ZD500 and ZD500R Initial Printer Setup Details and Information

Article ID: 10923274



ZD500 Series Printer Setup Overview

ZD500 and ZD500R

The Zebra Printer can be used in a wide variety of applications and must be properly configured to function with your media (Labels, Tags, RFID, etc.) and ribbon (if used). In addition you will be required to set the label size, print darkness and print speed to optimize printing. The printer is typically configured from your host device using a driver, utility/software, or sending the printer's command language (ZPL Only).  Although majority of printer settings can be set on the front panel of the ZD500 Series Printers, the parameters set on the front panel can be overwritten by mismatched driver or application settings (i.e. if you set the darkness on the front panel of the printer to 10 but it is set to 20 in your driver or application, typically the software will override the printer and change the darkness setting to 20).

The ZD500 and ZD500R are different from older Zebra Desktop Model Printers in that they do not utilize the feed button flash sequences to modify settings due to them running the new Link-OS firmware.  Rather, they have a front panel LCD that allows for modifying settings on the printer. For information on navigating the front panel menus Read More>> See Video>>

View the Control Panel (front panel) Map for information on the available parameters through the front panel of the printer (RFID parameters will only be usable on the ZD500R)  Read More>>

Settings on Front Panel  Read More>>

See a Getting Started Video to view a typical printer installation example See Video>>

Driver Considerations

Important: If you are using a USB connection to the printer, please install the driver before connecting the USB cable to the printer to ensure Windows properly detects and installs the printer.

Do you need the ZebraDesigner Driver? 

The ZebraDesigner Driver is used when a Windows Application requires a driver to print to the printer. (The driver converts the Windows Application output to the printer's language.) If you are using a label design software from a non-Zebra vendor check with that vendor to see if they provide their own driver before installing and using the Zebra Designer Driver.  In addition, if you are using an application that directly outputs the printer's command language (ZPL) then do not use a Zebra Printer Driver as when direct ZPL code is sent through the ZDesigner driver it acts as a pass-through tool and simply prints the code sent on the label. For these applications either send the label files directly to the printer or use a Generic Text Driver. 


Important: All printer settings can be impacted by commands from a mismatched or misconfigured driver or software application. A printer that is functioning fine after setup but fails or indicates an error after label requests are received are most likely affected by the host side misconfiguration of the driver or printer software settings. The host device that generates the printer commands for printing typically has printing specifications that are sent as commands to the printer. Make sure all settings match the printer settings to avoid intermittent issues.

Media Related Settings and Calibration 

A note regarding printer setup and configuration 

The ZD500 Series printer can be configured by your driver, host application, or a utility. In these examples we will use the Zebra Designer Driver to configure the printer. (The configurations are sent when printing using the driver or printing the driver test page) If you are using a non-Zebra application/driver/label software you will need to determine the methods used to set these configurations in that application and be aware that the terminology for each setting in your environment may be different. 

1. Understanding your media

The Zebra Printer supports the use of many types and shapes of label/tags and knowing your media detail is important for proper configuration.  Label type details Read More>>

The ZD500R model printer also allows for RFID tag printing and encoding so long as the RFID tag meets the specifications of the printer.  Read More>>

Here are the details you should know for printer media setup and configuration. The ZebraDesigner Driver is used to generate the configuration commands in the examples below (the configurations are sent when printing to the printer using the driver or using the print test page button when setting up the driver for your printer).

Media Related Configurations

>Media Type (Tracking Mode) - Selections - Continuous, Web Sensing (gap), and Mark Sensing (Black Mark). Default is Web Sensing.

ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Advanced Setup - Tracking Mode) Read More>>

If you are using media with an inter-label gap or a center hole set the Tracking Mode for Web Sensing.
If you are using media with a black bar or mark set the Tracking Mode for Mark Sensing. 
If you are using media that has no break similar to receipt paper set the Tracking Mode for Continuous.

The printer by default will have the sensor centered under the media and being used as a gap/notch sensor while located within the alignment key.  The sensor is adjustable and can be moved off center to change the sensor type being used to black mark sensing and allow for you to position the sensor wherever the black mark separator may be located on your label/tag.  Read More>>

Helpful Info - Media identification details Read More>>

>Print Method (Media Type) - Selections - Thermal Transfer (Using Ribbon) or Direct Thermal (No Ribbon)  Default is Thermal Transfer.

ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Advanced Setup - Media Type)   Read More>>

>Print Mode - Selections-  Tear off, Peel Off, Rewind (although no rewind spindle installed), Cutter, and Peel or Dispense Mode  – Default is Tear off  Read More>>

This is related to the label presentation after printing and limited to the options you have installed. The ZD500 Series supports all print modes listed above, but must be configured with the proper hardware and media.  Again, your drivers and software/application must also match these settings to ensure no errors are encountered when printing.

ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Advanced Setup - Operation Mode)   Read More>>

>Media Loading - The media must be properly loaded for the Print Mode you intend to use.


2Understanding the Media Sensors

The printer comes with sensors for label tracking based on the Media Type used. There is both a reflective and transmissive built into the printer and both are located within the same assembly (reflective is used for media with a black mark separator and transmissive is used for media with a gap or hole/notch as the separator).  Either positioning of this module or drivers/utilities/software can be used to set the sensor properly for the media installed. The sensor you will use requires configuration of the Tracking Mode (Mark/Web/Continuous) setting to be properly set in order to function with the media you are using. A gap/hole or black mark must pass over the media sensor's position for the printer to properly detect and calibrate to the installed media.

See the ZD500 Sensors Read More>>


3. Media Feed Power up action

There are parameters that the printer uses for the action it takes when the printer is powered up and when the printer's head is opened and closed (for when media is replaced/adjusted).  You have several options of what these can be set to.  If using the ZD500R with RFID media, it is recommended to leave these parameters at "Feed" or "No Motion" to ensure that calibration is not lost and the programming position set for the tag is not altered which could cause voids.

These settings can be altered using the Media Feed setting to one of the following:

  • Calibrate 
  • Feed
  • Length
  • No Motion
  • Short Cal

If you wish to alter the default setting you can create a file using the ^MF command to change the values. 

Setting the Media Feed (Power Up Action) on the printer requires sending the ^MF command to alter the Power Up Head Open value. Sending a file using the ZebraDesigner Tools feature. Read More>>

^MF (Media Feed command) Read More>>

Example of a ZPL Media Feed Command to Measure the Label Length when the head is closed.

^XA^MFN,L^XZ (Power Up = no motion, Head Close = Measure the length)
^XA^JUS^XZ (Saves the value)

For recommendations on these selections Read More>>


4. Calibrate the printer for the media.

The printer does not measure the label length unless the default Power Up or Head Close values are altered to either Length or Calibrate. There are two calibration methods to consider if the labels fail to calibrate properly.  If you are using the ZD500R model printer, you will not want to set the Power Up or Head Close parameters to anything other than "Feed" or "No Motion" to ensure that RFID calibration is not altered.  However, initially calibrating the media is required and is the most important step in ensuring that you receive proper print output.

Performing the Manual Calibration Procedure Read More>>  See Video>>

If you are using the ZD500 printer and not the RFID edition, the steps above should suffice for calibrating the media.  If you are using the ZD500R and plan on encoding RFID tags you will want to immediately run the RFID Calibration after the Manual Media Calibration  Read More>>

If the printer is properly calibrated, it should feed one label properly each time the feed button is pressed.


5. RFID Specific Information (ZD500R only).

The number one most important step in setting the printer up to properly encode RFID tags is to ensure that the printer is calibrated to the installed RFID tag's length properly.  This is vital as the program position of where the printer will encode the tag works with the label length in order to determine where the inlay is within the tag.  The ZD500R does not require specific inlay placements, RFID power settings, or RFID program position settings.  Its advanced RFID calibration capability automatically configures the optimal RFID settings.  The calibration algorithm supports all inlay types and label sizes, from small on-pitch inlays to large shipping labels.

Best Practices to Consider When Selecting RFID Media for ZD500R:
  • Inlays should be centered across the media width.  The tolerance depends on the inlay type, but is typically not less than +/- 3mm.  Some inlays will work reliably outside this tolerance.
  • Short labels with a pitch of less than 1" (parameter 'y' in the Tag Guidelines link below) may require the printer to backfeed a short distance prior to encoding.  If necessary, the RFID calibration algorithm will automatically select the backfeed distance.
  • For labels longer than 1", backfeed can be avoided by placing inlays 5mm-10mm from the leading edge of the label (parameter 'x' in the Tag Guidelines link below).
  • The RFID encoder is located in the center of the media path, directly behind the platen roller.  The approximate location of the encode zone is shown below.
  • Always test RFID media before purchasing a large quantity.

RFID Tag Guidelines  Read More>>

RFID Menu  Read More>>

RFID Setup Procedure  Read More>>



Ribbon Setup

This is referred to as Thermal Transfer printing where an inked ribbon is used to produce the image on the label.

Ribbon Basics This explains the ribbon types and typical darkness and speed selections Read More>>

Ribbon Loading  Read More>>

Ribbon Configuration - Select Thermal Transfer if you are using Ribbon, Direct Thermal if you are not using Ribbon. Make sure to set this in the ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Advanced Setup - Media Type) or your printing application  Read More>>


Print Quality

Print quality is a product of proper printer setup and use of compatible media for the application.  The three impacting factors to consider are:

1. The Media and Ribbon (if used) capabilities. 

Not all media is the same when it comes to being compatible with your application or needs. Printing speed , durability of the image/media, environment are just a few factors to consider when determining the printer setup for the application. Trying to compensate for poor media compatibility by using high darkness settings can impact your printer’s printhead life.  It is possible to receive poor quality print due to a mismatch of ribbon and media (certain ribbon matches certain media better than other media), but adjusting settings and checking all other variables is recommended before that conclusion is reached.

2. Print Speed 

The printer is capable of printing at multiple print speeds. The speed selection takes the media/ribbon (if used) compatibilities into consideration and works in tandem with your darkness setting (lower print speeds typically require lower darkness settings and vice versa). If your application requires the highest print speeds available be sure your media supplier has recommended the correct media for your application. 

ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Options - Print Speed) Read More>>

3. Print Darkness

Print Darkness (also may be referred to as Density or Burn Temperature) is a user adjustable setting. Avoid over heating the ribbon as it can melt if set too high. Vary the darkness to produce the best print quality. Setting the darkness using the ZebraDesigner Driver (Printing Preferences - Options - Darkness) Read More>>


Communications Setup

USB - A Zebra compatible driver must be installed before connecting the printer. 

USB Details Read More>>


RS232 Null Modem, all parameters must be matched on the printer and host Read More>>

Ports Menu  Read More>>


If the printer has a parallel port use an IEEE1284 compatible cable Read More>>

Ports Menu  Read More>>

Wired/Wireless Network - Printers that include a ZebraNet Print Server option can be connected to an Ethernet Network. If your network supports DHCP the printer should be assigned an IP Address when the cable is connected. If not you can configure a printer with the ZebraNet Options   Read More>>

If a DHCP address is acquired, you can use the ZebraNet Web Interface to configure you network settings using the path of typing the DHCP assigned IP address into a browser and then clicking Print Server Settings> Print Server (Username: admin  Password: 1234)> TCP/IP Configuration > and then modify your settings and then click submit so you can reset the network card to apply settings.  This is the easiest way of configuring the network settings of the printer.  If this is not an option or does not properly apply your settings, you can move to the procedures below for configuring your printer for your network.  Read More>>

Unlike a Wired network connection, Wireless setup has to be done using one of our utilities.  The printer can't discover a wireless network on its own.  You will have to apply the appropriate settings to the printer for the network that you are attempting to connect to.

You can use one of the following Utilities to set specific parameters or set a permanent IP address for your printer queue.  Read More>>

  • ZebraNet Bridge can be used to discover and assign the desired network settings. Read More>>
  • The Zebra Setup Utility has a network setup wizard that can be used to configure your printer for a wired or wireless network Read More>>

Network Menu  Read More>>


The ZD500 Series Printers have the option of having Bluetooth installed (factory only).  This can be configured for use with other Bluetooth devices and acts as a 'slave' device in the connection.  Read More>>

Bluetooth Menu  Read More>>

Zebra Setup Utilities Bluetooth Configuration  Read More>>


Printing App or Program

Zebra printers are command interpretation engines using printer commands to to define the printed images. The printer must receive the commands in the supported printer language (ZPL). The printer will not respond if the label format received does not contain the required programming commands for label printing. Programming commands can be entered into a file and communicated to the printer, received as an output through a driver from an application, or created using one of many Zebra Label Software packages on the market.

For a general overview of this information Read More>>



Utilities and Drivers

If you are not using the ZebraDesigner Driver for your printing application you can use one of the following utilities for printer configuration. If ou are using a non-Zebra application or driver consult with the vendor for details on printer setup and configuration.

Application or Utility Comment
Zebra Setup Utility Read More>>                                             This is a free Windows based utility that features a printer setup wizard for simple printer or network setup.  
ZebraNet Bridge  Read More>>                                  This is an enterprise application for network printer management but is free to use for configuring a network or locally connected printer
ZebraNet Print Server Webpage Read More>>                                The ZebraNet Print Server has a Webpage that is accessed from a browser when you enter the printer's IP Address. Printer configurations can be viewed and altered.
ZebraDesigner Driver Read More>>                                                                     If you are using the ZebraDesigner Driver there is a Printing Preferences section that allows you to configure your printer.

Helpful Information

ZD500 Series User's Manual  Read More>>

Error Messages (see User's Manual for Reference)  Read More>>

Printing Issues (see User's Manual for Reference)  Read More>>



+ Zebra Setup Utility

This is a free Windows based utility that features a printer setup wizard for simple printer or network setup. Read More>>

+ ZebraNet Bridge

This is an enterprise application for network printer management but is free to use for configuring a network or locally connected printer. Read More>>

+ ZebraNet Print Server Webpage

The ZebraNet Print Server has a Webpage that is accessed from a browser when you enter the printer's IP Address. Printer configurations can be viewed and altered. Read More>>

+ ZebraDesigner Driver

If you are using the ZebraDesigner Driver there is a Printing Preferences section that allows you to configure your printer. Read More>>

Helpful Information:

ZD500 Series User's Manual  Read More>>

Error Messages (see User's Manual for Reference)  Read More>>

Printing Issues (see User's Manual for Reference)  Read More>>

+ Product Codes

  • ZD500 Desktop Printer
  • ZD500 Desktop Printer
  • ZD500R RFID Printers
  • ZD500R RFID Printers