Printing barcode labels on a Zebra printer from a FileMaker 13 application

Posted on 2015-01-08
Last Modified: 2015-01-18
I need to print barcode labels on a Zebra GK420t printer.  The label printer is connected locally via usb to a windows PC.  The FileMaker application generates the label information using ZPL.  

I have not found any solutions to send the ZPL commands directly to the printer from FileMaker.  I can export the label information in a text file but I'm not sure how to send that file to the Zebra printer.  If that is the solution I will need to automate this process so that the user does not have to do anything other than click the print label button on the FileMaker app.

Question by:edpod
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LVL 32

Expert Comment

by:Rodney Barnhardt
ID: 40540032
Are you sure you are communicating with the printer? As long as you are and the proper drivers are loaded, I believe Filemaker should print to it. However, there is a way to do some customer programming, particularly on pages 43-52 with examples.
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Expert Comment

by:Lionel MM
ID: 40540085
I agree with Rodney--I use Zebra printers for my barcoding (for shipping purposes though) and all we do is print directly to the printer.

Author Comment

ID: 40541135
Thanks for replying.  

I installed the Zebra drivers.

I created a file containing the proper ZPL commands and the data from the FileMaker application.  When I printed that file with FileMaker I got a report with the ZPL commands and data.  I didn't get labels.  

From the documentation it appears that I need to send the raw text file to the printer.  To test this I exported my FM file to a text file and then sent the text file to the printer manually using the Zebra print utilities (Send File).  I got formatted labels.  Unfortunately I can't ask the user to print labels using that method.  I need to automate this function.

It seems that I need to create a windows script from FileMaker to do that.  

I also read that I may need to install a generic drive so that I can send plain text to the printer.  I have not tried that yet.

So I'm still trying to make this work.
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LVL 24

Expert Comment

by:Lionel MM
ID: 40541971
Why can't you just print the label you have created in filemaker directly to the printer? Barcode printing has become a simple process these days as it is a very mature technology and you should be able to simply print it. As you say you may have to play around with the proper driver but most applications allow you to print directly to the printer.

Author Comment

ID: 40542002
I'm not generating a barcode in FM.  The Zebra printer generates the barcode when I send it the proper ZPL commands.  When printing the file through FM the printer doesn't recognize the ZPL commands.  So it does not generate the labels.

I know that I can generate barcodes or keep barcode fonts in FM.  In fact, that is how the prototype of this application was developed.  But for this application it is better to generate the the label by formatting it using ZPL or similar print commands.  The label is a special size (small) and has lots of other information besides the barcode.
LVL 24

Expert Comment

by:Lionel MM
ID: 40542017
In your initial explantion you said
The FileMaker application generates the label information using ZPL
now you are saying
I'm not generating a barcode in FM
Please clarify but it seems the solution might be to send the file to a designated folder and then have an app check the folder every so often and when there is a file in it to print that file and then delete or move it

Author Comment

ID: 40542058
Yes, I said that the FM application generates the label information using ZPL, and it does.  But it does not generate the barcode.  If you know how ZPL works, you send the printer the information to generate the barcode, or whatever other special printing you need, and the printer interprets the commands and prints accordingly.  In my case I have commands to print some product information in a very small font, then a barcode, then more product information beneath the barcode.

As I stated in my original post I generate a text file with all of the necessary data embedded within the ZPL commands.  I'm doing that when the user clicks the print label button.  The piece that I am missing is how to send this file to the printer.  I assume that I need to execute a shell script immediately.  I'm not sure how to do that, which is why I posted the question.

But, if there is better way to have the Zebra printer generate barcoded labels then I'm interested in how anyone has accomplished that.  If you have had success using FileMaker to print a label layout which has embedded ZPL commands then I would like to know how you did that.  Did you use a special print driver?
LVL 32

Expert Comment

by:Rodney Barnhardt
ID: 40547028
So, is the end user entering data into FileMaker? I am just trying to understand the process. I did find a post where someone appears to have made some changes to the installed Zebra printer's properties to get the ZPL commands to send from an app. Not sure if this will work in your situation.

Accepted Solution

edpod earned 0 total points
ID: 40547659
The FM application supports the production of food processing operation.  At the packaging station (at the end of the process) the user needs to print labels to put on the containers before putting the containers into storage.

All of the information needed for the labels has already been created in FM prior to packaging.

I have solved the problem by assigning the USB printer to LPTx report and using a Windows command to send the formatted print file (text file with ZPL commands embedded with data from FileMaker).  It took me a while to figure out how to put all the pieces together but I now have the entire process automated inside the FileMaker application.

Author Closing Comment

ID: 40556002
I didn't get guidance from the exchange that helped me solve the problem.  I ended up research additional technical sites from FileMaker and Windows and got guidance there.  I was able to take that information an put the solution together.  It works perfectly.

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