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The Brady BMP21-Plus Printer
Kit ($195) is an entry-level industrial label printer designed to crank out
labels for several types of mission-critical applications including general
identification, wire and cable, datacom, electrical, and safety. It differs
from most business-oriented labelers reviewed here, such as Brother’s
QL-1110NWB
and several others, in that, like most Brady label printers, it makes labels on materials meant for industrial environments. The BMP21-Plus also prints specialty labels, including data-center and electrical-cabinet sleeves and wire wraps, as well as reflective
labels for directional markings or safety warnings. As today’s labeling
technology goes, the BMP21-Plus is bare-bones. It can’t,
for example, accept data from PCs or smartphones. Instead, it’s designed for working in the field and labeling as you work, and, in that sense,
it’s a good value for networking, electrical, and other conscientious professionals
who understand the benefits of tagging everything.

Big and Rugged

You can buy the BMP21-Plus as a
standalone machine that runs on six AA batteries or as part of the kit that
Brady sent me, reviewed here today. The latter lists for $96 more than the
former, and for that you get a power adapter, a lithium-ion battery,
and a rugged foam-lined plastic carrying case with cutouts for the
printer itself, the adapter and its cable, the battery, and two label-media
cartridges, shown here.

Unfortunately, no matter which
one you buy, you still get only one media cartridge, a 21-foot roll of nylon
cloth material for patch-panel and wire-cable labels. With its
drop-tested, reinforced impact bumper made of molded rubber and the overall sturdy build, you could probably leave the BMP21-Plus knocking around in your tool pouch without hurting it. But you must admit that
the kit is a nice touch. (According to Brady, the battery takes about 2.5 hours
to charge and should last well through a day of serious labeling.)

Brady BMP21-Plus Printer Kit battery

It may not be obvious from the
pictures accompanying this review, but the BMP21-Plus is huge—at least twice as
big and hefty as a similar-looking consumer-grade label printer. It measures
9.5 by 4.5 by 2.5 inches (HWD) and weighs about 1.7 pounds—or more than twice
the size of most other labelers with QWERTY keypads and digital readouts.

Brady BMP21-Plus Printer Kit printing

Most labelers these days, like
the Brother QL-1110NWB I just mentioned, print from mobile devices and
computers and therefore no longer require onboard user interfaces. In fact,
most of today’s label printers don’t look anything like their predecessors from
a decade or so ago (nor do they resemble printers at all).

Brady BMP21-Plus Printer Kit control panel

As you can see, using the
BMP21-Plus is straightforward. You type your label, adjust the font size
between 6 and 40 points, print, and cut. In addition to the traditional
alphabet, numbers, and punctuation and other characters, you also get a
library of 100 electrical, safety, and datacom symbols. A wire stand on the
back of the device lets you set it down and operate it with one hand.

Easy, right? What’s also simple
is replacing, or swapping in and out, the label media cartridges, of which you have
several to choose from—including, as mentioned, specifically sized electrical,
wire and cable, and datacom sleeves, self-lams, wire wraps, flag labels, cable
markers, patch panel and face plate labels, lockout tags, floor marking, server
and other equipment rack labels, and on and on. And again, Brady and
third parties provide specific types of media specially designed for these
applications.

We’ll look more closely at
types of media and their economics shortly. Meanwhile, Brady rates the
BMP21-Plus at 100 prints per day, which frankly seems skimpy, but the company
offers higher-volume models, such as the BMP41 we’ll be looking at here
shortly. The inkless thermal print technology prints at 203dpi, which is plenty
dense enough for this application, and the maximum label width is three-quarters
of an inch, with the longest possible length topping out at 36 inches.

The BMP21-Plus prints in only
one color, of course—black—but you can buy label media in several different colors, including red, green, yellow, and
clear, depending on the application type. The label materials (also often job-specific) are nylon, polyester, polyolefin,
and polypropylene.

You can also print paper
labels, but in this case it’s special paper that dissolves, designed to disappear with a
good soaking. (You’ll learn why in a moment.) One thing to note: The cutter
is not mechanical, or power-driven. Instead, you get a simple serrated edge for tearing off labels, much like
the one on that box of plastic wrap in the kitchen, albeit much smaller.

Brady rates the print speed of the BMP21-Plus at a
quarter-inch per second, or 15 inches per minute. According to my tests, that seems just about right. Typically, though, this is not the type of device on which
you would print many items in rapid
succession (like you might with, say, mailing labels). Instead, you’re more likely to print only one
or two copies with the same content—again, as you work, labeling objects like Ethernet
cables, ports, and so on—making print speed something of a moot
point.

In any case, most of the label
printers we review here are designed for, among other things, large address-label print runs, and are, hence, notably faster than the BMP21-Plus. As for
print quality, usually, all you’ll print is text and a few symbols, and my
inspection of the couple of hundred or so labels I printed revealed no egregious
flaws.

Unlike consumer-grade label
printers that print primarily on plain or laminated paper label stock, the BMP21-Plus’ output is made of much sterner, more permanent
stuff. (That said, you can use dissolvable paper-media cartridges for scenarios where relabeling might be on the horizon.) Among the many options available at Brady’s online store, your choices
of material are dissolvable paper, nylon, vinyl, polyester, and polypropylene. Unlike
labeling file folders and the in-and-out bins on your desktop, tagging your
equipment—the raw-materials bins in your warehouse, data-center ports and cabling,
and so on—these space-age blends and synthetics can render your running costs astronomical.

Brady BMP21-Plus Printer Kit printing materials

The array of options really is
different, and they adjust themselves based on choices you make from the order
form. When you select Paper, for example, all other possibilities except 0.75-inch
Dissolvable Paper hide, while selecting General Inspection offers up
several different roll widths between 0.25 and 0.75 inch, a couple of different colors, and four materials types, as well as several label properties:

  • Aggressive Adhesive Labels (4)
  • Harsh Environment Labels (5)
  • Heat-Resistant Labels (5)
  • Permanent Adhesive Labels (5)
  • Removable Labels (1) 
  • Water-Dissolvable Labels (1)

Note that the parenthetical data
indicates the number of options included under each property.

I could go on, but the point is
that Brady offers blank label cartridges for nearly all aspects of several
specific applications, right down to, where appropriate, various cable and
wire sizes. In the Cable & Wire category, for instance, there are eight
label types, including four polyolefin wire-marking Permasleeves ranging in
gauge sizes from 4 to 12 up to 16 to 22.

Pricing seems to depend
on the configuration complexity of the labels themselves (Permasleeves, for
instance, wrap the circumference of the cable they’re marking, as shown in the
image below), as well as the material they’re made of, and, of course, the
quantity. The per-label cost varies significantly when you buy one cartridge containing
a single 21-foot roll versus a 25-pack of cartridges.

Brady BMP21-Plus Printer Kit Permasleeves

Clearly, your options
abound. After some shopping around on Brady’s site, I decided on a four-pack of
0.5-inch wide by 21 feet long Indoor/Outdoor Vinyl Labels in my choice of 11
colors (including clear) with the seven value-added features, or Label Properties,
listed above.

For $82.40, or what came out
to 504 outdoor-certified labels each measuring 0.5 inch wide by 2 inches long, you get virtually
indestructible vinyl labels at 16.3 cents each. Buying five times that many
labels at one time reduces the cost per label significantly, and a 100-cartridge pack…well, you get the point.

Comparing these running costs
to those of a commercial-grade labeler, such as, say, the QL-1110NWB referenced
earlier, or perhaps the less robust Brother P-touch Cube Plus, isn’t (for most
applications, anyway) relevant. Their label media can’t
hold up to the heat and other hazardous industrial conditions the BMP21-Plus (and
other Brady labelers) are designed for.

For the sake of comparison,
though, printing the closest comparable labels on plastic, or laminated, media costs
about half as much as on the QL-1110NWB than on the BMP21-Plus. Furthermore, the
latter produces several types of labels, such as the sleeves and other cable- and wire-marking media that we talked about earlier. Discussing these two very
different types of printers in the same breath isn’t always entirely relevant.

Industrial-Strength Basics

A challenge in reviewing a
product with such a diverse list of functions—in this case, label making for a
wide range of industrial scenarios—is conveying a sense of all that it does in
the allotted space. With that in mind, remember that as industrial labelers
go, the BMP21-Plus can’t produce many of the label types mentioned here in sizes
greater than three-quarters of an inch. Also, it doesn’t support some other media
and subsequent options available on higher-end industrial labelers from Brady (such as the soon-to-be-reviewed BMP41 and BMP71 models) and other manufacturers.
Meanwhile, the Brady BMP21-Plus is simply one of those tools that helps network
and hardware engineers, data-center technicians, electricians, and many
other professionals do their jobs right.

Brady BMP21-Plus Printer Kit

Pros

  • Wide range of labeling applications

  • Wide selection of label media and materials

  • Good print quality

  • Easy to load media and easy to use

  • Comes with carrying case, battery, and charger

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The Bottom Line

The Brady BMP21-Plus Printer Kit is an industrial-strength label printer designed to churn out labels on materials that can hold up in harsh environments.

Brady BMP21-Plus Printer Kit Specs

Product Category Thermal Transfer
Type Printer Only
Color or Monochrome Monochrome
Maximum Standard Paper Size 0.75 by 36 inches
Direct Printing from Cameras No
Direct printing from media cards No
Direct printing from USB thumb drives No
Rated Speed at Default Settings (Mono) 1.3 ppm
Monthly Duty Cycle (Recommended) 100
LCD Preview Screen No
Printer input capacity 21 feet
Cost per page (monochrome) 20 cents per label
Print Duplexing No
Automatic Document Feeder Yes
Scanner Optical Resolution 205 dpi

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