ZT400 Series Initial Printer Setup Details and Information

Article ID: 85746960

Issue / Question

ZT400 Series Printer Setup Overview 

Applicable To

ZT400 Series

Resolution / Answer

ZT400 Series Printer Setup Overview

The Zebra Printer can be used in a wide variety of applications using many different media combinations to suit your printing needs. This flexibility is due to the printer's ability to be configured and adjusted for all the variability an application may introduce. Understanding the printer configurations will enhance your ability to optimize your printer to meet your printing needs.

The printer comes from the factory set to tear-off mode and adjusted for full with paper label stock with wax ribbon.
Many printing applications will function with these factory settings and require no additional adjustments beyond the communications setup and minor darkness adjustment.

There are 5 sections in this article:

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 is 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 a setup configuration that sends these as commands to the printer. Make sure all settings match the printer settings to avoid intermittent issues.

Media Related Settings and Calibration 

Understanding your media
The Zebra Printer supports the use of many types and shapes of labels or tags and knowing your media detail is important for proper configuration.
Here are the details you should know for printer media setup and configuration.

1. Media Related Configurations

There are 3 selections for Media Type:

There are 2 selections for Print Method:

  • Default: Thermal Transfer (Using Ribbon)
  • Direct Thermal (No Ribbon)
    Refer to User Guide: Print Method for more information.
NOTE Print Method does not apply if your printer is Direct Thermal only. There are no ribbon spindles or settings.

There are 3 selections for Print Mode:

This is related to the label presentation after printing and is limited to the options you have installed. Refer to Print Mode Details for more information.

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


3. Understanding the Media Sensors
The printer comes with two sensors for label tracking based on the Media Type used.

Transmissive Sensor: This is an adjustable position sensor that has a red light to helps you to position for proper sensor placement. It can be viewed when the printhead is opened and the printer is powered on. This sensor is used for sensing label Gaps, Holes, and Notches.

 Transmissive sensor

Reflective Sensor:
This is a fixed position Black Mark media sensor. This detects black mark media using a black bar on the media backing.

Reflective sensor

Positioning the moveable sensor
The moveable or adjustable position Transmissive Sensor must be placed so the top of the form can be detected. This can be an inter-label gap, a hole, or a notch. When using typical labels on a backing with an inter-label gap, the sensor can be positioned along the width of the label as long as it is not over the rounded edge. If using a hole or notch position, the sensor's red light directly under the hole or notch so it is seen as the label's feed. Refer to ZT400 Sensor Positioning for more details on positioning the moveable sensor.

4. Media Feed Power up action
The printer can be configured to position or calibrate the media after head closure or when powered on. These are configured using the LCD Display or can be configured from your utility or application.
These configurations are detailed as follows:

  • Calibrate (Default)
  • Feed
  • Length
  • No Motion
  • Short Cal

To set the Media Feed (Power Up Action) on the printer, refer to User Guide: Power-Up Action.
For recommendations on these selections, refer to Media Feed (Power-Up Action/Head Close Section).


5. Maximum Label Length

NOTE You probably don't have to change this from the 39" default so ignore the Maximum Label Length discussion if you have defaulted the printer or are setting the printer up for the first time. If your printer is feeding less than a label length and experiencing a Media Out Error then you may want to see if this setting was incorrectly configured. 

Label Length Max Setting: It should be noted that if the printer's Maximum Length setting is changed from the default 39” it should be set to a value 1'' longer than the longest label you intend to use.  
For example, on a 203dpi printer using a 6'' label, set the Maximum Length value to 7''( 7x203 = 1421).
Here is the ZPL: ^XA^ML1421^XZ
For more information, please refer to User Guide: Maximum Label Length.

To view the existing Maximum Length setting on the printer print a configuration label or request a configuration from your host, refer to Printing or Downloading the Configuration Settings of a Zebra ZPL Compatible Printer.

To set the Label Length to Maximum:
LCD Display: MAXIMUM LENGTH (Set to 1'' longer than the actual length).
There are no settings in the Zebra Setup Utility so if required, create a ZPL file with the recommended Maximum Label Length.

For example: 

^XA^MLxxxxx^XZ (Sets the length in dots)

^XA^JUS^XZ (Saves the value)
Send the file using your utility or application.

6. Calibrate the printer for the media
This step assumes you have not changed the Media Feed Power Up Action from the default Calibrate setting.

  1. With media loaded, power on the printer.
  2. The printer should complete the power-on self-test and begin to feed labels.
  3. The printer should stop feeding labels and be in the printer-ready state.
  4. Press the FEED button several times. A single label should feed and come to the same resting position each time. 
  5. The printer has been calibrated successfully. 
    If the printer fails to feed properly or there is a Media Out indication, perform the Manual Calibration Procedure. Refer to User Guide: Media and Ribbon Sensor Calibration.
    To manually calibrate:


Ribbon Setup
This applies to applications where the use of ribbon is required. 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. Refer to: Ribbon Basics.

Ribbon Loading: The printer uses a reflective plate and a sensor that shines and receives light to detect the presence of ribbon. (Some desktop printers use a slotted wheel to detect the ribbon supply rotation). Refer to: User Guide: Load the Ribbon.

Ribbon Configuration: Select Thermal Transfer if you are using Ribbon, and Direct Thermal if you are not using Ribbon. Refer to: User Guide: Print Method.

To load Ribbon and Media:


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

  • 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, the 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 printhead pressure and/or darkness settings can impact your printer’s printhead life.
  • Printhead Pressure 
    You may need to adjust printhead pressure if printing is too light on one side, if you use thick media, or if the media drifts from side to side during printing. Use the lowest printhead pressure necessary to produce good print quality. Uneven pressure will cause ribbon wrinkle, poor print quality, and horizontal media drift. 
    For adjusting the printhead pressure on a ZT400 Series Printer, refer to User Guide: Adjust the Printhead Pressure. For more information regarding Printhead Pressure Details, refer to Printhead Pressure.
  • Print Speed 
    The printer is capable of printing at multiple print speeds. The speed selection takes the media/ribbon (if used) compatibilities into consideration since if high Darkness and Pressure settings are required to achieve acceptable print then slower rates should be used.
    If your application requires the highest print speeds available be sure your media supplier has recommended the correct media for your application. Refer to: User Guide: Print Speed.
  • Print Darkness 
    Print Darkness (also may be referred to as Density or Burn Temperature) is a user-adjustable setting. If you have an LCD Display the setting can be adjusted and changes to the darkness observed during printing. You can also use a setup utility or the printer webpage if available to set the print darkness. Avoid overheating the ribbon as it can melt if set too high. Vary the darkness to produce the best print quality. Refer to: User Guide: Print Darkness.
    For setting the darkness using the ZPL commands, refer to Programming Guide: ^MD - Media Darkness.


Communications Setup

  • USB 
    A Zebra-compatible driver must be installed before connecting the printer. Refer to USB Communications for more details.
  • Serial 
    RS232 Null Modem, all parameters must be matched on the printer and host. Refer to: User Guide: Select a Communication Interface.
  • Parallel 
    If the printer has a parallel port, use an IEEE1284 compatible cable. For more information, refer to Parallel Communications.
  • Wired Ethernet Network 
    Printers that include a ZebraNet Print Server option can be connected to an Ethernet Network. If your network supports DHCP the printer can obtain an IP Address when the cable is connected.

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


Printing App, Driver, or Program
Zebra printers are command interpretation engines that take programming commands such as ZPL (Zebra Programming Language) and convert these commands into the printed images. 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, refer to Label Format Creation.


Utilities and Drivers

Application or Utility Comment
Zebra Setup Utility
Refer to: Zebra Setup Utilities: Downloading ZSU and Configuring Printer Settings
This is a free Windows-based utility that features a printer setup wizard for a simple printer or network setup.  
ZebraNet Bridge
Refer to: Setup or Modifying a Zebra Printer Configuration Using ZebraNet Bridge
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
Refer to: Using the ZebraNet Print Server Web Page to Configure the Printer
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
Refer to: Configure or Modify Basic ZebraDesigner Driver Settings Information
If you are using the ZebraDesigner Driver, there is a Printing Preferences section that allows you to configure your printer.


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