next consideration is the width.

Most printers will print labels 100mm wide.  If you need (wider or narrower) then you have two options.

1 Inch wide label printer ZD420
6 inch wide ZT420 thermal label printer
6 inch wide ZT420

Buy a wide printer (like this 6 inch wide printer) or turn your labels around so you print narrow edge first (if the narrow edge is no wider than 100mm).

Wider printers cost more.  The printheads cost more when they are replaced.


Are you using your printer in a clean laboratory and only printing 100 labels a day – compared with a dusty factory where the printer is printing 10,000 labels a day 365 days a year?

If you have a clean environment with low print volumes – a desktop printer is our recommendation.

Where the number of labels printed is high then an industrial printer is a must.

In the middle ground there are plastic cased, industrial size printers that can print reliably for years.

There is a lot of grey area here – so best to contact us for our opinion.


Connection Options on a label printer

In other words – how is your printer receiving its printing orders?

Options include:

  • USB (the usual)
  • RS232 – Serial (usually found when printers need to connect to older systems or other electronics such as scales)
  • Ethernet
  • Bluetooth
  • Wifi
  • Memory cards
  • NFC (Near Field Communication)
  • Parallel
  • Applicator Interface or Applicator Port

Pretty much all printers come with a USB connection.

After that, different printers have differing options.  Some come with Ethernet as standard.  Others have bluetooth built in as standard.

If it’s using an out of the ordinary connection, such as Parallel (this used to be the standard printer interface back in the 1990s) or Applicator Interface (a way of connecting to computers or industrial electronics such as label applicators or PLCs to your printer) – your choice of hardware may be limited.

Ethernet provides a number of benefits that you might not think of.

The obvious benefit is being able to print from anywhere on your network but additionally – software is available from most printer manufacturers that will allow you to manage your printer fleet, providing you have a network connection.

Using printer management software you can receive warnings by email if your printer runs out of ink or labels. You can remotely configure the printer. You can see its current state – in other words – has someone left the printhead open or is it jammed?

This is most convenient if you have an Ethernet connection from your printer to your network.


Printers range in print speed from 4 inches per second to 14 inches per second.

Speed isn’t an issue unless you’re waiting for your labels.

Typical scenarios where you don’t want to wait for a label is with production lines where every second spent waiting costs money. Another situation might be where staff need to wait for a batch of labels to be printed.

If you’re printing labels for a high speed production line or you have people waiting for batches of labels then buy a faster printer.

Larger industrial printers are faster than smaller desktop printers.

Label Life

Labels fall into two categories:

  • Heat sensitive direct thermal labels or
  • Thermal transfer labels/tags.

Direct thermal labels typically have a shorter label life and are not good in high temperature situations i.e. direct sunshine.

The benefit of direct thermal labels is that direct thermal printers are more straightforward. They don’t need to use a thermal ribbon so the ribbon handling mechanism is removed.  That brings the printer cost down a little.

Direct thermal printer open
Direct thermal printer – no ribbon mechanism
Thermal transfer printer with ribbon mechanism
Thermal transfer printer with ribbon mechanism

However, if you want to print long life labels or scratch resistant labels then you will need a thermal transfer printer. You can’t print waterproof plastic labels or tags without a thermal ribbon.

Direct Thermal printers can only print onto specially coated paper or labels.  Thermal transfer printers can print onto a whole range of different label materials including direct thermal paper (you simply print without a thermal ribbon loaded into the printer) – so they’re more flexible.

If you have a specific short-life paper labels task for your printer, (for example address or fresh food labels) and you don’t plan to change the use of the printer – then a direct thermal printer makes sense.

Perhaps you could use our Printer Chooser – to guide you through deciding what printer you need.  Click here.

RFID Label Printers

RFID Label printer
RFID Label Printer

If you need to print Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) labels then there are label printers that will print the label and write data to your RFID tags.

This is something only a handful of label printers can do so you need to choose a specific printer that prints onto RFID labels.

Zebra Technologies have a range of RFID label printers.  Within the range you’ll find a portable printer, industrial printers to print 4 or 6 inch wide labels, high speed printers capable of printing at 14 inches per second and a desktop printer, for small spaces.

RFID printing is a specialist area of expertise and Zebra have a lot of resources in this area.  If you want to learn more about RFID contact us here for help.

Updated 10 May 2019

Seagull Scientific BarTender 2019 Editions Summary-!!??

Seagull Scientific recently released BarTender 2019.

What’s different is they now have a free edition of their label design software. The question we often get is: what is included in the Free edition of BarTender 2019?


Supports all document design for a static label layout.  No variable data of any kind or conditional printing.  Limited use of the Administration Console in terms of companion applications.


BarTender Data Entry Form
BarTender Data Entry Form

Supports all document design, but the key difference with the free version is that you can connect databases to your labels.  Also includes conditional printing (i.e. if you have the word German in the language field of a database, print the German version of the labels).  Professional includes entering  variable data using a data entry form (see above), weigh scales or a webcam/flatbed scanner etc.


Supports all of the above, plus anything to do with automation such as form actions (i.e. updating a database if a label has printed) and Integration Platform (triggering label printing based on emails, updates from web pages or updates from databases).


All of the above plus document management, printer management (tracking when printers are paused or not working and what blank labels are printed), Print Portal with mobile apps, print job redirection, centralised security (with users given different permissions) with electronic signatures and encryption.

Zebra Regional Partner Summit-!!??

On May 22 Zebra hosted it’s regional partner summit at the Belfry golf resort in Sutton Coldfield, England.

It was a chance to hear Zebra’s strategy for the near future, about their products and learn where they see the market moving to.

They started by telling the assembled resellers how Zebra is performing in the market.  Number one in most parts of the world for hand held terminals, printers and scanners.  Growth is in double digits in most sectors and revenue is up significantly.

A couple of common themes appeared.

Zebra’s DNA concept came up regularly.

This is a suite of software and design philosophies that tie together their hand held terminals and printers.

The rush towards Android powered handheld terminals has begun and Android is replacing Windows Mobile.

Zebra described how its range of terminals outperform the competition in terms of durability and security.

Not much was said about printers. Zebra’s focus is on its handheld terminals.

Put your feet up and outsource your label printing-!!??

Let’s take a look at the economics and practicalities of printing labels in house compared with outsourcing label printing to someone like us.

What you need to print your own labels

For a start, you need a printer, labels, labelling software, ink ribbon.

Depending on the volume of labels you’re printing and the size and durability of labels will determine what printer you need.

Desktop label printer, labels, ribbon and CD
What you need to print your own labels

Likely costs – printer, labels, ribbons and software.  A small desktop printer, a box of paper labels and ribbons and basic software will cost you up to £550.

Then there are the unseen and unexpected costs –

  • Repair costs – the printer needs fixing every couple of years (unlikely as thermal printers are very reliable – but you never know).  The printhead which costs a few hundred pounds (on a larger printer) wears out over time. This needs to be factored in to the costs of printing.
  • Support costs – getting someone to set the printer up or the time you spend reading manuals, training costs – and the costs of not training (such as discovering one of the warehouse boys cut a vital part of the printer when they were using a knife to get a stuck label out of the printer),
  • Management Time – trying to hook the printer up to the network or deciding what model of printer would be best suited to a particular situation and
  • Time spent supervising the printer. Reloading labels and ribbons and keeping an eye on the printer.
  • Time spent rolling labels – time spent taking printed labels and re-reeling them back onto cardboard cores.
  • Storage and printing space – keeping boxes of labels and a large printer can use up precious space you could use for other things.
  • Label printing accessories – label rewind units, label counters and slitters spring to mind.  They make label printing more efficient but they cost money.

Pros and cons of printing in house.


  1. No delays – print them when you want them
  2. Print dates and batch codes – difficult when your labels are printed in advance
  3. Economical if you have high volumes to print.  That said – talk to us about high volume label printing – the difference in cost between in house printing and outsourced might be closer than you think and you can use the staff you have to focus inside your business and leave us to concentrate on your labels.


  1. If you print them wrong you only have yourself to blame
  2. You might need to invest in large amounts of labels – when you only print a few hundred labels at a time.
  3. It takes time to learn the software and how to operate the printer
  4. You are vulnerable to printer breakdown.  If you have your labels printed for you – make sure the printing company has more than one printer (we do).
Label Printing Centre
Three printers for printing labels is better than one


If you have a need to print unique labels to match a particular item, you need labels with a date on them or you print lots of labels – I recommend you print them in house.  Otherwise – click on the chat button in the bottom right corner of the screen or contact us and get a quote for us to print your labels for you.

Weigh the costs against the convenience of having us print your labels.

If we have suitable labels on the shelf your labels can be printed today and with you tomorrow.

Useful links

Label Printing Services

Published 15 Apr 2019

Seagull Scientific’s BarTender Launch Conference-!!??

On Monday 8th April 2019 Seagull Scientific launches the latest version of their popular and powerful BarTender label design software. On Thursday 4th April they invited a select group of partners to hear the latest news and meet the Seagull senior management. Here’s what I learned…

BarTender 2019 is more streamlined and has some minor features added.

Its user interface has been tweaked.  Everything looks pretty similar – so users of older versions will feel at home.  It’s only when you start adding text or other features that you stop and realise the capabilities are different.

BarTender price and licencing has changed – Gone is the basic edition and now there are three editions – Pro, Automation and Enterprise.  Now you pay for the software licence and an additional fee for each printer you intend to print to.  There is a free version of BarTender, but interestingly Seagull hasn’t said a word about it.

Support is improved but charged for. Now there are target response times when you contact Seagull, but you pay for maintence and support.  The first year of maintence is bundled in the software price, but you need to pay extra for subsequent years.  The good news is that maintence also means you get upgraded to the latest version of the software.  The bad news is that you won’t be able to buy additional printer licences unless you have maintenance cover.

What else did I learn?

Fingerprinting Products

Harold Boa, Seagull’s CEO, talked of ‘fingerprinting’ products – uniquely identifying each and every product with a 2D barcode.  When you scan it with an app (it seems Amazon may be working on such apps) you can see it’s a genuine product, giving you confidence in the brand.

For brand owners it means their customers can check the item hasn’t been counterfeited or sold through unauthorised channels.  Customers can check information not printed on the labelling and product recalls can be done in a much more targeted way.

Harold Boa, Seagull Scientific's CEO
Harold Boa, Seagull Scientific’s CEO, at the BarTender 2019 Partner day.

Micro branding opportunities

Boa believes there is a great opportunity for printing ultra short run printing job.  Personalised bottles for a wedding and such like.

BarTender in the Cloud.

The Seagull CEO explained the company’s moves towards putting BarTender in the cloud.  He recognised the importance of Cloud based software and told us how ‘under the hood’ BarTender was having the foundations included, for more Cloud based functionality.

Seagull Scientific’s EMEA Sales Director, David Parras, described where BarTender offered real benefit to organisations:  where there was a great need for compliant labels and where organisations had to manage many different label formats.

Useful Links

Label Design Software

How we work, here at Expert Labels-!!??

Odds are you’ve visited our site, interested in labels.  Probably a label that’s a little unusual and out of the ordinary.  High temperature labels or peel and reveal. You’ve landed on a page or you’ve followed a trail that’s lead you there.  You’ve read the article and you think you’ve found what you’re looking for. Now you’re interested in getting some labels or a printer.


Request a Label Sample

Step one, you fill in the form on our website and we’ll send you out the samples you’re interested in. If it’s a simple request then we go through our sample library and put a sample in an envelope and send it to you.


Often we’re asked for high temperature labels – but there’s quite a lot of information we need to know in order to get you the best performing sample. We need to know what temperature range you need, what temperature it’s applied at, what’s it applied to, how long it will be at a particular temperature and so on. There’s usually too much to put on a form, so we get in touch.


We ship your samples and record the specifications sent so when we speak again we know what you had.   

Often we send you samples of label materials – especially when it comes to biodegradable or sustainable labels.


Clarify What you Need

We collect all the info we need to get the labels right
Label details

After a few days we’ll be in touch to see if the label samples were OK. In the case of some more technical labels such as high temperature, peelable or chemical resistant, you might need to try a few different label materials until you’re happy with a result. Once we have settled on a material we’ll ask you about label dimension, print requirements, quantities and a few other details before we can quote. We might appear a little pedantic but it’s important that we are clear on what you need as this can be embarrassing, time-consuming and expensive if we get it wrong and have to redo a print job later.

Prepare a quote

Once we have the information we need we put together your quote and email it to you.

Confirm order and put it in writing

Once we agree the price we set out in detail what you’re getting and specify the expected delivery date. We confirm the price and send it over as an order confirmation. If you don’t have an account with us we will send you a proforma invoice to pay against.

Check your proofs

If you’re having printing done then we need to prepare an image of what your label will look like. 95% of the time this will be a pdf or graphic of the label. Sometimes it might be what we call a wet proof. A wet proof is a physical printout of the label. For most of the labels we print a wet proof isn’t possible but with digitally printed labels onto paper it is. Wet proofs have to be printed and posted out and adds delay to the process, but you will get to see the material and the actual colours.

As with all printing companies, we wait for you to confirm back by email that you’re happy with the proof. Only when we have it in writing do we proceed. If we are over-printing your labels using one of our thermal transfer printers then we will photograph a printed label and send you that, so you can see an image of the exact label you’re going to get.

Make to Order

Overprinting labels

If we are printing your labels using our thermal transfer printers (i.e. simple black printed labels with barcodes or serial numbers) and we have the labels in stock, then we can print and ship in a matter of hours, providing we get proofs approved and payment received.  If we need blank labels made this can take a day if they are stock labels or up to ten days for custom blank labels (though usually faster).

Colour printed labels

This stage takes around ten days. If you are having colour labels printed in any volume (ie more than 5,000) then ‘plates’ need to be made. Each different colour on your label has a different plate. The label design is separated into different colours and a plate is created. This process might take a couple of hours to be completed, but it has to be scheduled in a queue so might take a day to be finished.

If you need an unusual label size you might need a label cutter – a metal plate that has raised lines that cut out the shape of the label from the sheet of label material.  This process is outsourced to specialists. Again, like plate making, the actual building time is short but the job will go into a queue.

Next the labels need to be made.  Labels we make are typically made on large printing presses.  Setting up a machine takes minutes – longer if there are colours involved – then test printing takes a few more minutes.  Once the job has been set up it can take anything from a few minutes to print your labels – through to hours – depending on the number of labels and the material being printed.  Labels made with destructible materials (i.e. for tamper evident labels) can’t be run fast through the printing press – they fall apart.

Once the labels are printed, the label printing press needs to be cleaned – more so if the print involved colour labels.

As with the plate and die making stages, the labels go on to the machine in a planned way.  Blank jobs (i.e. labels without any printing on them) would be scheduled together because there is less cleaning after the production run.  Usually jobs are printed in order they are received but it might be possible to leapfrog the queue, especially if the labels are made from an unusual material – and there is an earlier job using the same material.  That saves time changing large rolls of materials on the press.

We might then have to take your labels and ‘finish’ them.  That means adding the extra features you sometimes find with labels – embossing, adding gold leaf (you can tell we have some pretty classy customers!) or varnish.


Digital Printing

Digital printing press used for peel and reveal labels
Digital printing press

If the number of labels you need is relatively small then we would digitally print them. A digital label press is like a very large laser printer. So large in fact, you could walk inside it. Toner comes in buckets. Digital label printers have no plates so there’s no ink to have to clean off and no delays waiting for the plates to be made. Once you’ve approved the proof we can be printing your labels. The only delays with a digitally printed label is changing the material your labels are made of or any special finishes you might need. Additionally you still need to cut out the shape of the label and there may be a delay there. Digital presses are slower than Flexo presses (Flexo is the name of the traditional printing process) but they are getting faster. Every year faster digital presses are launched.

With digital label printing, the quantity of labels is no longer significant. You can print one label because the machine setup time is so small.

Another advantage of digital printing is that each label can be unique. Useful if you’re producing labels for a competition where there’s only a few winners.

Ship goods and follow up

When your labels are printed and boxed they get shipped.  We usually get tracking details but there are some couriers who don’t provide this information.  Because we use different suppliers for ribbons and printer and scanner hardware we don’t have a standard tracking email we send to you.  Please contact us for tracking details if you are concerned about your shipment.

Check everything is OK

When we think you should have received your order we will phone or email to check you received it OK.  It’s at this stage we will invoice you if you have an account with us.

BarTender Label Software Training-!!??

BarTender Label Design Training

There are plenty of videos showing you how to work BarTender label design software, but how can you make your learning most effective?  What are the hallmarks of an effective BarTender software training course?

BarTender is a powerful suite of label design software developed in 1996 by Seattle based Seagull Scientific.  Seagull Scientific have built BarTender into a versatile, easy to use tool for printing labels, ID cards and general documents.  

Hidden below the surface however,  BarTender has hundreds of useful features to automate the printing and production of any kind of document, generate barcodes from different sources, create libraries of documents accessible by thousands of people – the list goes on.  

But having such power is worthless unless you know how to use it.

Why bother with a BarTender training course?

The first obvious reason is so you can use the software.  Training enables you to use the many features of the software and helps you create labels more efficiently.  The second, almost bi-product of a well structured and easy-to-use course, is introducing you to features you might not ordinarily have seen.  Once you see what BarTender is capable of, you can make label and document printing faster and more efficient. BarTender can transform your operations.  

Organisations might not know what they need but when staff have a wide understanding of the tools at their disposal opportunities can be seized upon.

What to look for in your BarTender software training course

For a training program to get the best results it needs to:

  • Start from the obvious and move on to more difficult concepts.
  • Have easy to use reference materials you can use to remind yourself later
  • Have practical exercises to put into practice the theories you’ve learned
  • Have an opportunity to revisit what you’ve learned so you practice the power of recall.
  • Have somewhere you can get answers to questions not found in the training material

Keeping Accountability

Everyone wants to think they’ll work tirelessly towards the company’s goals – reality is somewhat different.  With millions of cat videos to watch – who has the time to study label design software? Accountability helps keep you on the straight and narrow. With gentle follow ups to see where you are with your training reminds you to commit another 15 minutes this week to learning more.

The 70-20-10 Model of learning

The 70-20-10 Model of learning says that 70% of learning comes from personal experience, 20% comes from peer learning and just 10% comes from courses and instruction.  This is reflected in modern teaching theory which encourages students to do rather than listen or watch.

Learning theories change every few years – but the one constant in human learning is the role of experience. Confucius said: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

70% Experience

With complicated and comprehensive software like BarTender it’s very easy to get lost working through the many functions found in the program. Guided experience that takes you from the easy to the difficult progressively means that students won’t give up or become overwhelmed.  Tailoring the training to the users actual job or the organisation’s labelling requirements makes the experience part of the model more relevant and meaningful. It also improves motivation with students seeing a clear benefit to how they do their job.

20% Peer Learning

In today’s internet world, in-person groups are few and far between.  Online groups and forums can’t be beaten for convenience. Post up your questions and experiences from your desktop or mobile.  We use a Tapatalk group forum to share BarTender label design experience. Ask questions and get answers from fellow students or our expert moderators.

10% Instruction and training courses

Passively sitting watching a slideshow offers limited benefit and probably explains why the 70-20-10 learning model places such a low value on instruction and courses.  We agree that passive learning is not effective and make learning as active as possible.

So how can we apply this model to make your BarTender learning effective?

Expert Label’s BarTender Training Program

  1. Reference – in video form and written,
  2. Ongoing expert support – just an email away,
  3. Active learning – learn by doing – working systematically through a workbook making your own notes, following the video guidance.
  4. Short bite sized video tutorials
  5. Regular summary of learning,
  6. Expert knowledge of subject matter,
  7. Online quizzes to embed learning and to provide immediate feedback.


Useful links

Personnel Today – the 70, 20, 10 percent model of learning.

Sustainable Labels-!!??

To compliment our biodegradable labels we can supply you with a couple of different sustainable labels – labels made without wood and water pollution.

These sustainable labels come with standard permanent adhesive.   This material is printable by most printing methods including thermal transfer, though laser printing is not recommended.

We can supply the following sustainable labels: –

  • Rock paper labels (also known as Paper from Waste Marble, Mineral Paper, Rich Mineral Paper, Sustainable Paper or Eco Paper) are – as the name suggests – made from rock – the ultimate sustainable label material.  Our rock labels are made from 80% marble – a bi-product of mining waste where the mable dust and offcuts are ground to a fine dust.  The calcium carbonate (marble is calcium carbonate) is mixed with the kind of plastic you often see – heavy duty polyethylene (HDPE) – again from recycled sources.
    Rock paper labels are durable – being waterpoof, tear proof and grease proof.  These labels comply with food safety standards for direct contacts with dry and moist foodstuffs.
    Unlike paper it doesn’t have a grain but in many other respects resembles paper, but with a smoother finish – due to the absence of wood fibres.  Click the button the right to ask for a sample pack.
  • Grape and apple pulp labels – sustainable labels made from these materials are coming soon!!  Contact us for an expected arrival date.

For more information on any of our products or to place your order please contact a member of our team today.  Alternatively, click the request a sample and we’ll send you over some material to test.

Interesting Links

Read all about Rock Paper Labels on Wikipedia.