Primera Label Printer Update

Primera Label on Frozen Bacon

Over on the Earth Air Tubes post Sandra asked:


I saw your posting about the Primavera LX-400 printer and was wondering if after using the printer for a while if you would still recommend it. I also have additional questions:

– Do the labels stay attached firmly on product when it is placed in the freezer?

– Does the ink fade or run over time when placed in the freezer and product is later thawed (condensate)?

– Have you found the printer to be as cost effective as you had originally thought?



After having used the Primera Label printer extensively I am glad to report that we’re very pleased with it. I highly recommend it. As to your specific questions:

Do the labels stay attached firmly on product when it is placed in the freezer?

The labels stay very firmly attached in the freezer. Do apply them when the product is not frozen for the best results. If the product is frozen, dry and warm the surface to get the best adhesion and then it generally works fine. In the photo above the Primera label was applied to the bacon prior to it being frozen. It is very securely attached.

Does the ink fade or run over time when placed in the freezer and product is later thawed (condensate)?

The ink does not fade or run. I only use the Primera brand labels. I did try some off brand labels and was getting smearing from water. The Primera labels cost a little more but are much better. They have a better top coat and are slicker. In fact, the Primera labels are better that commercial offset printing labels we had made up. The Primera labels are glossier, hold up to water better, have richer blacks and feature brighter colors,

Have you found the printer to be as cost effective as you had originally thought?

The printer has turned out to be very cost effective. We’ve printed thousands of labels on it and it has more than paid for itself even compared with the least expensive (high volume) offset printing of labels. More importantly the quality of the Primera labels is better than the offset printed labels and I can do small batches. This allows us to do test samples as well as have custom labels for our Hot Dogs, bacon, bacon ends, hocks, smoked hams, ham steaks, etc. The Primera makes for a better presentation in the stores who carry our pastured pork. Gosh, I’m starting to sound like a salesman for Primera. I wish I got a kickback or commission – sadly I don’t. :}

The printer is so cost effective that we’re considering buying a second Primera LX400 label printer to have a backup. We haven’t had any problems with the printer but mechanical things do eventually fail. Having a backup would make it so we could be sure to be able to print labels. In terms of costs, the LX400 printer is about $1,200 – shop around for a good price on both the printer, labels and ink. Labels are $24.75 per roll of 700 for the size we use a lot of (4″x3″) which comes out to 3.5¢/label. Ink runs about $32/cartridge and I’ve been getting 700 to 1100 labels per cartridge for an ink cost of about 3.5¢/label. This gives a total cost of 7¢/label for consumables plus the cost of the printer and a very minor cost for electricity. Compare this with the cost of offset labels we bought in high volume (15,000) in order to get a reasonable per unit price of 7¢/label.

A drawback is that the Primera printer is slow. I know this bothers some people. I knew that before buying it and it isn’t a big issue for me. My solution is I set the it printing labels in batches and just let it run all day. It is a good idea to put a fresh cartridge and roll of labels in it when doing this if you’re printing a large number of labels. I carefully keep track of my print count and know how much ink my designs use based on past history so I can make sure it isn’t going to run out of ink in the middle of a run.

This technique works almost all the time. I have only had a job run out of ink twice while printing – that wasted about 20 labels. I always run out of blue ink first. Unfortunately all the inks are in one cartridges so even though there is more red and yellow ink I must then change the cartridge. To mitigate this I am working at altering my design to better balance the colors. Ideally I would squeeze out every last pico-drop of ink. :)

By the way, there is about 20% more ink in a cartridge than the printer lets on. What I discovered was the printer says it is low on ink and you should change the cartridge when 80% of the ink has been used. Keep printing and monitor it. Since it prints one label per minute this is pretty easy to do if I’m doing other office work. When a cartridge gets very low, change it and save the old one, sealed up in a baggy, for use when doing test designs. That saves even more money.

In the photo above is a Primera label on the bacon in the foreground. In the background is a commercially offset printed label on a package of frozen jowls. The Primera label looks excellent. The offset label looks good but is not as sharp and professional looking as the bacon label. Part of the difference is the offset printed label is a direct thermal label and thus not as glossy as the Primera labels even though we got a varnish coating on the offset label. This quality issue is related to the technology used by the printer-scale at the butcher shop. They use direct thermal labels which don’t look as nice as the high gloss Primera labels.

A big disadvantage of the offset labels is they must be printed in batches of 10,000 to 15,000 before they become cost effective. This means you can’t do many different product labels cost effectively or you would run with a very large inventory of labels. For example, using the Primera we have different labels for our Kielbasa, Smoked Kielbasa, Hot Dogs, Bacon, Bacon Ends, Smoked Ham, Smoked Ham Steaks, Smoked Ham Hocks and Smoked Pigs Feet to name a few. That’s nine different labels in addition to the standard cuts labels like pork chops. To do that with offset printing would mean an inventory of 150,000 labels and a start-up cost of $10,000. The Primera allows us to print customized labels in shorter runs as we need them in addition to proofing one off samples of new designs.

This issue of inventory is especially poignant for livestock farmers because one must have a label specific to the slaughterhouse or butcher since their inspection number appears on the label. That label can’t be used with any other slaughterhouse or butcher shop. This means that if you change butchers you have to throw away your sizable investment in labels and get them reprinted. It gets more complicated though, if the USDA changes their labeling requirements, such as the new Country Of Origin Labeling, then you can be made to throw away your label inventory and forced reprint them all at great expense and waste.

I was very dissatisfied with dealing with the offset label printing company, QSXLabels, who did our offset label printing because they made a significant error on the print job. The job specs and the proof called for a round corner. I paid for a special die with the round corners. The proof I signed was for round corners. When the labels arrived at the butcher they were square cornered. This looks less professional and was not what I had ordered, approved and paid for. At that point we had no choice but to use the labels – I couldn’t hold up our sales or the butcher’s production. Six months later and after many communications later with QSXLabels regarding this issue it is still not resolved. I would not use QSXLabels again, nor would I recommend them, unless they remedy this issue.

Outdoors: 73°F/47°F Sunny, Windy
Farm House: 79°F/68°F
Tiny Cottage: 67°F/60°F Home again, home again, jiggity-jig!

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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18 Responses to Primera Label Printer Update

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for the detailed feedback on the Primera LX400 printer. We are in a similar situation in that we need the ability to produce short runs due to the numerous different food items that we will offer. Also, we have to put ingredients on our labels which is dependent on the manufacturer brand, therefore if we change brands we then must change our label (each manufacturer has slightly different ingredients) plus we need to put a lot number and use by date, which is dependent on the day we produce. All of this makes it nearly impossible to manage and is certainly not cost effective, which is why the LX 400 printer is a very attractive/convenient solution.

    Your through responses to all of my questions helped me to decide to purchase the printer. The print quality in the picture you posted looked far better than outsourcing the labels to a print shop….another plus! I also appreciated honest feedback from an actual owner/user of the printer than that of a sales person.

    I have since contacted the company to request pricing, which was much higher than the prices you quoted in your article. Would you be willing to share where you purchased the printer and supplies (ink cartridge, labels, etc.)?

    The time and effort that you put into this posting was quite impressive and much appreciated!


  2. Anonymous says:

    Wow! This Primera LX400 sounds like the way to go. Thanks for the recommendation. I am definately going to purchase one of these for my company.

  3. CHILLER says:

    For those interested, Freund Container sells the LX-400 for about $1,200. Their printer includes a CD with hundreds of pre-designed label templates. They provide the background graphics, you simply add your collateral and your off to the races. I couldn’t find anyone else that offers the creative CD. I recently purchased the printer and have been very pleased with the results. Freund also stocks standard label sizes and ink, so I buy just what I need.

    I’ve tried the Zeo and other sheet-fed printers, but the LX400 is much easier to use, is more cost effective, and the 4800 x 1900 resolution produces eye-popping results.

    Walter is correct in saying that the printer is a bit on the slow side. I start my jobs before I leave for the day and let them run over night. I built a tray that folds the labels as they’re dispensed from the printer so I don’t walk into a mess (should patent the crazy thing!).

    My LX400 has proved indispensable, I’m sure you’ll be pleased too. Good luck!

  4. I don’t have a particular source for the printer, inks and labels. Each time I need them I just use Google’s Froogle search. Here’s a pattern for:


    Primera Inks

    The LX-400 printer

    Don’t get confused between the LX-400 and the LX-800 / 810 which is a larger version of the printer.

  5. Chris, catching the labels on the output is a trick. I found it worked great if I just put the printer on a desk above a file cabinet with an empty draw. When printing I just open the file draw and the labels fold up neatly there. Works slick.

  6. Sandra says:

    Thanks Chris & Walter for the information….Sandra

  7. Anonymous says:

    I just recieved my new lx400 printer and I am very excited. I am trying to figure out how to print a label that was created outside of nice label. Could you please tell me how to get this done. I will not be able to speak with someone in customer service until Monday 9/15. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

    K. Thomas

  8. Kateena,

    I don’t use NiceLabel software at all. I simply installed the printer drivers (I use MacOS10.4.11) on my computer and then do my label designs in Photoshop. That works fine.



  9. Teanobi says:

    I have been looking into getting the LX400 for a while now and after searching and finding your review of it, I went and purchased one. Just wanted to say thanks us small business owners have to stick together. Good luck with your farm.

  10. Jayman says:

    Using 3rd party lx400 labels from optimedia ebay, not having a positive experience with my lx400, slightest bit of moisture, just air humidity makes the black run. Tried every saturation level less but image quality drops with it. Really hoping its just the label stock. Any advice?

  11. It could be the label stock. I have only used the labels from Primera.

  12. Jayman says:

    Thanks, gives me some hope, I ordered samples from primera for testing, the paper based tuffcoat, and the three poly plastic types tuffcoat extreme clear white and bopp. Post the results later if anyone's interested :)

  13. Anonymous says:

    What a great review! I'm so glad I found it. I want one of these but for cosmetic bottles and was worried about the level of waterproofing on the labels but if you use them for frozen products that are then defrosted they should work on a bottle of bubble bath!
    Thanks for the detailed explanation of the ink cartridges and life span, it seems good to me allround.

  14. Call up Primera and ask for some samples of their labels so you can test them. That is what I did. I found the Tuff Coat was best.

  15. Anthony says:

    I got this printer and I’m pleased with it. The ink cost is high but the label quality is good. I did find it important to be careful about which labels I got for printing on or I got smearing.

  16. Roger says:

    Thanks for this info. I’ve been wanting to get a printer like this and it is good to know it is doing well for you.

  17. MJ says:

    We purchased an LX400 for printing drug labels in a hospital setting and have found it to be unreliable. When the cartridge gets down toward 50% the labels we print are unacceptably light, especially the color fields. It takes 2 or 3 labels to “warm up” and print colors at full saturation.

    A major difference could be that we are printing labels one-at-a-time, whereas it sound like you print large batches of labels at once (and don’t care if the first couple are a bit light).

    • I have a suspicious that the difference in our experience is that with our label design I very carefully balanced the usage of the three colors CMY so that they would get used evenly. I get about 1,700 labels out of each cartridge and use them right up to the end beyond what the printer claims is 0% left and then all of a sudden it runs out of ink. We do run the labels in batches of several hundred weekly rather than one at a time so it is possible that makes a difference too. However I don’t find it needs any warm up when we start printing and I do occasionally do one-offs. Another possibility is simply a difference between printers.

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