The power of a printer is often underestimated, and it can be easy to take the printer’s role in business success for granted, given the digitalization of many data-based processes. It may even seem ironic that there’s even a market for printers in an age when everyone is looking for ways to abandon hard copy versions of, well, everything. However, many organizations still have to put ink on paper (or cardboard, plastic, cards and other media) – especially those in healthcare, manufacturing, retail, finance, education and hospitality.
Bank cards, event access passes, attraction season passes and hospitality room keys are often customized for customers in real-time and therefore rely on technologies that can facilitate a fast desktop printing process. Even food safety labels and security badges such as employee access cards, student IDs, membership cards, and visitor passes are still printed onto various PVC materials on the spot. But, unlike generic retail loyalty program cards that may be batch-printed in a more industrial setting, distributed in mass and later assigned an owner via online registrations, these types of highly-individualized cards – which often feature photos or other personal identifiers – are often produced in more intimate settings one or two at a time, in real time. That makes device ergonomics and printing speed two of the most important qualities when evaluating desktop card printer options.
So, when I sat down with the rest of the Zebra engineering team in 2015 to discuss ways in which we could evolve and expand the Zebra Identity Solutions Portfolio within our printing business to make it more relevant in the digital era, we determined that device ergonomics and printing speed were two of our top design and functionality priorities. Operational simplicity was the third.
As we started sketching out the blueprints for the first-generation of what you now know to be our ZC-series printers, we wanted to ensure that:
1. These printers could be installed in space-constrained environments such as under a counter or shelf.
2. Anybody could learn how to use these Zebra printers with complete confidence within a matter of minutes. A lot of seasonal workforce turnover occurs in the gyms, restaurants, hotels, schools, theme parks, event facilities and other environments where these printers would be used most often.
3. These printers could help expedite our customers’ transactions with their customers. These card printers are, in a way, the gateway to learning, fun and business for the recipients of the printed cards, so the faster we can help our customers get them in (or out) of the door, the better. Plus, slow printing can test anyone’s patience in any setting – even more so when lines are long, which is a common scenario during student registration periods, at a theme park in the summer or at the gym the first week in January when everyone is jump-starting their resolutions with new memberships. So, we wanted to shave time off the printing process for our customers so they can process their customer transactions without unnecessary delay.
Fortunately, we succeeded in our effort! So much so, in fact, that the ZC100 and ZC300 printers just received a Red Dot distinction and a prestigious iF DESIGN AWARD in the discipline of product design. Specifically, these card printers have been recognized for:
1. Unique industrial design. Both printers were designed with an emphasis on ergonomics. We know that desktop space is limited for many of our customers, so we focused on slimming the printer as much as possible – especially in the front. The front of the printer is now the primary interaction area for cards, and the side panels are surfaced to hug the front to make it appear even slimmer, emphasizing card loading and removal.