Bar Code Printers Seen Continuing Growth

Adoption of portable thermal printing and RFID technologies expected to drive future bar code printer growth

Adoption of portable thermal printing and RFID technologies expected to drive future bar code printer growth

Natick, MA  November 18, 2005  The 2004 global market for bar code printers approached $1.7 billion in 2004, with the market forecast to reach nearly $1.9 billion by the end of 2005 and achieving a compounded annual growth rate exceeding 11 percent over the next four years, according to new research by Venture Development Corporation.

Current and forecasted global shipments of bar code printers segmented by product type (with percent of global shipments indicated) include:

2004 Total Market: $1696.3 Million

Stationary Thermal: 66.0 percent
Non-Thermal: 25.6 percent
Portable Thermal: 8.3 percent

2009 Total Market: $2889.4 Million

Stationary Thermal: 71.4 percent
Non-Thermal: 18.3 percent
Portable Thermal: 10.3 percent

Fastest-Growing Bar Code Printer Technologies
(Ranked in Descending Order)

Laser: 7.4 percent
Thermal Transfer: 8.3 percent
Direct Thermal: 8.5 percent
Portable Thermal: 15.4 percent
RFID Printer/encoder: 88.4 percent

Primary considerations for the bar code printer market include:

  • As thermal printing technology continues to dominate auto-identification and data capture (AIDC) printer shipments, growth for non-thermal printing is expected to occur mainly in specialized application environments that require direct part marking operating in-line on a conveyor belt such as manufacturing shop floors.

  • In addition, shipments of non-thermal printers are expected to occur in office environments where ink-jet printers are becoming increasingly adopted to support bar code printing requirements. Laser printers are also well suited for the office.

  • Dot matrix (or impact) technology is a must for multi-part forms, with some vendors offering printers that can support up to nine copies simultaneously. Serial dot matrix printers provide exceptional paper handling, feature-rich solutions that satisfy the most demanding tasks, from network to personal workstation printers. Multi-part form printing is key in manufacturing shop floor application environments for work orders, work-in-process, and other applications. However, impact technology is also well suited for multi-part form printing in warehousing, health care, retail, and other vertical markets where multiple copies are required.

  • Growth is expected in shipments of portable bar code printers as end users continue to demand automatic identification solutions to support a growing mobile workforce. In addition, continuous advancements in wireless connectivity technologies (i.e., Bluetooth, 802.11, 802.11b, etc.) are driving adoption of portable printers among users seeking to replace for stationary printing solutions.

  • The adoption of radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is expected to play a leading role in the growth of the high-end thermal bar code printer market. Driven by compliance mandates from retail, pharmaceutical, and government supply chain partners the market for RFID printer/encoders will expand over the next five years. Within the last twelve to eighteen months an increasing number of manufacturers such as Zebra Technologies, Printronix, Intermec, SATO, Checkpoint Systems and others have developed dual thermal bar code printing and UHF EPC RFID encoding solutions that support supply chain management applications. Desktop high frequency 13.56 MHz RFID printer/encoders are also available, largely targeting applications in health care and life sciences (i.e., patient tracking via wristbands).

  • Although high-performance label printers will remain a significant portion of the market, a growing percentage of shipments are midrange printer products categorized by a list price between $500 and $1,000.
The report is available at

Additional Articles of Interest

 RFID technology has the potential to change the way supply chains are managed, but in order to be effective businesses need to take a holistic look at the deployment. Read more in the article "Time for RFID: Applying RFID in the Supply Chain."

 For a contrary view of the future of the RFID market, see the article "The O'RFID Factor: A 'No Spin' Look at Where Radio Frequency Identification Is Headed," in the October/November 2004 issue of Supply & Demand Chain Executive.

 For more information on trends relating to radio frequency identification (RFID), follow this link for an extensive listing of articles, featuring the latest research findings on the RFID, including adoption, return on investment and barriers to implementation.