Here’s how to get high quality output with thermal printers and FileMaker Pro

Thermal printers like the Zebra GX420d have a command language called Zebra Programming Language (ZPL) which should always be used to provide the highest quality output. While you can print other data to these devices, the quality is severly degraded because it’s essentially printing an image which gets converted to a black and white 200 dpi image. For example, if you were printing a barcode you may incur scanability issues, but it also looks unprofessional due to pixelation. While it’s not hard to create ZPL code, the free FileMaker FM ZPL Helper tool can be used to create templates for thermal labels with ease using a subset of the print language. Once you have the ZPL code, it can be sent to networked Zebra printers very easily. NRG Software provides helper applications for printing to USB connected printers without the need for third party drivers.

Product Labels

We created a UPC label on 2.5×1.25″ label stock as this would be a common type of label to print from FileMaker. The label on the left was printed with ZPL while the label on the right was printed from a FileMaker layout containing text and a container with a barcode image using the macOS driver. The barcode and small text on the right is highly pixelated and is not of the quality you’d want to place on product. One other issue is Page Setup. We’ve found that you need to create the actual label layout smaller than the actual label which leads to wasted space. If you make the layout the actual size with zero margins and keep Page Setup to match the label size you will get blank labels in-between as shown below.

Here is the ZPL code for our SKU label:

^XA^FO0,30^AS,50,^FB800,1,,C,^FDProduct Name^FS
^FO530,90^AS,50,^FB100,4,,C,^FDColor Info $Price^FS

Once we have the ZPL code, we can do a simple HTTP POST using Insert From URL to output to the Zebra printer as shown in the script below. This simple script can be utilized for printing from FileMaker Pro, FileMaker Go, FileMaker Server or even Web Direct so as long as they are on the same network.

Note that the HTTP POST method above only works with newer networked Zebra printers. Older Zebra printers, Zebra-compatible (ZPL) or those with USB connections require more complex scripting. Printers like the Rollo are compatible with Zebra label rolls but cannot print ZPL code.

Shipping Labels

In this example, the label on the left was created by NRGship UPS for FileMaker using ZPL while the image on the right is a GIF image printed directly to the device thru the OS driver. All of the barcodes are pixelated, which can lead to re-labeling by shipping carriers. Another benefit of Zebra printers for shipping labels is free label stock – both UPS and FedEx provide free labels, whereas proprietary label stock for Dymo printers can be costly.

If you need help printing labels to thermal printers from FileMaker Pro, please contact our Sales Department for further information. We can provide great insight into desktop and portable Zebra printers, label design, and more.

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