Reach New Markets with Print & Apply Systems

As the US Novexx distributor, Century Systems has reached into new markets with Print & Apply systems–directly opening new sales opportunities for our partners. Novexx Print & Apply systems are the best and most innovative solutions in a demanding industry, packing versatility, durability, speed and cost-saving features into modular designs enabling faster, easier maintenance. Especially coupled with Century’s on-site repair services, 24/7 production with minimal disruption is a production-line tested reality that proves the Novexx advantage even more than their impressive technical specifications. This is an overview of our Print & Apply products for resellers who want to learn more and reach new markets with us.

The ALX Print & Supply line is robust and versatile enough for high and low volume production, ideal for more potential customers. Able to label the top, bottom and sides of products either with integrated direct apply or any of three optional applicators (flexible swing-on, gentle blow-on and economic touch-on), these models can print & apply labels onto virtually any product in almost any position.

Economy Touch-On Applicator (LA-TO)

Touch-On Applicator (LA-TO)

Flexible Swing-Arm Applicator (LA-SA)

Swing-On Applicator (LA-SO)

Gentle Blow-On Applicator (LA-BO)

Blow-On Applicator (LA-BO)

All ALX Print & Apply models include a ribbon save mechanism that cuts annual costs by as much as 50% compared to competitive solutions, significantly increasing the Ratio of Output to Input. In addition to ribbon savings, end users save time and start production faster with easier, user-friendly integration into existing systems and keep going longer with easily replaceable printheads. With a multi-language display standard, these systems are perfect for a broad–international–market.

The ALX 73x series prints and applies up to an impressive 400 labels/min (50m/min), ideal for high speed, high volume production. The ALX 93x boasts a 1:1 Print & Apply mode, in which the system prepares data for the next label while simultaneously printing and applying another. This technology, in addition to printing speeds of 400mm/sec, makes it incredibly efficient for constantly changing labels.

ALX 73x Direct Apply

ALX 73x Direct Apply

Today’s businesses are
 driven by efficiency that goes beyond time and money to include environmental sustainability. The LPA 81x Print & Apply line taps into this growing green market and adds brand value for you and your customers by increasing sustainability credentials with an innovative backing paper-free solution, drastically reducing environmental impact.

LPA 81x environmental impact infographic

Here’s how it works: the LightSmart™ material arrives coated on the reverse with a non-tack adhesive. Using the LPA 81x Print & Apply unit, data is printed onto the material and labels are cut to the desired length. The adhesive backing is then activated by infrared heat. Thus the LightSmart™ label becomes sticky through heat activation after the print and cut stage–a key differentiator from competing backing paper-free Print & Apply systems. The sticky label is then applied.

This Novexx-exclusive technology cuts consumable costs by up to 60% and reduces operator workload due to fewer and easier roll changes. Reordering is also easier with fewer SKU’s: only one supply roll is needed for different label lengths. The LPA 81x is the ideal solution for content and shipping labels, cartons, trays and pallets.

If you’d like to discuss how Print & Apply systems can grow your business (and enjoy a drink or meal on us), join Century’s Vice President of Sales, Chris Herman, at Pack Expo September 28-30 in Las Vegas. Email him at cherman@CenturySystems.com. To learn more now, download technical specs for all these models and talk to a sales representative today.


Novexx splits from Avery: How it Affects You

As of June 1st, Novexx is independent from Avery-Dennison. Bought by the Possehl Group–a €3.2 billion global holding corporation with a steady track record “as a stable, long-term proprietor” that promotes operational independence–we can expect a smooth transition. Century Systems is now the primary US distributor of Novexx products, which now also include the 64-0X, AP 5.4, ALX and ALS series. Yes, there will be some changes. But, the bottom line: business as usual, only expanded.

You may not even notice a functional difference when buying Novexx from Century, practically just a different logo on formerly Avery products. We still sell, stock and service both Avery-Dennison and Novexx lines. The quality, technical specs, materials and even part numbers of all Novexx products remain the same. Warranties, past and future, are still valid and maintain the same terms–in fact, turnaround is faster and easier than ever. You can still order from your usual salesperson and contact our headquarters just the same.

A few things do change, however. Due to the split, Novexx products is no longer sourced from the Avery-Dennison branch in Miamisburg, Ohio just 30 minutes from our distribution center in Dayton. All  products are now sourced from their headquarters in Eching, Germany. But the good news is that we stock Novexx and have begun re-ordering daily or weekly during this transition in anticipation of longer lead times to save YOU time and always keep well stocked. Not only that, but our Dayton, Ohio distribution center is strategically located to ship to 34 states in 2 business days with FedEx ground–essentially international products with express shipping for economy domestic prices.

FedEx Ground transit time map from Century distribution centerfedex ground map legend

Century has traditionally focused on desktop-style barcode label printers, accessories and supplies, but with this transition we are becoming a complete Novexx distributor and have added Print & Apply products to our specialties. From the ALS 204/206/256 and ALS 306/309 series built for 24/7 high-volume, high-speed print & apply in the toughest environments, to the money-saving green solution LPA 81 with backing-paper-free labels, or, somewhere in-between, the versatile and user-friendly ALX 92X and ALX 72X series optimized for high or low volume production–our sales team can match you with the perfect system for nearly any application.

Bottom line: business as usual, only broader. Century is your complete Novexx and Avery-Dennison distributor.


5 Simple Ways to Improve Print Quality


Printing is as much an art as it is a science. Clear, crisp images help enhance the look of whatever it is we are printing, and is every bit as important as the accuracy of the information that we might present alongside it. In the world of thermal printing, we might be printing shipping labels using a chemically treated paper, or nutrition labels for food packaging, or plastic pot stakes for plants at a nursery, or very tiny labels that are affixed to electronic parts, or large drum labels for hazardous materials. Any of these tasks and many others we might think of require us to think about the kinds of surfaces on which we are printing and what sort of ribbons we may need to create the final product.

Once we have settled on the right materials, we have to do the actual label designing and printing, and it is here that we can do a few very simple things to optimize the quality of our work. Here are five ideas that may be helpful.

1. Take It Slow
Thermal printers are capable of running from 2 inches per second (ips) up to 16 ips, depending on the model. However, as a general rule print quality is much more precise at slower speeds. Small fonts and bar codes especially tend to be sharper and cleaner at 2 or 3 ips than at higher speeds. The fact is that the faster the printer runs, the faster the print head dot rows have to turn on and off. The residual heat from these dot rows can easily cause smudging of small fonts or leave trailing edges on larger images and bar codes. The result then can be sloppy looking texts and bar codes that may not scan correctly, or worse, may be wholly unreadable. While speedy printing might be desirable, a more relaxed pace is apt to produce a higher quality outcome.

2. Use Less Heat
One effect of increasing the print temperature is, not unexpectedly, an increase in the darkness of an image. But, as the darkness increases, so does the size of the object being printed. Fonts printed at a very high temperature look somewhat bulkier and more filled in or run together than those printed at a lower temperature. Similarly bar codes look heavier or even sometimes distorted a bit, even to the point that the bar width ratios are affected, thus reducing the readability of the code. The issue here is really a matter of relative heat, because different print applications will of necessity require different heat settings. The key is to choose the lowest temperature that produces a clear and accurate image.

3. Keep Pressure to a Minimum
Some of the printers that use a so-called ‘flat’ print head also have one or more devices on top of the head to control the amount of downward pressure exerted upon it. Typically increasing the pressure will affect the relative darkness of the printing, and may also affect the overall evenness of printing across the width of the head. Because these effects are similar in character to those for heat, it is best to choose the lowest pressure setting that permits clear, even printing across the head.

4. Let Your Software Run the Printer
Label design software programs are perfect for designing all sorts of formats, and include an array of features to control the look of texts, bar codes, and graphic images. Because elements such as speed and temperature may vary significantly among different label designs, it makes sense to let your software program control these factors, as well as others. By creating a label design and saving your customized settings with it, you will be able to call up those settings every time you want to print, and so not have to worry about whether you have the right settings on the printer. Instead, the printer will simply take the commands that come from your software and reproduce your label just as you designed it.

5. Experiment with Graphics Settings
Although the graphics tab of Windows thermal printer drivers can seem a little scary, there are options here that can be useful at times. The available settings, which have fancy names such as halftone, algebraic, or error diffusion, are simply alternate ways of changing the appearance of a graphic image. For example, you might find that when you import a jpg into your label format, it looks splotchy and uneven. To smooth it out, you might choose ‘error diffusion’ to give it a more photographic quality. You’ll find that some images work better than others, and some you may decide you should just get rid of, but the point is that you should not be afraid to experiment with these settings if you need them.


An Unparalled Problem

Cables 3

One day it just happens. Your computer crashes for the last time, never to be revived. You go out and buy the latest and greatest new one. You unpack it, get it set up, and finally get ready to connect your perfectly good printer. Then the horror strikes! You can’t do it! The printer has a parallel port and your computer doesn’t. Your computer has a bunch of USB ports, and your printer has not a single one.

Now what? Get rid of the printer and find a brand new one?

Thankfully this little problem is really just a little problem. The solution is to buy a USB/parallel converter cable. Based on our experience, these are pretty easy to use. You simply plug the USB/A side of the connector into your computer, and the parallel connector to your printer. The software will automatically install on your computer. If you forget the part about connecting it to your printer, the computer will let you know, so that you can get that done. Of course, it is also a good idea to turn the printer on if you actually want to print something.

Once everything is connected and ready to go, you’ll need to do one more thing. Because this type of connection is functionally a USB connection, you will need to be sure to identify the USB port to which the cable is connected. You can check this easily enough in your computer’s Device Manager under Universal Serial Bus Controllers/USB Printing Support. Once you have verified the port number, make sure that your print driver is set to the same port, and then you are all set to print.

So there is no need to throw out that old printer. Let it just keep on doing its job until . . . well, you know, one day it will just happen.


Thermal Printers and GHS Labels

GHSCompanies that manufacture and ship hazardous chemicals are by now well aware of the labeling standards commonly referred to by the acronym GHS. What exactly is GHS and how does it affect the print process, particularly in the thermal transfer environment?

The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) is a set of standards developed under the auspices of the United Nations for classifying and labeling chemical hazards with a view to providing a consistent labeling scheme for worldwide usage. As one might imagine, the transport of hazardous chemicals in international trade poses many risks. While individual nations had over the years developed their own standards for classifying and labeling such materials, they were, not unexpectedly, inconsistent with one another both in the identification of products and in the level of hazard associated with them, not to mention the specific layout of hazard labels. Because of the inherent dangers involved in the transport of such materials, it was realized that a standardization of the ways in which chemicals are identified and labeled would serve to enhance safety in the movement of materials from place to place, as well as in terms of storage and disposal.

So what sorts of standards were created? In simple terms, there are three important elements: 1) the use of pictograms or symbols to represent certain classes of chemical hazards, 2) signal words to define the degree of danger, and 3) a hazard warning statement.

Skull and CrossbonesOf these three things, the pictograms are of particular concern in the thermal transfer context because they necessitate the use of at least one color in addition to black. The nine most common of these symbols use a red diamond shaped-border, within which a black symbol is situated against a white background. Thus, since almost all thermal transfer printers utilize only a single color, usually black, how do we deal with the introduction of another color to the mix?

One approach is simply to utilize labels that are preprinted with the appropriate pictogram, and then use the thermal printer to provide all of the other elements of the label. It is possible to have labels preprinted with just the red border image, while the black portion of the symbol is supplied by the thermal printer. Such preprinted labels are already available, with differing numbers of red diamonds on them to account for variations in the type of chemical hazard.

The use of preprinted labels with thermal transfer printers is quite common already, and so the standards imposed under GHS may be considered another opportunity to employ the same sort of method. Of course, there is also a considerable variety of thermal transfer printers that could be employed depending on the size of the label to be printed, including wide industrial models such as the Avery-Dennison 64-08, Toshiba B-SX8, or Toshiba B-852, among others. In short there are plenty of situations in which thermal transfer printers can be utilized to handle GHS labels.



The Last Hurrah of a Great Technology?

CB-416 Color Label PrinterThis week I was checking out our technical department and I noticed the last of what I think is perhaps the most well built barcode printer of all time.  Seriously, since 1996 or so there has never been one I thought to be more mechanically sound.  The failure rate was not even high enough to be worth tracking, it was so low.  The printer is the Toshiba TEC CB-416 color thermal printer.  Over the years we sold hundreds of them to resellers who placed them in applications where variable data, on-demand, color labels were needed.  I take my hat off to Toshiba who built something truly spectacular, and as it turned out, probably a bit too soon for the market to really embrace it.

Some people might want to argue, perhaps, that ink jet technology overtook this wonderful bit of Toshiba engineering, but in my book, I thought those claims were just marketing sizzle.  You know, lots of fat and no real meat.  I always felt that the products introduced to compete with the Toshiba TEC machine were poor copies of a great design, at least until Swiftcolor came out with their quite capable ink jet machine.  Time will tell us if the Swiftcolor is the new carrier of the baton in the on-demand color label world.  It has some good things going for it.  Alas, though, I am still going to miss that last refurbished unit when it finds its new home.  I still think it is the best of all time.

Goodbye to a great product.  Hello to future potential of the Swiftcolor family.


Get Your Bar Code Printer Repaired – Lesson Learned

Depot Service from Century Systems

Depot Service from Century Systems

I remember moving into my first house.  It was wonderful.  Finally, a place I owned.  I knew that I was now responsible for everything in the house.  One day, my kids were playing with some neighborhood kids in my family room.  We usually left the sliding glass door open, but with the sliding screen door closed to keep the bugs out.  One of the children ran through it.  It was an accident.  The screen was now shreds.  Sometimes things break and we think, “I should get it repaired soon, but not today.”  I kept saying that for days, then weeks, then months.  My wife duct taped it back together, but it was not really a good fix.  I don’t know why I didn’t fix it, maybe I did not know how to repair it.  I just learned to live with it.  Then one of my friends told me about a hardware store down the street that repaired screens.  I put it in the car and drove to the hardware store.  The man at the counter said, “Sure, I can fix it.  Pick it up tomorrow.”  I came back the next day and picked it up.  The cost…$5.  Yes, only $5.  I put the screen back in its place and it worked great.

My wife and I talked about it, and in a joking tone I told her, “This was really stupid.  Why didn’t we get it fixed right away!  It was so easy!!  We lived with the the glass door shut for months and could have had the screen door working for $5.  Lesson learned.  Get things fixed right away.”

Equipment at work is the same.  Sometimes we have equipment that is working, but not as well as we like.  Or it may be broken.  It may be a bar code printer.  Don’t delay.  Get it looked at by an expert.  Century Systems offers free estimates.  Send it in to us and we can let you know what it takes to get it fixed.  You never know, it might only take $5.


Century Systems is a terrific place to work!

General Manager, Greg Herman says, “Many of our team are taking some time to be with our families and friends this summer. Century has always had a  generous vacation policy because we believe people are precious and time with our families is remarkably important. We cover for each other when some of us are recharging, so our customers still benefit fully from our expert and friendly staff!”