The Brady BMP51 thermal printer, and its sister model the BMP53, represents a serious step forward in the evolution of portable label printing. Introduced early in 2012, these two muscular printers are essentially the same except that the BMP53 has no keyboard for stand-alone use. While printers using smart cartridge technology take the pain out of setting up labels from scratch they tend to be restricted in versatility and size maxima, but this model produces labels up to a reasonable 38mm wide (maximum print width 36mm). At 300 dpi resolution the BMP51/53 is as good as any on the market for print quality and label longevity and boasts a robust construction suitable for most industrial and laboratory environments, its demand volume niche being about 250 labels per day. Weighing less than 1.5Kg and churning out monochrome labels at just over 25mm per second it offers its owner the freedom to roam using either a Li-ion battery or 4 x AA cells, otherwise providing freedom from fiddly batteries by way of a mains adaptor. Another optional extra, the M50 magnet, gives the printer a deceptively useful ability to be parked vertically on any nearby steel surface. Users of Brady BMP printers will be familiar with label retention, a mechanism which prevents finished labels from fluttering to the floor when cut. A couple of small criticisms would be that the top-cover feels a bit flimsy and doesn’t always snap down reliably, and the manual cutter feels rather clunky and needs a long push to operate it.
Jumping straight into the printer’s more interesting features, this after all being a Brady product so the basics are a done deal, the BMP51/53 labeller incorporates WiFi, USB and Bluetooth with optional Ethernet. Bluetooth allows wireless printing, and when used in conjunction with the Brady mobile app (available free of charge) labels may be printed from an Android Smartphone! This means that from the palm of your hand (Android OS Version 2.2 or later) you can access previously downloaded label templates, design and store new ones from scratch, and even import a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet (or other tabular data file) to populate existing labels from stored data. The smart chip in the printer communicates bi-directionally with the phone to maintain the convenience of automatic cartridge detection, and there’s no fussing with drivers. Being based on Bluetooth technology the printer may be activated from up to 100 metres away depending on surroundings. The app can generate bar codes in numerous formats and recall hundreds of ready-made symbols and pictograms (icons). Furthermore, it updates automatically (free of charge) whenever new consumables or hardware become available. It has to be said, this app is not a fast way to print labels and it could frustrate a user with big fingers or little time, also it is difficult to perceive the target market for something which combines personal and commercial hardware in this way, but which of us is brave enough to predict future trends when it comes to electronics?
The labelling software, LabelMark 5, is strikingly versatile and easy to use. This and the printer driver are supplied on CD, and to get started on the learning curve a cartridge of white vinyl continuous label (MC-1500-595-WT-BK) is supplied.
In short, the BMP51/53 is the next generation IDXpert and ideal for electrical, communications and laboratory use. In addition to general labelling it makes easy work of terminals, 110, 66 and BIX blocks, patch panels and wires/cables, whether the requirement is for continuous or multi-cut. Each model has a real-time clock for independent date/time stamping and an option to print multiple copies using the sequence: print > pause (with instruction to cut) > print next label for each copy. It has a very excellent LCD display measuring 65 x 40mm but the backlight, when switched on, converts quickly to touch activated which may save power but can be a nuisance.