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Zebra Releases Small, Low-Cost RFID Printer-Encoder

The desktop ZD500R allows companies to print and encode EPC Gen 2 UHF labels in lower quantities than with industrial printers, thereby saving cost and space.
By Claire Swedberg

The printer also comes with Link-OS, enabling a connection to a cloud-based server via a Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or wired connection. In this way, the company explains, a user could set up a system by which data about each label printing and encoding event is stored on a server, and is thus accessible to company management. This allows the user to bypass the need to integrate software that would manage read data on its own database. Link-OS includes Zebra's Profile Manager software for managing the population of Zebra printers and printer-encoders, in the event that a company has multiple devices throughout a facility or on multiple sites. Thus, users can view the status of all printers, the number of RFID labels printed and encoded, and each label's unique ID.

The ZD500R is Zebra's first printer-encoder to include Link-OS capability. "We think Link-OS is a game changer," Fein says. With it, he adds, Zebra devices "are not just printers anymore—they are sophisticated network devices."

Zebra Technologies' Michael Fein
The printer also comes with built-in chip-based serialization functionality, for those who wish to use it. This functionality enables users to create unique numbers to be encoded to the tag that employ a formula for uniquely encoding labels with a 38-bit serial number, based on the 35-bit tag identifier (TID) ID number, as well as a three-bit code identifying the chip manufacturer that is already burned onto the chip (see Three RFID Chip Makers Agree on Serialization Approach).

Chip-based serialization can simplify the process of encoding tags, the firm reports, by enabling users to eliminate the need to connect to a server to access software that allocates unique ID numbers.

The desktop printer-encoder can accommodate any standard EPC UHF inlay, Fein says, as long as the label measures between 0.75 inch and 4.25 inches (19 millimeters and 108 millimeters) in width and has a minimum pitch of 0.6 inch (16 millimeters).

To date, the printer-encoder is being used or trialed by numerous retailers and health-care providers, as well as by a variety of other specialty companies, in North America and Europe. For example, a rental car company is using the ZD500R to print and encode RFID labels to monitor vehicles as they enter and leave its facilities, while a government agency is employing the device to create RFID labels for tracking evidence throughout its office and storage areas.

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