RogerBW's Blog

Dymo label printers 02 November 2022

I now have three Dymo label printers, each ideal for its task. But some care is needed in buying them.

I've had the LabelManager PNP since 2012, and I don't think it's available new any more, but it seems to go for about £10-£20 on eBay. The LabelManager range mostly consists of small labellers with built-in keyboard and display; this one is driven exclusively over USB.

It prints on plastic 12mm thermal tape ("D1" cassette), which is available in multiple colours, though I've only used black on white. Print is up to 64 pixels across (about 150-ish DPI), in strict monochrome (black and white, no grey shading). For Windows users I'm told there's Dymo closed-source software; with Linux, because of an error by Dymo the printer registers itself as a generic HID rather than as a printer, so you need specialised software to talk to it directly. I recommend my own software which can both assemble label images and dump them to the printer.

Labels I printed in 2012 are still legible now (though I assume that as with most thermal labels they'd do badly if exposed to direct sunlight for an extended time), and still stick to the things I stuck them to. They can be quite hard to get off glass, leaving fragments of the lower layer behind.

The other family of printers I've used is the LabelWriter. I've had a LabelWriter 450, which now goes second-hand for about £30-£60, since 2014, but not used it much until lately (printing name stickers for Tekelilicon last August), and I recently got a 4XL to go with it (second-hand prices about £100-£150). Each has a USB connection and a power brick, and prints onto a spool of thermal paper labels at 300×600dpi: the 450 up to 56mm wide, the 4XL up to 106mm, and the latter is enough for 4"×6" (or A6) standard postage labels. (The 4XL can handle smaller labels too, but it's rather heavier and wider than the 450; I probably wouldn't buy a 450 if I already had the 4XL, but I am not planning to get rid of the 450 now that I do have the 4XL.)

Judging by the number of spare parts being sold on eBay, and 3d-printable designs on thingiverse, the spool that holds the roll (which one lifts out of the printer's lid in order to change the roll) is vulnerable to breakage. I haven't had a problem so far.

These are driven on Windows by Dymo Connect for Desktop, and on Mac by Dymo Label Software (which I believe is also still available for Windows if you look around). Of course I don't have that option, but cups seems to handle them very nicely if you can find a printer description file (PPD) (and if you can't, give me a shout). Here's how I did that (all as root, on Debian 11.5 "bullseye"). This works as written for a 4XL; for a 450, change all "4xl" to "450".

apt install cups  cups-daemon cups-filters printer-driver-dymo usb-modeswitch cups-client
mv -nv PPD-FILE /usr/share/cups/model/
chmod 644 /usr/share/cups/model/PPD-FILE
lpinfo -v

This should list a bunch of standard options, as well as a usb://DYMO/LabelWriter pseudo-URL with a serial number. That's what you should use in the next line:

lpadmin -p lw4xl -v usb://DYMO/LabelWriter[WHATEVER] -P /usr/share/cups/model/PPD-FILE
lpstat -v

Should now show the Dymo printer.

lpoptions -p lw4xl -l

will list label sizes that the printer/driver knows about. Label sizes are given internally in point values (1/72 inch), so "w118h252" is about 42mm×89mm; if you look at the PPD file, lines starting *PageSize also give the Dymo label code (in this case 11356, "White Name Badge"), which tends also to be the code under which third-party labels are sold.

cupsaccept lw4xl
cupsenable lw4xl
lpstat -a

Should show the printer as "accepting requests". You then print a label, or several, with

lp -d lw4xl -o "PageSize=w118h252" FILE

(and since I'm printing one at a time I generally use -o fit-to-page).

The 450 and 4XL (and other models in this series, like the 450 Duo that's a combination of 450 with a LabelManager PNP, and the 450 Twin Turbo which is in effect a pair of 450s side by side so that you can either print twice as fast or load two different label spools) are gradually being replaced by the 5-series (550, 5XL, etc.). I recommend that you DO NOT BUY the 5-series. It is very probably true, as Dymo says, that:

With its unique Automatic Label Recognition, you always know which labels (by size, type, and color) are loaded into the label maker at a glance. You’ll also know how many are remaining, so you'll never run out mid-job.

However, this is achieved by chips in the label rolls, and the 5-series printers will not work at all with third-party labels. A roll of 220 branded Dymo 104mm×159mm postage labels costs, as I write, just under 10p per label; third-party ones are more like 2½p each. There's also the consideration of whether you want to encourage Dymo, and other printer makers, to sell printers that only work with their own branded paper.

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