All posts by Miles

Thermal Ribbon Cartridge Printer

Thermal Transfer Cartridge Printers.

I’ve not been keen on the idea of thermal transfer cartridge printers.  Cartridge printers use a roll of thermal ink ribbon in the form of a plastic cartridge. If you want to change a thermal ribbon, simply pull out the used ribbon cartridge and put in a new one.  No threading thermal transfer ribbons.  No need to clip cores into the printer.

I’ve not been keen because I’ve always felt uncomfortable being tied in to a specific supplier or manufacturer. I’ve been concerned we couldn’t get hold of a full range of ribbon materials – including different colours.  I’ve felt the benefits didn’t really amount to much – but I’ve changed my mind.

What’s so good about a thermal transfer cartridge printer?

Simply: it’s so quick and easy to use.  Anyone can change a ribbon in a fraction of the time it usually takes.  Take a look at this video an you’ll see just how easy it is to use.

Zebra’s ZD420 Thermal transfer cartridge printer

The only cartridge printer available today is Zebra’s ZD420.  

Zebra ZD420
The Zebra ZD420

The cartridge model is one of Zebra’s ZD420 family of printers – the others being a healthcare model, a standard roll fed model and a direct thermal model. 

It quickly established itself as a popular and easy to use desktop label printer since it’s launch in 2016. 

Where you’d use a cartridge printer

We’ve been working with a company that has untrained volunteers  printing labels on demand for customers.

Imagine you have a competition. You’re labelling clients’ bags before transporting them to the end point. You have a couple of volunteer staff looking after clients, entering data, putting bags in a van and looking after the printers.

There’s a small queue of customers and suddenly the ribbon runs out. Your volunteer has never changed a roll of ribbon and has barely seen a thermal printer before.  He tries to figure it out for himself. He looks at the diagram on the printer, he asks his colleague and he even asks the people waiting. Then he gives it a go.

Five minutes later the ribbon is changed – but it’s been a struggle, it takes time and it prevents staff from looking after their customers.

With a cartridge printer he’d have opened the printer, unwrapped the cartridge, pulled out the old one and slotted in the new one. All done in a matter of seconds – without the need for training. No need to look at instructions.

Ribbon Cartridge Size Options

Zebra Thermal Printer Cartridge
Zebra Thermal Printer Cartridge

This is where the ribbon cartridge struggles, compared with standard ribbons. There are only three different cartridges available – Wax, Wax resin and Resin. All ribbons are 110mm wide and 74m long.

All thermal cartridge ribbons are black.

In the past twenty years I imagine we have only sold a few dozen boxes of coloured ribbons, so the limited colour range is unlikely to affect many of you.

Another big downside – the cost of a ribbon cartridge is around twice as much as a standard Zebra ribbon, at around £5 per cartridge. If you are printing a 100mm x 100mm paper label, that still only works out at 0.7p per label for ink.

Summing up – Thermal Transfer Cartridge Printers

  • Extremely convenient and fast – minimises downtime and customer inconvenience
  • No training needed – anyone can quickly use the printer
  • Limited range of ribbons – not a problem if that suits the label or tag you’re printing
  • Expensive in comparison to standard ribbons.

Further Help

Want to know more about cartridge printers? Want to buy a cartridge printer or cartridges? Contact us here or complete our form below.

Useful links

Learn more about Zebra’s ZD420 printer on the Zebra website.

Updated 11 Jan 2020

Biodegradable Labels

Guide to Biodegradable Labels

With plastic doing so much harm to our environment – more and more of us are looking at biodegradable packaging to minimise damage.  This guide to biodegradable labels will help you in your small but significant contribution to the war on plastic.

How can you, as someone who buys labels for your product packaging, meet your customers demands and use biodegradable labels to reduce environmental damage?

Biodegradable labels is a complicated subject and to fully understand it, you’ll need to read all of this guide.  Even though these labels will biodegrade there are practical things to consider from the point of view of the packaging and the local authority that handles your customers’ household waste.

What are Biodegradable Labels?

First: biodegradable labels are not labels that are made from plant-sourced or sustainable materials.  It is possible to make labels from plant sources (such as sugar-cane) that are NOT biodegradable (though they may be recyclable).

Biodegradable labels are labels that will be broken down by nature – fungus, bacteria, natural chemicals and plants.

Technically everything is broken down by nature – even plastic – the real question is:

  • how long it takes,
  • what conditions it breaks down under and
  • what it breaks down into (or what gasses it emits) during the process.

There are no standards we are aware of for biodegradable labels – though there are for compostable labels.  We’ll look at compostable labels below.

Oxo-biodegradable plastics

Some biodegradable labels have a chemical added to them that needs to be exposed to oxygen or water to trigger the decomposition process.  These oxo-biodegradables create micro-plastics that are considered harmful and therefore not a good alternative to standard plastics.  

Oxo-plastic labels can’t gain compostable EN13432 certification.

None of our biodegradable range of labels are made with Oxo-biodegradable plastics.

Available Biodegradable labels

Despite the importance of biodegradable labels in the news, the industry has been slow to catch up.

Biodegradable Paper Labels
Biodegradable Paper Labels

Sourcing biodegradable label material isn’t easy.  We are able only to supply labels made from four types of biodegradable label material at the moment.

  • Matt biodegradable paper
  • Gloss biodegradable paper
  • Gloss biodegradable white film and
  • Clear biodegradable film

The Compostable Standard

Industrial composting
Industrial composting

Composting is the breakdown of materials into the soil.  The good thing about composting is that there is a standard to measure against. 

Other forms of Biodegradablility (such as into the air or water) don’t have such a standard. 

The most widely accepted standard for composting is the European compostable packaging standard (EN13432).

Labels that meet the EN13432 standard break down into water, CO2 and new cell biomass.

To meet the standard they have to do so within six months. 

Something to consider, however, are the conditions under which the composting takes place.

Importantly, the standard requires the label not to generate any harmful by-products.  Particular attention is paid to potentially toxic elements.

A key part of the European standard is that after 12 weeks, 90% of the material is in pieces smaller than 2mm.

Compostable logo displayed on Biodegradable labels
Compostable logo

If the material passes all the criteria then it can display the Compostable logo.

EN13432 applies to industrial composting as opposed to home composting.

The difference between home composting and Industrial or commercial composting are the conditions the process is done under.

For example, industrial composting is tested at 58C, home composting is typically around 30C.

There are no international standards for home composting.

The European EN13432 standard includes the glue, label and ink.  

Contamination of waste by biodegradable plastic labels is a problem

Despite their eco-friendly credentials, biodegradable plastic labels are a problem for home and municipal waste disposal. 

Biodegradable plastic can’t be recycled with standard plastics.  If they are included with plastic they will contaminate it.  As they are not paper they will contaminate paper as well. 

They can’t be disposed of with food waste because they take longer to biodegrade (unless they are put through an industrial composting process).

In many local authorities, biodegradable plastic labels go to landfill, and whilst they will breakdown more rapidly than standard plastics, and won’t leave any toxic residues, they may contribute to powerful greenhouse gasses such as methane.

Identifying Biodegradable plastic labels

Even with the biggest ‘Compostable’ logos, it’s practically impossible for human or machine sorters to recognise biodegradable labels from normal plastic labels. 

Generally speaking standard plastic contamination in garden or food waste is a big problem in composting.  Local authorities are particularly sensitive to plastic contamination.  If they see any plastic – biodegradable plastic labels or standard plastic labels in organic waste, it will be rejected and sent to landfill or burned.

Only put Biodegradable Labels on Biodegradable packaging

It’s no good putting biodegradable stickers onto product that isn’t biodegradable.  A biodegradable label on a glass bottle is a waste of money.

Not only does the packaging need to be biodegradable – it needs to look biodegradable.  If it doesn’t look biodegradable waste handlers will send it to landfill where it will break down slowly.

Currently, the only combination of stickers and packaging that look biodegradable are paper stickers on cardboard packaging.

Conclusion – Use Paper or Recycleable Plastic

It’s impossible to say what conditions labels will be disposed (or discarded) under. 

Biodegradable plastics might not degrade as completely and as quickly as we want them to.   If they go through the waste disposal system (as hopefully the bulk of them will) they might cause more problems than they solve.

My recommendation is to use paper labels, without any plastic coating and with an adhesive that will break down without leaving any harmful by-products.  What we describe as a biodegradable paper label.

If you are using plastic packaging, I hope (and expect) most of your packaging will be disposed of responsibly.  Use material that can be recycled and use a recyclable label not a biodegradable plastic sticker.

  Carelessly discarded Disposed of properly
Plastic packaging Biodegradable paper labels Recycled plastic labels
Paper or card packaging Biodegradable paper labels Biodegradable paper labels

We want to help you improve our environment.

We are as keen to improve our environment as you are and want to help.  This guide to biodegradable labels is only a start.  Please pick up the phone and call 01359 271 111, click on the chat button on the right of this screen or contact us and ask us how we can help you help our environment.

Useful links

The concise guide to compostable packaging and products – EN 2013432 – by the Association for Organics Recycling:

See our range of environmentally friendly labels here:

Biodegradable labels

Sustainable labels

Recyclable labels

Here’s a definition of biodegradation on Wikipedia:

Updated 28 Dec 2019

Get Samples

Labels on recycled plastic bottles

Guide to Recycling Labels

Recyclable Labels

According to The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) the recycling rate for UK homes has risen to 45% of all household waste in 2017.  Whilst we are all recycling more, are we recycling our labels properly?

Let’s talk about recyclable labels for a moment. What can you, as someone who buys labels for your product packaging, do to ensure your customer’s recycled labels aren’t contaminating recycled waste.

Official Advice on Recycling Labels

The official advice is remove your labels – but no one will do that in reality.   The solution: to stop contamination is to match the label material to the packing material.  That means that the labels need to be made from the same material as the packaging.

One other consideration is adhesive.  We thought adhesive might be a problem so we asked the experts.  According to Suffolk based metal and waste recycling specialists, Sackers Ltd, label adhesive is a small problem and is processed easily.  High volumes of labels (i.e. a skip full) could not be put through the recycling process and would need to be burned for energy.

There is no need to remove labels from items, the recycling process can handle them.

Advice from Sackers Ltd was: if in doubt put it out for recycling – anything that can’t be recycled is burned to produce energy.  This piece of advice needs to be taken with care, as each UK local authority has different waste to energy capabilities.

If you want help matching labels to packaging call us for advice.

Labels on Glass Bottles and Jars

So despite this rule of matching labels to packaging – you might have noticed – not many labels are made from glass.  So what do we do about labelling bottles?

Our advice – apply a paper label.  If your customer’s recycling process involves washing first – then the labels will be washed off.  If it is crushed then put in a furnace, the labels and glue will burn off.

Which Labels can be Recycled?

Paper Labels

Paper Labels
Paper labels

Paper labels can only be recycled with paper or board packaging.

If your paper labels are placed on plastic bottles ask for a ‘wash off’ adhesive to make the recycling process much easier.

Even if your paper labels are blended with other materials, it could still be placed in the recycling bin as it can be burned and used for energy.

The only thing that cannot be recycled is a label stuck to film, unfortunately, this will end up in landfill.

Plastic labels

Labels are usually made from Polypropylene (PP) or Polyethylene (PE).  Luckily, most packaging material is made from PP and PE.  Both can be recycled together.

Make Label Recycling Easy for Your Customers

If you are buying labels from us, this is what you can do to improve recycling.

  • Match the correct label material to your product packaging.  For example: paper labels onto paper or cardboard packaging and PE or PP labels on PE and PP packaging.

Recycling labels - paper labels on cardboard
Paper labels on cardboard

  • If you have correctly matched your labels and packaging, tell your product consumers to leave the labels on, clean any bottles or containers and put them into the recycling bin.
  • Clearly print the Recycling logo on your packaging.
  • Do not apply compostable labels to plastic or glass packaging that can be recycled.
  • Ask customers not to put compostable labels into the recycle bin.

Recycling Label Backing Paper

Label backing material
Label backing material

Label backing paper is made to be strong enough to be pulled through printing presses but it’s also designed to be translucent, so the sensors in the printer can see the gaps between labels.

Because it needs to be strong, backing paper is not a good material to make from recycled paper.

Backing paper is also coated in non-stick silicon which makes it less desirable for recycling.  There is a recycling company, here in the UK, who takes backing paper and label waste, but sadly, it just gets turned into energy.

Laminated labels

Paper labels are sometimes coated in plastic to give them durability.

Laminated Labels
Laminated Labels

These types of labels cannot be recycled.  They can be burned and used in energy recovery programmes.

Useful links

See our range of environmentally friendly labels here:


The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)’s Blog – highlighting recycling rates in 2017/18

Sustainable Labels

There is a lot of talk about limiting the harm we’re doing to our environment.  Being sustainable is the ability to live without depleting our natural resources.  Modern packaging is often held up as a culprit in the damage we are doing to our environment.  This article will help you understand how sustainable labels really are.

Sustainability is both the materials the labels are made from and the process the labels are made under.

There are always two sides to many of the points raised in this article.  For example: the forests grown in order to make paper are good for capturing CO2 but, as they are usually grown in large single species plantations – this can be bad for bio-diversity.  I’m not writing this article to promote one side or the other in this debate.  Our business is focused on labels – but we all depend on the environment for our survival as a species.

Paper label manufacturing

The paper making process uses water, wood and energy and leads to water and air pollution.  Paper manufacturing accounts for up to 5% of pollution in North America.  In the last few decades paper mills have reduced their pollution significantly and I’m sure technology  and innovation will reduce the environmental impact further, however paper isn’t without it’s harmful byproducts.

paper mill
Pollution from paper mills

Water is the ultimate recycled product.  Should we worry about water use in paper making?  If it’s cleaned and returned to rivers and lakes, water consumption in paper making isn’t a problem.

Paper’s main raw material – wood – is renewable and good for CO2 capture. 

Mono-culture forest
Mono-culture forest for paper production

Energy use – Whilst paper product uses huge amounts of energy, most of it is sourced from bio-mass energy generation.

All the labels we supply are paper or plastic. 

All the paper we supply comes from sustainable sources (i.e trees that are farmed as opposed to tropical rainforest).  However, paper is usually made using chemicals that are harmful to the environment.  

Chlorine is used in the paper making process – to whiten the paper.  As you would probably guess, Chlorine is toxic and, as a by-product of paper production, is harmful to the environment.  Our standard paper label material uses chlorine, though the same chlorine compound is used to treat drinking water. 

Sustainable Paper Labels

Standard paper labels are made from virgin paper with chlorine bleaching. Paper is sustainable, but the paper production process has a significantly damaging effect on the environment

We are able to supply a recycled paper label that is chlorine free, with a wood free backing paper (the paper that the labels are stuck to on the roll).  Interestingly people rarely ask for recycled paper labels and the availability of the material is limited.  Contact us and ask us about recycled paper labels.

Plastic Labels

Most of the labels we supply are made from Polypropylene (PP) or Polyethylene (PE).

This type of plastic label is made from oil, but is easily recycled.  The most recent figures I found for the proportion of plastic that’s recycled was from 2008 and 21% of plastic was recycled. 

However, plastic labels are not biodegradable (unless you count hundreds of years as biodegradable), are harmful to nature and are non-renewable. 

From a marketing point of view, plastic labels are not popular.

Sustainable BioPlastic Labels

More popular BioPlastic label materials are PP and PE labels made from corn, coconut or potato.  These starch-based plastics are sometimes compostable.  They are not widely available and relatively expensive, but we are able to supply you with them. 

The best we can obtain is 83% sugar cane derived material, 17% oil-based.  Contact us for a quote.

Clear and white plastics made from wood pulp – cellulose – if made from sustainable forestry products are an extremely eco-responsible way of making labels. 

There are cellulose based labels available, though they are water soluble, so not suitable for long term storage in wet places (i.e. not good for products destined for bathroooms). 

Not only are these labels sustainable – some are also biodegradable.  See our biodegradable range here.

Useful links

Wikipedia’s article on the environmental impact of paper:

British Plastics Federation (perhaps a little biased – but it quotes the recycling rate of plastic)

Bioplastics Article at ‘Explain that stuff’:

Print Station: BarTender’s Label Printing Secret

BarTender Print Station

Print Station is BarTender's Label Printing Front End

Printing labels with BarTender can be a little time consuming. 

First you need to open BarTender, then you need to find the label file.  Once you’ve found the label file you need to open it.  The next step is to choose print from the menu and start the printing process.  

Printing labels is not difficult, but if you rarely use BarTender, finding the correct label and remembering the printing process might take time.

BarTender Print Station, a BarTender ‘companion app’, is BarTender’s solution to this.  Print Station is included with all BarTender editions and makes printing labels so simple, a five year old could do it.

How to Use BarTender's Print Station

Look at the image at the top of this post if you want to see Print Station in action.

How to use Print Station:

  1. Open Print Station from your computer’s start menu.
  2. Look through the label thumbnail images until you see the label you want.
  3. Click on the label image.
  4. Choose how many copies of the label you want and press print.


Tips & Tricks

  • Streamline your label printing process even further – set up Print Station to open straight to the folder your labels designs are kept in.
  • Where you have inexperienced BarTender users, or your label designs look complicated, by-pass BarTender designer and open Print Station when you click on a label design.  In Microsoft Windows, associate your BarTender design files (.btw)  to open Print Station instead of Bartender Designer on certain users’ computers. 

Want Help with your Print Station?

If you would like help with BarTender’s Print Station, enjoy a complimentary 30 minute remote training session to get to know Print Station.  Learning Print Station will only take five minutes – but let us show you other features to make label printing easier and faster.

Contact us by email or phone (01359 271 111) and ask for our BarTender expert.


Useful Links

Updated: 14 Oct 2019

Using forms to protect your label designs

BarTender Forms

How BarTender Forms Work

BarTender forms make label printing easy and error proof.

BarTender forms pop up at print time and prompt you for the information you need to print with. For example, you could be asked to choose a product description or code, a batch code and a production date.

Enter the data on the form and watch as your labels print the data.

No need to edit the label each time you print. Using BarTender forms you can even limit fields to specific characters, number formats or lengths – ensuring consistent labels and eliminating mistakes on your labels.

How to Use BarTender Forms

Choose from 19 different ways to enter data from drop down lists and calendars to number sliders and database choosers.

Add the different form controls to your form, then match the form controls to the fields on the label by dragging them together.  Add forms to your labels in minutes.

Want Help with your Label Forms?

If you would like help with your label forms, enjoy a complimentary 30 minute remote training session to get your forms started.

Contact us by email or phone (01359 271 111) and ask for our BarTender expert.


Useful Links

Updated: 12 Oct 2019

Datalogic’s Gryphon Cordless barcode scanner

Datalogic Gryphon 4500 family of scanner
Datalogic Gryphon 4500 Family Photograph.

We recently worked on a project and used Datalogic’s Gryphon 4500 series cordless 2D barcode scanner.  It’s a cordless scanner that can read normal 1D barcodes and 2D codes (like QR codes and datamatrix) as well.  It comes with a healthcare coating – which inhibits the growth of bacteria and cleaning the scanner with harsh chemicals doesn’t damage it.

Here are some of the things that impressed and didn’t impress us about the scanner.


What we like

  • Looks and feels like quality.
  • Scans lightning fast
  • Scans 1D & 2D barcodes
  • Displays a green good read light

What we didn’t like

  • Wasn’t easy to adjust the stand
  • Expensive

Look and feel

Datalogic Gryphon 4500

First impressions, the scanner feels good. It’s a comfortable weight – feels nice and solid without being too heavy. It’s designed in Italy and it looks good. With it being cordless, it feels tidy.

Very easy to use – with a clear aiming mark.  Useful if you’re choosing a barcode from a menu of other codes.

Datalogic GBT 4500

Bright white barcode illumination, so you can clearly see what’s being scanned.  Also better with coloured barcodes.

Gryphone Cordless scanner in stand

Automatic barcode detection and scanning. Just wave the code under the scanner and it reads it automatically.

Most of Datalogic’s range comes with a green dot good read indicator.  If you’re busy looking at the item you’re scanning then having a confirmation of sucessfully scanning your code is very helpful.  There’s also a big green indicator at the back of the scanner as well.

Datalogic Gryphon with Good read light
Gryphon - no connector chanring

The cordless Gryphon has eliminated charging contacts or sockets on the GBT4500,  the latest Datalogic cordless scanner.  No contacts to clean.  Whilst that removes a potential vulnerability on the scanner, they’ve included a hidden cable connector in the bottom of the scanner for a USB cable.



There wasn’t much to fault about the Gryphon GBT4500 scanner. The only slight inconvenience I suffered was adjusting the charging stand. It has a locking screw and you need a screwdriver to unlock it.

It isn’t the cheapest cordless scanner on the market. Priced at around £450-£500 for the scanner and charging cradle, it’s an expensive option.


The Datalogic GBT4500 is a quality piece of equipment with a two-year guarantee and so many features I can’t begin to describe them all in this review.  Easy to use, lightning fast and very versatile, you’d be pleased when you bought it.  It’s not the cheapest, but it is quality.

If you’d like to find out more about the Gryphon 4500 cordless barcode scanner click here and ask me any questions.

– Miles Green

Here’s Datalogic’s Gryphon 4500 video, demonstrating the scanner and it’s features.

Don’t Let Your Labelling Hold You Up

Don't Let Your Labelling Stop You.

Labels are critical to modern organisations and with most labels printed on site, there are dozens of things that can make your labelling system vulnerable.  

90% of these reasons can be eliminated or mitigated.

You can’t afford to stop shipping because of something as simple as labels.

Complete your assessment and see how you can protect yourself from  label stoppages.

Managed Labelling Service

Concentrate on Running Your Business and Let Us Concentrate on Printing Your Labels.

Zebra ZT230 Barcode Printer

Expert Labels provides clients with a complete on-site labelling service. 

We cover everything to ensure maximum uptime, so your labels are printed when you need them.

You pay us to get your labels printed and we manage everything else.

Let us do what we do best, so you can do what you do best.

Leave us to handle:

    • label and thermal ribbon stock management,
    • Thermal label printer procurement, installation and training,
    • Software configuration, integration and training,
    • Hardware maintenance and support
    • Support desk
    • Finance arrangements – turn capital expenses into operating expenses


Off the shelf labels

Labels & Inks

You get optimum stock levels and the right labels when you need them.

Industrial Label Printer


You get configured and supported label printing hardware as part of your managed labelling service.

Bartender label software

Labelling Systems

You get integrated labelling with your corporate IT systems. Your printer and label usage is monitored using software. You get trained staff and supported software.

Chris Day is an IT manager. He started at his company on the helpdesk, having got a degree in Business Studies. Gradually he worked his way up and now, in his early 40's, is the IT manager for his company.

His key objective is making sure the computer systems remains operational.

Chris' team is small - just three of them. They are stretched thin and he doesn't want them using their talents looking after label printing.

Chris doesn't want to have to deal with thermal label printers. He has a service company look after his multi-function laser printers and appreciates the advantages the simply ringing the help line and having the printer fixed gives him.

Keeping up to date with the latest thermal printer models and knowing how to support them is the last thing he wants to bother with. Keeping on top of label and ribbon stocks is easy enough, but a real nightmare when it goes wrong.

Chris wants someone who understands thermal printers to take them off his plate. He wants to concentrate on the next generation of software and hardware that his company needs to grow and prosper.
Chris Day
IT Manager

And you thought Desktop Printers couldn’t be Portable Printers!

On a recent visit to the Zebra Experience Centre (you might be mistaken for thinking I’m writing about a zoo) – a large demo room that Zebra Technologies have set up to showcase their complete range of products – I spotted this.

Zebra ZD410 with battery base
Zebra ZD410 with battery base

These are desktop printers equipped with battery packs.

These are chargeable battery add ons which fit to the base of the ZD420, ZD410 and ZD620 printers.  Designed to provide power for a complete 8 hour shift, this now means your desktop printers don’t have to be used on a desk.

Imagine: a trolley or even a vehicle can now become a printing station.  Charge the battery pack, fit the battery to the printer base and start printing.

In fact, you don’t need to remove the battery to charge it.

ZD400 Printer Charging Bases and Battery Packs

The charging base and battery are separate items and cost around £60 for the base and £300 for the battery.  For up to date prices contact us for a quote.

Slde the battery into the ZD400 printer

Fits the ZD410, ZD420 and ZD620 – both the standard and healthcare printer models.

Zebra ZD620 HC printer with battery pack
Zebra ZD620 HC printer with battery pack

If you’d like to know more, contact us or press the chat button in the bottom right of the screen.

Useful Links

Interestingly, the Zebra website doesn’t mention these battery packs, but they are genuine Zebra products.