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The Brady BMP41 Label Printer Voice
and Data Communications Starter Kit ($470) is a midrange industrial label
printer
designed to tag wires, cables, ports, face plates, patch
panels, and myriad other telecom and data center components—often making manageable what would otherwise surely (and quickly) become chaos. Like the entry-level
Brady BMP21-Plus Printer Kit, the BMP41 differs from most business-oriented
labelers, including Brother’s QL-1110NWB and several others reviewed here, in
that it (like most Brady label printers) produces labels on materials conducive
to the harsher, more exacting conditions existing in today’s voice and data switching and termination environments, data centers, and server farms.
Unlike its entry-level sibling, which requires you to manage (from design to
print) all aspects of your industrial label-making on the printer itself, this
one provides the software and other means for making and downloading labels on
a Windows PC, which is enough to elevate the BMP41 to our first Editors’ Choice
among industrial labeling systems.

Labels for Everything
Industrial

As industrial label printers
go, the BMP41 is quite versatile and capable of labeling much more than just
voice and data facilities. Indeed, the
environment it’s best suited for at any given time depends primarily on the
label media loaded in the machine itself and the Brady labeling apps installed
on your PC.

For example, with the Voice and Data Communications Starter Kit package that
Brady sent me for review here, you get several media
cartridges—including Self-Laminating Vinyl Wire and Cable Labels, and Continuous
High Tensile Polypropylene Tags—to get you started, as well as the company’s Workstation
Basic Design Suite software to help you design and print the appropriate label
types.

You can also buy the BMP41 in
three other iterations, which include a bare-bones standalone BMP41 Label
Printer ($299) consisting of the machine itself, power accessories, basic
software, and one all-purpose label-media cartridge. The $515 BMP41 Label
Printer Electrical Starter Kit comes with media and software designed for
tagging electrical wiring and components, while the BMP41 Label Printer Facility
ID Starter Kit sets you up for cranking out instructional warning labels, bar
coding, 5S labeling, and general facility ID.

Brady BMP41 Label Printer keyboard

All four solutions come in the
same rugged, foam-lined carrying case with cutouts for the equipment and three
media cartridges. As you should be able to see in the image above, the BMP41 is
three, if not four, times bigger than any similar-looking consumer-grade model
that sports a full QWERTY keyboard on the front. At 11.5 by 6 by 3.5 inches
(HWD) and weighing just under three pounds, it’s huge and hefty for a handheld
device, though surprisingly comfortable and easy to hold onto while operating.

The drop-tested BMP41 is built
from reinforced plastic encased in an impact bumper made of molded rubber. In fact, upon taking it out of the box, I was immediately impressed with how durable
and well-built it is—definitely not your mother’s Dymo label maker. In addition
to the media cartridge (more on media in a moment) compartment at the top, just
above the display, you’ll find a battery compartment on the rear of the device, in the handle. The battery can be recharged.

Brady BMP41 Label Printer battery

As you can see in the image above,
the battery is removable, too, meaning that you can charge and carry
spare ones rather than having to tether the printer to a power source
each time you run out of juice. (According to Brady, the battery takes about three hours for a charge, and a charge should carry you through at least a day or two of
serious label printing.)

You can create labels up to 1 inch
high, made up of either the sans-serif Brady Alpine or Brady Fixed Width fonts,
in sizes between 4 and 103 points. In addition to the standard complement of
QWERTY characters, each font contains 123 special characters and you get 450 symbols (such as telecom,
datacom, electric, safety, scientific, and cryogenic), as well as 2D and Linear bar code symbologies. (And if the
bar code collections already installed on the printer are not enough, you can expand
your bar code library via the Brady Workstation software add-on. I’ll look at Brady
Workstation in a moment.)

In addition to the keyboard,
the interface includes several buttons for setting up and configuring the printer,
as well as creating and printing labels. A large LCD not only helps you
drill down through the menus, but also shows what your labels will look
like before you print them. Finally, there’s a manual cutter, operated by a
lever located on the right side of the machine, just below the output slot.

Brady BMP41 Label Printer printing

As with most labelers, the BMP41’s media comes in cartridges containing either continuous-roll or die-cut material,
and, depending on the label type, the printer determines when to pause for
cutting. With continuous labels, you typically cut after each label, and with die-cut—such as, say, wire or cable labels—you would usually print an entire sequence
of labels, and then peel each one off as needed.

Brady BMP41 Label Printer die-cut labels

Again, we’ll look more closely
at types of media and running costs shortly. Until then, Brady rates the printer at 250 prints per day, though it’s not clear why; this device appears much
more robust (though the company offers higher-volume models such as the BMP71). The inkless thermal print technology prints
at 300dpi—more than enough resolution for this application. The maximum label
width is 1 inch, and the maximum length is 25 feet, or the length of the current
media roll in the printer.

Brady Workstation: A Label
for Every Occasion

Depending on the device, Brady
label printers churn out tags for many industrial scenarios—hundreds of shapes,
sizes, materials, on and on. It’s not feasible, then, to load so many variables
into the volatile RAM on a single handheld, no matter how big the device itself.
While the BMP41 does have data for creating many basic label types built in,
Brady expands its functionality via a suite of apps it calls Brady Workstation.
Since, however, most smartphones and tablets connect wirelessly and the
BMP41’s only connectivity option is USB, you’ll have to create your labels on a
PC (though some of the company’s other devices do support Wi-Fi and
Ethernet modules that expand connectivity).

Brady BMP41 Label Printer integrated apps

The voice and data kit comes
with free access to Brady Basic Design Suite, which contains four apps or add-on utilities capable of creating, saving,
and printing most label types—in general, anyway. The first, and essential to tagging face
plates, patch panels, wiring, and everything else sequential, is 123
Sequence, which of course helps the printer create and maintain groups of labels
with numbering schemes.

You also get Excel Import for whipping
out groups of labels based on spreadsheets, along with Custom Designer Lite, a
pared-down version of the firm’s Custom Designer label- and sign-creation
software. Finally, there’s Template Editor for making changes to both the
underlying structural templates that ship with Workstation and the
templates that you create yourself.

Brady BMP41 Label Printer Product & Wire Identification Suite

Technically, the Basic Design
Suite should provide everything you need for designing, printing, and deploying
simple voice and datacom tags. But to streamline and tame bigger, more
complicated tagging jobs, rendering them less daunting and unruly (and you more efficient with your time), you should consider adding Brady’s Product
& Wire Identification Suite ($249).

For that relatively small expense,
your expanded arsenal of tagging apps should speed up and enhance your labeling
prowess significantly. With this add-on, in addition to the four utilities above, you get the full version of Custom Designer; Print
Partner, for downloading and printing labels on devices without direct access
to the design software; Advanced Import, for moving graphics and database
content into the design environments; and Advanced Sequence for, well, creating
more elaborate numbering schemes.

Then, too, there’s Text Labels
(the name speaks for itself); Flip Flop for reversing sequencing pairs; Asset Tags;
Terminal Block; and Patch Panel. If you need to move beyond voice, data, and
product labeling, you can change your BMP41’s focus by purchasing additional
software, most of which runs between $100 to $500. This device supports tagging
in the following industrial settings:

Respectable Print Speeds and
Good Output Quality

Brady rates the print speed of
the BMP41 at 1.3 inches per second, or 78 inches per minute. That’s about six
times faster than the entry-level BMP21-Plus. My tests bear that
out—within reason, of course, since applying the label is often one of the more time-consuming steps in the process. I’m not so sure that, beyond a certain point, how fast the device prints is mission-critical.

In any case, by comparison, one
of the fastest business-oriented label printers tested here recently, Brother’s
QL-1110NWB, printed our test labels at the rate of 67 2.4-by-3.5-inch labels per minute (lpm). At about 235 inches per minute, that’s three times faster
than the BMP41, and keep in mind that the latter supports
widths of only an inch, whereas the Brother prints media up to 2.5 inches wide.
Clearly, in some ways, when it comes to suitability for specific applications, we’re talking apples and oranges here.

Running Costs: Pick a
Cartridge

Most of today’s business-oriented
label printers print primarily on plain or laminated paper label stock. As I
said about the BMP21-Plus, though, the Brady’s labeling materials are
made of much sterner, more permanent stuff. (You can still, however, print on
paper—the BMP41
supports dissolvable paper media that will, if it gets wet, up and disappear. It’s designed for scenarios where relabeling might be necessary.)

Keep in mind, too, that in
addition to the available options discussed here, another price-determining
factor is, of course, your application or the types of labels you need to print. Other variables
include several different colors, labels ranging in width from under a quarter
of an inch up to 1 inch, and different media rolls varying in length up
to 25 feet. Just your choices of material alone are cloth, metallized
polyester, nylon, paper, plastic, polyester, polyolefin, polypropylene, and vinyl.

Then, too, there are the following variants:

  • Aggressive Adhesive Labels
  • Permanent Adhesive Labels

My point? To provide detailed running costs, I’d need to know what you’re labeling, right down to (where
appropriate) various cable and wire sizes; where you’re labeling; and so on. Let’s take the Cable & Wire category as an example. It includes several (at
least eight) label types, including four polyolefin wire-marking Permasleeves that
range in circumference sizes from 4 to 12 up to 16 to 22.

Brady BMP41 Label Printer custom wire marking in white

Pricing, then, is determined by
the configuration and complexity as well as the quantity of the labels themselves (Permasleeves, for
instance, wrap the circumference of the cable they’re marking, as shown in the
image above), as well as the material they’re made of. The per-label cost varies significantly when you buy one cartridge
containing a single 25-foot roll versus a 50-pack of cartridges.

Obviously, we’re not talking file-folder
labeling here—these synthetics and information-age alloys are expensive. The
simplest, least exotic wire markers, which consist of very little material,
start somewhere near 15 cents per label; as your requirements increase, so
do your running costs. Suffice it to say that, in most cases, the per-label
price is not cheap, but if you’ve ever tried to tone out an
untagged (or inaccurately tagged) 100-port patch panel, few things are more expensive in terms of
wasted time and frustration. You’ll want labels
that are still legible years from now.

Brady BMP41 Label Printer custom wire marking in yellow

Compared to the BMP21-Plus, the
BMP41 is, especially given its expansion options, a behemoth of a label machine.
The addition of the design and data connection software components makes labeling
massive projects, such as construction and remodeling, much easier and, in some cases, feasible—where, with a lesser labeling system, they might not be.

As a midrange industrial labeler, however, the device’s capabilities are still somewhat limited compared to, say, Brady’s M611 wireless label and industrial sign printer. But for most midrange voice and datacom labeling projects, the Brady BMP41 Label Printer Voice and Data Communications Starter Kit, with its accompanying software and selection of label stock cartridges, delivers a balance between functionality and value that easily elevates it to our new favorite among industrial labeling systems.

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Further Reading

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