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How To Recalibrate Your Zebra Thermal Tag Printer [VIDEO]

One of the first troubleshooting steps when working with a Zebra tag printer, is performing what’s referred to as a Memory Dump.  For all intents and purposes, you’re re-calibrating the printer.  If you’ve just printed using a new tag format, the Zebra tag printer might skip tags and “fault”/go to a red light.

If tags were printing just fine a second ago and nothing has changed other than the tag format you select within your consignment software or the roll of tags in the printer itself, then the first thing we recommend is a Memory Dump.

The following is a video that demonstrates how to perform a Memory Dump.  This video utilizes a Zebra LP2824 tag printer.  The steps are identical for the the Zebra LP2844.

Common reasons to recalibrate your printer:

  • You just swapped out a roll of tags
  • You just switched from regular 2-across tags to jewelry tags

Common issues that arise when recalibrating your printer:

  • Documents are left waiting in the printer’s queue (e.g. you went to print tags but the roll ran out) resulting in “gibberish” printing on your tags during a Memory Dump
  • Printing is ‘paused’ or the printer goes ‘offline’

Here is a video that demonstrates what happens if you attempt a Memory Dump, while documents are still in the print queue:

Notice the “gibberish” all over the tags?  This is an example of how one issue can snowball.  Typically it starts with a roll of tags running out during the middle of a print job.  This leaves unprinted documents in the queue.  You swap out rolls, but the tags aren’t lining-up.  You then try a Memory Dump, not realizing there are unprinted tags in the queue.  A perfect storm.  🙂

So make sure and cancel all print jobs before attempting a Memory Dump.  For clients on our Monthly Support plan or for clients who have purchased computers from The Computer Peeps, it’s as easy as clicking the Printer Panic Button:

The Computer Peeps' Printer Panic Button
The Computer Peeps’ Printer Panic Button

For those of you without a Printer Panic Button, in order to cancel documents in the print queue, first view the print queue…

In Windows 7…

Windows 7 Print Queue

In Windows XP…

Windows XP Print Queue

Then Cancel All Documents via the Printer menu…

Cancel All Documents

Under the same menu, you’ll find the Pause Printing option and the Use Printer Offline option…

Pause Printing & Use Printer Offline
Pause Printing & Use Printer Offline

Notice how Use Printer Offline is checked and shows the same status in the title bar?

So it can quickly go from just running out of tags, to a printer stuck in Memory Dump mode, a paused printer,  queue full of documents and an offline printer.  You could reboot over and over again and the issue will persist.  So when the printer seems to have taken a turn for the worst, always try the following, in this order:

  • Power-off the printer
  • Cancel all documents in the print queue
  • Perform a Memory Dump
  • Verify the printer isn’t ‘offline’
  • Verify printing isn’t ‘paused’

The Computer Peeps have prepared step-by-step Memory Dump instructions you can print out and keep near each of your tag printers.

Click the PDF icon below to download and print your own copy of the Memory Dump instructions!

Windows Updates – The Good and the Bad

Windows is an Operating System, one that most of you are running – well, all of you if you’re running consignment software.  Just like any application software, Windows is updated from time to time.  I’m not talking about going from XP to Vista or 7.  Within each version of Windows, it is constantly updated.  The majority of the time, these are security updates (to help keep your computer protected from vulnerabilities).  This is “The Good” portion of Windows updates.

Some of these updates aren’t specific to Windows though.  Hardware devices (e.g. printers) can receive updates from Microsoft.  This is “The Bad” portion of Windows updates; well, at least it can be.

The reason I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the good and bad sides of Windows Updates, is because your tag printer can be affected.  You know, the little device that is basically the life blood of your business.  If you can’t tag items, you can’t put inventory out on the floor for sale.

In a recent update, I noticed Microsoft recommended one for my Zebra LP2824 driver…

Zebra + Windows Updates

Now, I’m not saying that installing this update is going to break everyone’s tag printer.  What I am saying is, any change to your printer driver (the software that makes your tag printer function) can lead to undesirable results.  Even the slightest change can cause alignment issues, skipping tags, etc.

So it’s a double-edge sword keeping your system up to date.  You want to make sure Windows is updated and secure.  You don’t want to just let any and all updates come down, not without your knowledge.

Buying a tag printer

The average cost of a new Zebra LP2844 printer is currently about $350, give or take.  Some companies charge nearly $500 for this model!!!  You can purchase brand new printers or you can try to save a little…well, a lot of money if you purchase a refurbished/used printer.  A quick search of eBay returns quite a few legitimate listings (sellers with high Feedback ratings).

When you’re about to purchase a tag printer, you can go brand new or you can go previously-owned.  Most if not all of the consignment software vendors sell hardware.  The prices across the various vendors range between $350-$450 for the Zebra LP2844.  The benefit of buying your tag printer from your software vendor, is compatibility.  You get a guarantee that the printer is compatible with your software.  Also, you’ll typically receive support for the first 30 days.  e.g. installing the printer, troubleshooting issues, etc.  After 30 days though, all bets are off.  If tags stop lining up, if you move the printer and it stops working, etc. typically, your software vendor will not support the issue – not without paying a fee or being on a “plan”.

On the other end of the spectrum are the previously-owned printers.  You can find a Zebra LP2844 on eBay for around $100.  If you purchase from a reputable seller, you typically get a guarantee (exchange or money back).  If you find a reputable computer technician (eh hem, like The Computer Peeps), you can get a tag printer up and running for a fraction of the price of a new one.

Do The Computer Peeps recommend buying the first tag printer you find on eBay?  No.  Do The Computer Peeps think there are options to consider?  Yes.

We’re not trying to discourage you from purchasing hardware from your software vendor.  There’s something to be said for purchasing everything “under one roof”.  Sometimes however, the cost can be quite high.  You have to ask yourself, “what am I getting for the money?”  Just because you’re spending a ton of money doesn’t mean you’re getting something different or better.  A printer that costs nearly $500 still won’t be supported 6 months after you purchase it.

Tag printers

A tag printer is piece of consignment hardware that a consignment store utilizes to print bar codes/tags for inventory.  Two tag printers stand out in the consignment industry:

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Consignment Hardware Zebra LP2844
Zebra LP2844 Thermal Tag Printer

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Consignment Hardware Zebra LP2824
Zebra LP2824 Thermal Tag Printer

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Both of the above printers are direct-thermal printers.  This means, they do not use ink to print tags.  Instead, a print head in the printer generates heat.  Special tags with a reactive coating (thermal tags) are used in conjunction with the above printers.  The 2844 is the more popular of the two printers.  It is used by UPS, in hospitals and of course, in resale stores.

The 2824 is simply a “lesser” version of the 2844.  It can hold the same tags used with the various consignment software programs.  It tends to print a little lighter than the 2844 (can be tweaked in the driver), typically doesn’t last as long, etc.  If you’re a low-volume store, the 2824 could work out just great!  Always check with your software vendor for compatibility though.

Recap:

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  • Thermal printers do not use ink, rather, heat
  • Thermal printers use specialized tags with a heat-sensitive coating
  • The LP2844 and LP2824 are the most popular in the consignment industry

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