Printing Labels

Linda Ward Ward.Linda at NMNH.SI.EDU
Mon Jan 24 16:14:49 EST 2000

Printing archival labels has been an annoying problem in our department 
since they stopped producing daisy wheel printers.   We have 3 daisy 
wheel printers left in the department but we can no longer get print wheels 
for them and none of the wheel we have left are of a small enough print 
size to use for full specimen labels.  We use them only to generate catalog 
numbers to put with our specimens.  We need to produce about 8,000 
labels a year so we need something that is relatively fast as well as being of 
archival quality.  We have yet to find a solution that makes all of us happy.  

We have had bad experiences with laser and photo copied labels that 
came in collections from other organizations for deposition in our 
collection. Everything was ok until you tried to remove the label from the vial 
and found that the lettering has fused to the glass surface of the vial!  I 
suspect that the issue was the paper used rather than the laser ink but it 
has made us real leary of using this type of printer.  I should try printing a 
set of labels with my laser on Resistall paper and see what happens.  A 
laser would be the easiest and fastest way to do labels.  If I'm not mistaken 
the Australian Museum is using laser generated labels and we've never 
noticed a problem with their labels.  

Dot matrix printers work if you use a 24 pin printer with mylar ribbons or 
alcohol resistant ink on fabric ribbons.  There is some fading and the 
overall letter quality is not as sharp as with a laser or daisy wheel.  I have 
had a set of test labels generated on an Epson 24-pin printer with a mylar 
ribbon on Resistall paper going in a jar of 70% ethanol for 5 years now and 
they are as clear today as when they were printed and the lettering doesn't 
rub off.   Some in the department had used another dot-matrix printer using 
fabric ribbons to generate labels and they faded so much that they need to 
generate new labels.  If you can use the mylar ribbons (not common for 
dot-matrix printers) you will get a sharper label.  

Right now we are using a thermal printer (made by DataMax) to print on 
plastic stock.  I'm not real fond of the quality of the output and the printers 
and the ribbons and plastic stock are expensive but they do print out fairly 
quickly.  (  

I think Andy's solution of the Ink Jet printer with waterproof ink and resistall 
paper is a good solution for generating labels when speed or large volume 
are not an issue.  I'll check the adds in the back of some of the computer 
magazines to see if any of the companies are selling the waterproof ink.  
Resistall paper was a limiting factor for a while but University Products  
( is making it again.  The paper comes in 2 
weights and a variety of sizes.  

Good luck!


Ms. Linda A. Ward
Department of Invertebrate Zoology
Museum of Natural History
10th St. and Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20560-0163

fax: (202)357-3043

email: at

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