Not all ribbons are the same and Nigel Wilson, General Manager of Reflex Labels Systems division, explains why using only Toshiba TEC products in its labelling and barcode printers is the only way to guarantee performance, reliability and the best possible quality.

Nigel-Wilson-2[12]Warren Buffett, the great American entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist, once declared, ‘Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.’ When he uttered these wise words it would be fair to assume that he didn’t have thermal transfer printer ribbons in mind, yet when it comes to purchasing these items, they are perfectly apt.

When manufacturers make claims about the superiority of their own consumables, compared to cheaper compatible products, it’s often met with cries of ‘they would say that, wouldn’t they?’ However, as an experienced user of ribbons from a variety of sources, as well as a Toshiba TEC value added reseller (VAR), I firmly believe that the company’s own brand ribbons offer unrivalled performance, consistency, quality and value.

The ribbon sector has changed considerably over the last 15 years or so. Before then they were primarily produced in Europe and, with a few exceptions, the quality was good. Then, imports from China and the Far East started to appear and while the price was attractive, the quality left a lot to be desired. In recent times, although the general standard of compatible products has improved slightly, if you’re thinking about using them in Toshiba TEC’s labelling and barcode printers, take my advice and think again.

One of the most common reasons why people fall into the trap of buying compatible ribbons is the initial cost. We all like to find a bargain but, quite simply, compatible ribbons are a false economy. Compared to the genuine article, they tend to be only around 10 per cent cheaper and with the average product costing £6, this equates to a saving of just 60p, a figure which pales into insignificant when the additional advantages of a Toshiba TEC product are factored in.

Toshiba TEC’s ribbons are made with a high quality back coating, something that is often missing from compatible products. This coating is there for a very good reason, to prevent a build up of static charge. In a thermal transfer printer, a static build-up can create an electrical spike, which could easily blow the pins on the print head, necessitating a replacement. With print heads costing anywhere between £100-£1500 to replace, depending on model and size, this is not something you want to do more than necessary.

It’s worth pointing out here that Toshiba TEC is so confident about the quality of its ribbons and print heads that, while its competitors have component warranties of just 25km, the Toshiba TEC B-SX series of industrial label printers has a warranty of 100km. Over the course of a 10-year lifespan of the printer (if the print head had to be changed every 25km), this could add up to having to spend up to £16,000 compared to a Toshiba TEC printer of £5,600. In fact, Toshiba TEC’s print heads often last a lot longer and we recently changed one that had operated perfectly for an exceptional 901km.

As well as looking after over 1,000 printers in the UK as part of managed service contracts, Reflex Systems also runs its own bureau and carries out printing services on behalf of many organisations. 95 per cent of our customers are based in the food industry – a sector that has no tolerance for poor quality printed barcodes.

If a barcode is unreadable then a retailer can fine the supplier for non compliant barcodes. It’s a risk that’s simply not worth taking and a Toshiba TEC ribbon will offer a level of reliability, reliance and lower total cost of ownership (TCO) that a compatible product can’t. It makes sense for us too, as any downtime we experience could lead to us contravening our service level agreements (SLAs).

Many other industries also benefit from Toshiba TEC’s high standards of innovation. For example, the company’s new range of near edge resin ribbons are specifically designed for marine use and meet the stringent requirements of BS 5609, which sets out various durability criteria including adhesive performance, print permanence and abrasion resistance, stipulating minimum standards.

Using the right ribbon for the application is vital and yet there is often a lack of knowledge about this issue. It’s why technical support is vital and Toshiba TEC has experts who can always recommend the right solution for an application.

It might come as a surprise to learn that reliability of supply is an important consideration too. A core component of a printer ribbon is polyester. Four years ago there was a worldwide shortage, due to manufacturers of solar photovoltaic (PV) panels using all the available polyethylene terephthalate (PET) to produce their goods. Yet despite this, Toshiba TEC ensured supply throughout this period and it’s full range of sizes, grades and colours was available.

Don’t be fooled by low initial cost. Compatible ribbons might look like a good deal initially but when it comes to performance, consistency, TCO and the ability to protect an investment, they will prove to be sadly lacking. On the other hand, if you buy Toshiba TEC ribbons and other consumables, you can feel confident that they have been designed to meet the highest standards using the best quality materials.

Becky Viccars

Tel: 0843 2244 944


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