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The Brady IDXpert is a stand-alone thermal label printer which has been designed with the professional in mind, being built to withstand industrial working conditions. Together with its accessories, it is protected by a plastic hard-case measuring 48 x 39 x 14 cm. The ID Xpert is available in two versions; desk-top and hand-held, each incorporating a manual cutter. Using interchangeable cartridges this printer allows the electrician or engineer to label patch panels, faceplates and cables in an industrial or domestic environment, and identify racks, bays and frames in a public network or data centre environment.
The printer may be configured by way of two main menus; the 'General ID' menu and a 'DataComm & T-Block Menu'. Thus, in addition to regular die-cut, continuous, and self-laminating wire markers (both wrap and flag types), the ID EXPERT will print terminal block identification strips with a choice of separator and an option for auto-serial numbering. Heat-shrink sleeve may also be printed to 6 gauge (0.32 in. dia.). Regarding fonts, the user faces no dilemma. Just one scalable font in regular or bold from 4pt to over 100pt may be reproduced in independent lines and zones (a good range of accented characters being available) nevertheless this font is well chosen to avoid confusion between letters which resemble numerals and vice versa. Label content is justifiable both vertically and horizontally and may be rotated in 90 degree increments. An auto-repeat feature can be used to duplicate text as many times as will fit on a label to create, for instance, a wrap type cable marker which can be identified from any viewing angle.
Simple serial numbering is limited to increments of just one, featuring an option to resume printing from the last number if required, but allowing only one numbering series per label. The system is fully alphanumeric, allowing upper and lower case letters to form part of the number. The printer can generate two types of barcode: code 39 (check digit on or off) and code 128, both with human readable option. The height of a bar code can be adjusted in steps of a few millimetres at a time and the width in two presets (2-dots and 3-dots). The bar code is not generated until printed. A further useful feature is a date/time stamp, generated at print time, which is particularly handy for PAT Test Labelling. Multiple copies of a label may be printed to a maximum of 95 repeats, and up to ten label designs may be saved in memory along with their associated cartridge types. There is a choice of sizing units (inches or millimetres) and, as one would expect, a battery state indicator.
The printer requires six AA cells (not supplied) or can use a mains power adaptor, also not supplied. Notably the printer is supplied with some very useful technical information. The Quick Start guide contains an interesting table explaining the merits of various label materials and their applications. For example, a laboratory technician will discover how best to label a test tube which must withstand liquid nitrogen (self-laminating Polyester) and an engineer how to label cables and groups of cables using self-laminating vinyl and heat-shrink polyolefin etc. These days, we consumers expect our printers to auto-detect the type of cartridge inserted, and the IDXpert is no exception. Specialised cartridges, which drop into place easily and are secured by a small lever, are auto-detected by the incorporation of something called a 'smart-cell'. Once this smart-cell is detected, the printer adapts its menu options accordingly. I would suggest that changing cartridges is done with care, however, as the pair of contact springs which communicate with the smart-cell look decidedly vulnerable.
The literature claims that by installing a driver which is supplied on the CD the printer can be connected to a computer using a USB cable. This is misleading in that installing this driver only allows the printer's firmware to be upgraded via the web. Nevertheless, should you wish to design labels on your PC, suitable software is available from Brady, at a price, and is called MarkWare. The IDXpert keyboard comes in two versions: the conventional 'QWERTY' layout and straightforward alphabetical order. There is no Shift key but a Caps Lock key enables upper and lower case printing. A minor irritation is that there is no way of knowing which mode Caps Lock is in until you type something. This lack of mode indication is found elsewhere, such as in serial numbering. Further, there is no repeat key function (keys auto-repeat when held down) which is another minor nuisance although only when setting the clock and calendar.
The keyboard gives direct access to a small selection of electrical and mathematical symbols, including Earth, the tolerance symbol (plus above minus), Phi, and that twee superscripted circle we use to represents degrees. A wider range of scalable symbols is available from a fairly comprehensive integral library, the contents of which is categorised for convenience. The display, a 43 x 23mm mono LCD, features a status bar and a row of 'soft' keys which derive their function from whatever is showing above them in the status bar. This status bar, located at the bottom of the display, shows the print zone in which you are working, the font size and some other useful information. It's just a pity there isn't sufficient space here for a more comprehensive display of the printer's status. To sum up, then, it's difficult to find meaningful fault with this printer, ranking it as a tough, flexible asset for any working technician.