Selecting a kiosk printer for your specific application can be a daunting task. There are many details to consider; put another way, there are many issues that can easily be overlooked. My goal here is to give you a kind of comprehensive checklist to minimize the chance that you overlook something important. In the first part of this ongoing series, we'll review a checklist of items to consider and explore them in more detail in subsequent blogs.
In some ways, selecting a printer is like selecting a vehicle. You start with the broadest decisions first; do you need an SUV, sports car, sedan, pickup truck, or a mini-van? Then, (let's assume you need an SUV), you go on to major decisions within those categories, such as number of seats, hauling space, engine horsepower, transmission type, four-wheel drive, towing capacity, etc. Finally, you make the least critical decisions, like choosing trim packages and paint color. (Although, my daughter would probably disagree with calling paint color a "less critical" decision!)
The list of kiosk printer selection decisions below is roughly in descending order of importance.
- Technology: Thermal, laser, ink jet, impact dot matrix, others.
- Paper width: Narrow receipt, a little wider for more information, or full page width?
- Paper weight or Thickness: Important to consider up front, as many printers, especially wider models, can't handle very thick stock.
- Media Type: We assumed paper above, but what is being printed could also be tickets, labels, linerless-labels or other materials.
- Paper configuration: Roll paper or fan-fold?
- Paper supply size: Roll diameter or size of fan-fold stack?
- Presenter: Many kiosk applications use a presenter to prevent vandalism, protect private information, or to keep untaken documents off the floor.
- Cutter: Almost always used in kiosk printers, but type varies depending upon paper.
- Interface type: How will the printer connect to your host? USB, RS-232, Bluetooth, IEEE1284... Resolution: 203 dpi and 300 dpi are the most common for most applications
- Print Speed: How fast do you need to print? (No, faster is NOT always better. In thermal printing, the most common type used for kiosks, printing faster increases current draw, which can increase power supply costs.)
- Environmental conditions: What are the temperature and humidity ranges to which the printer will be exposed?
- Space availability: How much room is available inside the kiosk for the printer and paper supply?
- Operating voltage: The voltage available to run the printer. If only 115 VAC is available, should the power supply be supplied with the printer?
- Available current: What is the maximum current available for the printer?
- Driver: Will your application print via a printer driver? If so, what is your operating system, and can the printer manufacturer supply an appropriate driver for it?
- Compliance/approvals: UL, CSA, RoHS, etc.; does the application require approvals or compliance?
- Black or hole mark: Used to position pre-printed tickets so printing can be placed in a specific location.
- Dual-feed: This option allows two paper rolls to feed into one printer and will usually either change between the rolls under software control or automatically switch to the second roll when the first is exhausted.
- Printer orientation: Which way should the printout exit the kiosk; upward, downward, horizontally or at an angle?
- Special features: Are there any special requirements, such as pull-to-present, scan barcode after printing, print both sides of paper, etc?
- Typical ticket: While not a requirement, you should know the average number of printouts per day and the average printout length. This allows the calculation of printer life data that is otherwise a guess.
Next time, we'll begin exploring these decisions in more detail.
Levinski has worked in the printer industry for over 30 years, with focus on the integration of printers into customers kiosks/equipment. Currently a global marketing engineer for HECON/Hengstler, he applies this knowledge worldwide.