These Two New Print Engines Will Really Rev Up Your Print-and-Apply Processes

Your existing labeling solution could start working at record speeds 24/7/365 once you drop in a Zebra ZE511 or ZE521.

The Zebra ZE511 print engine
by Chuck Wilson
January 06, 2022

It’s been 10 years since the Zebra ZE500 Print Engines first hit the market, and 25 years since the first PAX print engine was released. They’ve powered tens of thousands of print-and-apply solutions in factories, warehouses and distribution centers (DC) ever since. That’s an impressive track record when you think about how often we upgrade our personal home devices. Then again, industrial printers have always been known for being a “constant” in our lives amidst the churn of other devices. Especially Zebra industrial printing solutions.

Did you know Zebra printers can last over a decade and continue to deliver high quality labels day in and day out?

Though regular maintenance like simple cleaning and wear part replacement is a major contributing factor to the reliability of labeling solutions, not enough credit is given to the resilience and performance of the print engine. Think about anything with a motor – a car, portable fan, or even your refrigerator. If the motor goes out, everything shuts down. But as long as the motor is operable, any other part can be replaced and the whole thing can be restored to “like new” condition. A print-and-apply solution is no exception. As long as the print engine runs, print-and-apply components can be changed as needed.

That’s why we have been diligently monitoring the performance of the Zebra ZE500 Print Engines the past decade to ensure they were still running as if they were in their prime. We have also been tracking the ways in which you use your labeling solutions – or need to be able to use them. When we realized print-and-apply solutions were increasingly being used 24/7/365, and the volume and speed of print jobs was increasing overall, we decided it was time to deliver a new print engine.

The Zebra ZE511 or ZE521 print engines will give your existing systems new life – whether you use Zebra industrial printers or another brand.

The Low Down on these Label-Printing Powerhouses

Despite being in the same product family as the original Zebra ZE500, the ZE511 and ZE521 are not your father’s (or current) print engines. They are new versions of the print engines currently used in business-critical applications on thousands of packaging lines around the world, and they raise the bar on “premium performance.”

For starters, they have best-in-class print speeds. When you’re racing to get labels on your products, milliseconds matter. And these Zebra print engines can print up to 18 inches per second. Or, when you need it, they can offer up to 600 dpi resolution.

Something else that’s spectacular about the ZE511 and ZE521 is that they’re engineered with a rugged, all-metal construction and do not need cooling fans. Their external cabinets are fully enclosed with no perforations and resistant to debris and water ingress, as well.

The best part, at least in my opinion, is that the ZE511 and ZE521 are extremely easy to maintain and repair. This equates to uptime, uptime, uptime.

I know I just said these print engines are resilient, and they are absolutely built to last for years. But you still must take preventative measures to slow down wear and tear. And as they age, a little TLC goes a long way in keeping the engines running at their tip top performance level.

  • It only takes 60 seconds to clean key printer components when you change out supplies, and all you need is 90% or higher isopropyl alcohol. And your on-site facilities personnel can easily replace key components.
  • Printheads require no tools and can be changed in less than 60 seconds. (I’ve personally timed myself before and my best is 45 seconds.)
  • Rollers can be changed using a single tool in just a minute. (I’ve never timed myself on that one, but others have and this a very real number. I challenge you to see for yourself.)
  • And you just have to loosen three captured fasteners to remove the extended-life modular drive system or change belts. Other key modules like the ribbon system, circuit boards and power supply are also easily removed for repair and replacement.

Priming Your Operations for a New Print Engine

You might be reading this because your print engine is reaching end of life or is long in the tooth. Or perhaps you’re planning to deploy a new print-and-apply solution. Either way, there are a few things to consider before choosing the print engine:

1. Is the print engine compatible with your existing print-and-apply labeler? It will almost certainly fit into your print-and-apply system chassis. The ZE511 and ZE521 have the same industry standard mounting points as the ZE500 and other print engines. And they both support Zebra Programming Language (ZPL) and emulate other printer languages, so that isn’t a problem either.

2. Is it simple to integrate, operate and manage? With the new ZE511 and ZE521, the answer is a resounding “yes” to all three. The integrated Print DNA software suite gives you industry-leading printer setup capabilities along with several management and monitoring tools. It also enables you to secure the device on your network with PrintSecure and use Network Connect to connect to Rockwell® PLCs for EtherNet/IP protocol.

The 4.3-inch full-color resistive touch display with an intuitive, menu-driven interface also makes it easy for line operators to change settings and identify print problems. Key people on your team will be able to access printer settings, wizards and support quickly, even if they’re wearing gloves. It has a similar menu structure as other Zebra printers. So, unless this is your first time deploying a Zebra print engine or printer, you and your team will feel like old pros using this new print engine. Alternatively, you and your team could remotely monitor and manage all the printers from a central location using the Printer Profile Manager Enterprise (PPME) application.

Equally convenient is the side loading supplies path that makes it easy to insert media and ribbons. There’s even a front-panel ribbon selection that allows for coated side in or coated side out ribbons.

3. Is it capable of supporting new labeling applications? Yes. In fact, you can store label designs in the printer and use the color touchscreen or USB-connected devices like a keyboard, scanner or weigh scale to input variable data. You can even use the Zebra Print Station app for your Android™ device. And, with the ZE511 and ZE521, you’ll be able to add RFID, upgrade print density in the field, and add communication options such as Wi-Fi to support new or expanding applications.

4.  Will it hold up in demanding environments? Absolutely. All Zebra products are put through extensive testing in varying environments to ensure high quality. These printers are designed for rugged 24/7/365 operation.

Remember, the print mechanism (or print engine) is the heart of any printing system. Take care to choose one that will last you a long time and keep your packaging lines moving fast so your orders can get out the door and to the finish line (i.e., customers) in record time…or at least on time.

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Editor’s Note:

You can learn more about the new Zebra ZE511 and ZE521 Print Engines here. If you have more questions, reach out to your local Zebra representative or contact a Zebra print specialist here

Though, you might find this video from Chuck answers many of your questions, too:

You may also want to check out then bookmark this YouTube playlist, which features a more in-depth look of print engines (including comparisons between models).

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Chuck Wilson
Chuck Wilson is currently the Business Development Manager – Print Engines for Zebra Technologies where he is responsible for support of the ZE500/511/521 print engines and the print engine specialists within North America. Chuck has more than 30 years of experience within the AIDC industry and has been successful in helping integrate systems and support both partners and end-users.