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Intermec Simplifies Printer Configuration Via RFID

The company's new thermal printer models are available with built-in chips enabling buyers to configure the devices through the box before they are powered on, using an RFID reader and Intermec software.
By Claire Swedberg
May 17, 2012Intermec recently announced plans to release two printer models that can be configured wirelessly using a handheld RFID reader. Both the PM43 printer and a more compact version, the PM43c, come with optional functionality, known as No-Touch Configuration, enabled by an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 EM4325 RFID chip from EM Microelectronic, embedded in the device. The configurable thermal printers are expected to be made commercially available in September 2012, though several companies are already testing the RFID technology, by configuring the devices to print specific types of labels, and to specify the Ethernet and interface settings. Both products are mid-range industrial printers, intended for applications within distribution centers and manufacturing environments to print bar codes, text or images. Intermec can also incorporate optional RFID interrogators into the printers, for customers looking to encode RFID labels.

Alex Babic, manager of Intermec's printer products
The two printers are designed to be "super-reliable, super-performance and super-ready," says Tom Roth, Intermec's senior director of printer product management, with the RFID configuration function providing the "super-ready" component.

By making the printers capable of quick configuration with an RFID reader, the firm hopes to reduce the number of labor hours its customers spend setting up large quantities of printers they have purchased. According to Intermec, No-Touch Configuration can be used to set up 20 printers in less than 5 percent of the time it would typically take using traditional methods. Often, a business may purchase hundreds or thousands of printers, configure them all at a central location and then ship them to various facilities, such as stores or offices located throughout the world.

Intermec's PM43 printers can be configured without being powered on, using an RFID reader and Intermec software

Configuration can include preset IP addresses to which the printer can be linked, as well as the language for the user interface—such as Mandarin for printers bound for a site in China. To undertake the configuration of every machine, says Alex Babic, Intermec's manager of printer products, companies typically deploy staff members to open each box, power up the printer, press necessary prompts in order to configure that device, and then turn off and repack the machine. Deploying 50 printers, he says, could require an entire day's worth of work.

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