history of tsc auto id

The Surprising History of TSC Auto ID Technology

When you look at TSC Auto ID Technology today and our wide range of barcode label printers, you may be surprised to learn that our history didn’t begin with printers at all.

In fact, what is now TSC started with a completely different product altogether: semiconductor rectifiers.

Want to learn more?

Here’s the brief, but surprising, history of TSC Auto ID Technology.


1970s-1980s: Semiconductor Rectifiers & the Beginning of Taiwan Semiconductor

The seventies were coming to an end.

In 1979, Margaret Thatcher was elected as the first female prime minister – ever – in the history of the United Kingdom. Sony introduced the Sony Walkman to the world, and the Voyager I spacecraft took a breathtaking photo of the planet Jupiter’s rings.

And in Tu-Chen City, Taipei, Taiwan, Arthur Wang founded Taiwan Semiconductor, which would grow to become one of the industry’s leading manufacturer of semiconductor rectifiers used in home electrical appliances, communication and information products, equipment instruments, automobiles, and national defense systems.


1991: Taiwan Semiconductor Forms Thermal Printer Division with Eltron

In the early 1990s, thermal barcode printers were not the affordable, widely-used printers they are today. “Back then, label printers were very, very expensive,” said Ken Chou, the engineering director at TSC Auto ID Technology America. “You couldn’t find printers that were under $1,000 just to print some simple labels.”

That was when Donald K. Skinner, the founder and chief executive of the California-based Eltron International Inc., teamed up with the Taiwan Semiconductor in a joint venture in response to the growing auto-ID market and the need for affordable thermal barcode printers.

Taiwan Semiconductor formed its Thermal Printer Division and began product development efforts in January 1991.


The Early 1990s: The First Affordable Eltron Printers

The Thermal Printer Division established printer lines in their Yilan plant in Taiwan while working in conjunction with Eltron to develop a groundbreaking new barcode label printer that would be affordable for everyone.

Both companies brought different strengths and assets to the table. Eltron’s had an engineering team and a sales team dedicated to the printer sales. Meanwhile, Taiwan Semiconductor had engineers on staff – and manufacturing facilities.

Chou is a key member of the TSC team today and was an integral member then. “I joined the Thermal Printer Division in the summer of 1991,” he explained. “At the time, the main development team was based in the Los Angeles area at Eltron, but all of the manufacturing would be done in Taiwan.”

“The engineering teams on both ends worked together,” Chou reported. “Then we had our big break.”

During this time, he authored the Eltron EPL2 printer language, the world’s most popular barcode printer language.

Over the next few years, Eltron and the Thermal Printer Division would develop and issue one innovative printer after another: the LP-2022/2042 Eltron printer in 1992, the LP-2122/2141 Eltron printer in 1993, and in 1994, the first Eltron thermal transfer printer: the TLP-2044/2046.


1995: TSC-Branded Direct Thermal Printer

In the mid-1990s, Eltron went public and was bought out by another printer manufacturer, and Taiwan Semiconductor sold its shares.

But given the success of its printers and the continuing need for affordable barcode printers, the Taiwanese-headquartered firm decided to keep the Thermal Printer Division going.

In 1995, they issued their first private labeled, TSC-brand direct thermal printers: the TDP-522/542.


1996-2007: Growth & Spin-Off of TSC Auto ID Technology Co.

After the TDP-522/542 was introduced to the market, the Thermal Printer Division continued to develop and launch more thermal printers with new features and capabilities.

In 2002, Chou rejoined the team and helped to spearhead TSC into the company that it is now. In 2006, for example, they released the TSPL-EZ firmware, which at the time was the most advanced firmware ever written by the company.

It broke new ground for the barcode industry by packaging multi-language emulations, scalable True-Type font rendering, advanced calibration, and a powerful stand-alone programming language into a single factory-installed printer language.

In tandem, this division experienced growth on a global scale. Printer production lines were established at the Tianjin (Taiwan) plant in 2003, and in 2005, they established a new factory at Li Ze, Yilan County, Taiwan, for expanded-capacity thermal printer production.

To keep pace with increased orders, TSC opened a high-volume manufacturing center in January 2006, which produces more than 200,000 printers annually.

Finally, 2007 was one of the most exciting years yet. Not only did Taiwan Semiconductor establish TSC Printer Europe GmbH in Munich, Germany, but on August 1, 2007, they announced the spin-off of TSC Auto ID Technology Co., Ltd., from the parent company.


2008-Present: Worldwide Expansion, New Developments & Acquisition of Printronix Thermal Auto ID

Now a new company dedicated to auto-ID technology, TSC’s growth was propelled worldwide shortly after the announcement of the spin-off.

In 2008, TSC established TSC Auto ID Technology America Inc. in Pomona, Calif., and Orlando, Fla. The same year, they established Tianjin TSC Auto ID Technology Co., Ltd. in Tianjin, China.

Then, in 2011, they established TSC Auto ID Technology EMEA Russia and TSC Auto ID Technology ME, Inc., as well as unveiled a new logo: “TSC – The Smarter Choice.”

In the Americas, TSC Auto ID embarked on a program of product diversification, production-line automation, and operations-wide computerization, reinforcing its position as a major player in the growing Auto-ID market.

In addition, more and more revolutionary printers, applications, tools, and features were introduced to the market and continue to be today.

Then, in November 2015, TSC signed an agreement to acquire the Printronix Thermal/AIDC Business, now known as Printronix Auto ID Technology.

On February 1, 2016, TSC’s Americas headquarters were moved to Brea, Calif. from Pomona in a new-designed office that currently houses both the TSC and Printronix Auto ID teams under one roof.

The same year, TSC celebrated 25 years of success in the Auto-ID industry which has only continued until now!



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