emulation capabilities

Why Emulation is a Big Deal for Barcode Label Printers – And What We’ve Done About It

Want to know what emulation is, why it’s a big deal for barcode label printers, and why you need it to replace your barcode label printers with another brand?

See below to find out!

History of Emulation 

Historically, there have many different brands of barcode label printers that each had its own language, or firmware – essentially, the command structure to print out a label, usually in a particular font.

This print command language was – and is – used to provide the instructions that informs the printer what fonts and barcodes to place on a label and how to format the text, barcodes, and graphics to produce the layout the customer needs.

When barcode label printers were first sold in the late 1980s, they weren’t driven by Windows or personal computers at all.  Instead, they were hardcoded with their own specific firmware.

Overtime, printers were hooked up or connected to PCs that made used specific labels. This made things a little easier as people could design their labels on their computer, then print them.

There was only one problem – this didn’t really work.

Why?  Each printer still had its own specific language. Let’s say, for example, you replaced your printers from Company A with printers from Company B.  Then you told your new Company B printers to use Font 1 – the same font you’d used when you printed labels with your old Company A printers.  The labels would print, but Font 1 would still look different.

It wasn’t a seamless replacement. And as a result, many companies felt that they were trapped into just keeping one brand.

But of course, staying with the status quo was not an answer.  So a solution was devised: emulation.

What is Emulation?

In its most basic definition, emulation is when you reproduce the function or action of a different computer or software system.  In the barcode label printing world, emulation is applied when you create printers that can emulate another printer’s firmware.

That way, if you’re printing Font 1 on your new Company C printers – and these Company C printers can emulate the Company A printers’ firmware – the font will look exactly the same this time.

Why We Need Emulation for Printers

Emulation has become especially important with the way the industrial printer market is going.  According to one market study, 79% of the total annual sales of industrial style barcode label printers are replacement sales. This means that almost 4 out of 5 printers in this industry are replacing existing printers.

TSC’s Emulation Capabilities

When TSC was first launched in the 1990s, we knew we needed to address – and then use – emulation.  So we focused our efforts on making sure our printers could emulate other printers’ firmware.

Years ago, we decided to contract with Monotype Imaging Holdings, one of the world’s best-known providers of fonts, and get licenses for their fonts, as well as their codes to scale fonts.  That way, we were provided with perfect matches for each of the command languages we support.  For over 10 years, we’ve developed our emulations, and through our partnership with Monotype, we can deliver the exact same type of fonts as other printers use.

We knew that customers wanted to replace their printers as quickly and easily as possible.  By using our automatically-programmed TSPL firmware, you can unplug a Company A printer, plug in a TSC printer, and then print out the same label, using the exact font you want, with no switches or settings involved. This process is easy to do and can take as little as 1 minute!

Our New Firmware: TSPL-EZD

We’re currently developing a new firmware called TSPL-EZD, which we’re excited to roll out soon.  It will be more robust than our current TSPL firmware, with the ability to emulate more printers than ever.

Stay tuned! More information will be coming soon. 


Have you ever run into an issue when you needed printers that could easily emulate another brand? Let us know!




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