Handheld Inkjet Printer for Anything from Stamps to Marketing Content
Review by Erik Vlietinck
Austria-based COLOP developed the first “digital stamp,” the e-mark, a handheld 600-dpi inkjet printer that integrates with a Windows computer, iOS, or Android device and outputs multicolored imprints. After having received a test unit, it became clear to me that the e-mark far outreaches its functionality as a stamp.
The e-mark uses your tablet, smartphone, or Windows PC for creating and storing as many different imprint designs as you need. It supports barcode generation, auto-numbering, date/time stamping, image and text printing, and variable data—a high-end feature even on larger printers.
Its tricolor ink cartridge that was co-developed by HP lasts for 5,000 stamps and prints on everything that absorbs ink. An 11.1-V rechargeable Li-ion battery powers it for about 5 hours of continuous use. A docking station protects the printhead and prevents it from drying out.
I tested the COLOP e-mark with my iPad Air 2, joining the e-mark’s Wi-Fi network from within the free app without any problems, even with automatic joining turned on for my office Wi-Fi router. With the help of the instruction sheet, I installed the ink cartridge in less than 4 minutes.
For some features, and to access more than the four imprints you can store in its memory, the e-mark depends on its companion app. Except for designing from scratch, you can personalize the installed templates with your own JPEG and PNG images, such as photos and 2D barcodes. All print with detail that’s amazing for the maximum line height of 1″. You can also add to the built-in fonts by uploading OTF and TTF fonts to the Custom Fonts folder inside the e-mark directory on your device.
After creating an imprint in the app, you upload it to the e-mark. Sound and rotating LED alerts around the unit inform you of its status. To “stamp,” you move the e-mark sideways. The unit intelligently adjusts its printing speed to your motion, and sliding wheels ensure a straight line. Two- or three-line imprints require you to move the unit down as well, but markings on the sides and a transparent window in front make positioning easy: It took only a dozen imprint attempts to succeed in neatly printing two and three lines parallel to each other.
The e-mark can change date and time and queue imprints, but it depends on the app to perform its automatic updating. With numbers, you can number as fast as the unit receives updates from the app. For date and time stamps, you need to tap the “Send to e-mark” button each time you want to update the time stamp; however, if you stop using the e-mark, a saved date/time imprint will automatically have updated when you reconnect the unit to the iPad.
You can queue multiple imprints, and the iPad automatically sends one “stamp” after the previous one has finished. And then there’s serial marking, a feature called “variable data printing” on printing presses. It works by first creating a CSV (comma-separated values) list, uploading it to the serial marking folder on your iOS device, and placing the data fields on the imprint lines.
To actually print, you’ll be taken to a screen with a counter and a big green start button. You can now either print the whole file, one entry after the other, or select an entry from the counter and print only that.
The COLOP e-mark as a system is great for effective marketing. As a great way to advertise their work, for example, wedding photographers can “stamp” a printable Blu-ray disc with their logo, a list of footage or images it contains, and the date. ■