For this review Jeff Jones of The Technical Department upgrades his labelling options with the Brother PT-E550W handheld labelling machine.
A decent labeller is now an essential part of any electrician’s kit. There is a constant need for multiple, robust printed labels notifying circuit identification, individual accessories, voltage, earthing and RCD information, to name but a few. Furthermore, the most recent edition of the wiring regulations stipulates that electricians must label as part of the job.
Up until now I’ve owned an old basic labeller as part of my on-site kit. It has only been able to print limited circuit information at a push on only one sized tape and I’ve found it painfully slow to produce labels without any mistakes in spelling or formatting. It’s always been a case of pressing print and hoping for the best!
When PE asked if I’d like to review the latest Brother PT-E550W labeller with Wi-Fi connectivity I was more than happy to oblige, and I’m very glad I did so. After using it for just a few weeks I can safely say that I’ve been amazed – my goodness labellers have come a long way in a short space of time!
There are several elements that set the E550W apart from the competition. Firstly, the unit features a large, clear display which shows exactly what you’re doing before you print. This allows you to be much more creative with your labels and observe and rectify mistakes as they happen on-screen meaning no more wasted tape.
This large screen is a huge advantage over any basic labeller as it gives you the confidence to design much more complex labels. For instance, it’s a doodle to create labelling for individual circuit information for large multiway distribution boards.
Using just the labeller out of the box the most successful method I’ve found for this is to select the patch panel function where you can set the individual width of the MCB and the number of MCBs in a row. You then fill in the individual block of information and off you go! The button layout is very intuitive with the most common commands having their own assigned keys. It has a large, rubberised qwerty keyboard which allows even the biggest sparky hands to key in all the necessary information for your label.
Another top feature is that the labeller also comes with a well thought out, robust carry case including all the bits you need to get going and carry with you on-site. It includes a lithium ion battery which offers you a very generous amount of printing time whilst on the go. I used the labeller all day printing circuit information and labelling for individual accessories on a large install and still had three bars left on the battery!
What really intrigued me about this labeller was the smartphone and PC connectivity. Only recently I’d been caught out when working on a job miles form any wholesaler and needed a specific RCD label to finish off a new job. I attempted to print this very wordy RCD label off on my old labeller but gave up quickly, a combination of the tiny keyboard and the fact the display was useless meant a lengthy drive for another pack of overly priced RCD labels was the less painful option.
This scenario is now a thing of the past with the E550W. Simply connect to your smartphone, open the fabulously designed Mobile Cable Label Tool app, select one of the inbuilt templates designed specifically for electrical work and press print. That’s it. Out pops a perfectly professional looking label with all the RCD test information on it. How easy is that?
The app also includes a great selection of all the most useful labels a jobbing electrician could need. If this isn’t enough you can connect the E550W to your laptop, install the P-touch Editor software and the sky’s the limit. You can design practically any label you want and even add in your own company logo/image!
I also connected the labeller to my Wi-Fi network so the E550W acted like a wireless printer, allowing me to design on the laptop and wirelessly send to the labeller – another great feature.
Even if you don’t have access to the mobile app or the software on the laptop, using the labeller is very straightforward. There’s a very useful quick guide in the box if you get stuck, in addition to some great YouTube videos to help you on your way with your learning.
Changing printing tape from ones size to another is also a very simple process and quick to perform. It’s also handy when multi-tasking, as I personally like to use the 24mm width tape for vertical distribution boards then swap to 12mm width tape to label individual electrical accessories
In conclusion, I find it hard to pick fault with this labeller or the connected apps. Brother has clearly put a lot of thought into the development of the product and as a handheld on-site labeller it’s simply incredible.
For more information about the E550W handheld label printer from Brother visit: www.brother.co.uk/smart-professional