One drawback of the DK thermal papers used by the Brother QL series label printers currently supported by the etracer software is the printout fades over time. On the contrary the Tze series laminated tapes used by the Brother PT series label printers are advertised as very durable against water, chemical and extreme temperature. The Tze tapes are ideal for labeling vacuum tubes which can be hot when working in the application circuits. A detailed durability test data published by Brother can be found here: Durability test data for Brother laminated Tze labels
Structure of the Brother Tze laminated tape. Excerpted from the Brother brochure mentioned above
Many etracer users already have Brother QL label printers in their workflow to print out labels for the tubes boxes. They want the etracer software to support both QL and PT printers independently so that they have freedom to choose what to print any time. Support of the Brother PT series label printers is added to the trial release of the etracer software starting from version 2.1.29 alpha.
The label printer section in the etracer software is redesigned in order to add support for the PT series printer. As shown in the figure below there are two tabs marked “QL” and “PT” in the label printer section representing two notebooks for the QL series and PT series label printers respectively. Each notebook operates independently and need no information from the other notebook. When a notebook is in-use (tab selected) the user can select the USB address for the label printer, configure the label printer or print a label based on the current configuration and the quick-scan test results.
Label printer section (marked in red) in the main window of the etracer PC software
The configuration window for the QL series printer is exactly the same as the previous software releases. Here we focus on the configuration window for the PT series label printer.
Configuration window for the PT series label printer
Currently there are two PT printer models supported: PT-D600 and PT-P700. The printer model can be selected from the drop-down menu. Other PT models might also work with the software and might be added to the list based on users' feedback. Three types of tape widths are supported: 6mm, 9mm and 12mm. Due to the limited print area the amount of information that can be printed on the label is also restricted. For the 6mm tape only quiescent current and transconductance are printed. For the 9mm tape reference values are added. For the 12mm tape a title and test time and the test condition are added to the top and bottom of the label respectively. Note the layout for the 12mm tape is exactly the same as the reduced-information template for the QL label printers. The 6mm and 9mm labels can be used for 9-pin small -signal tubes such as 12AX7s. The 12mm tape can be applied to the base of octal tubes such as 6SN7s.
6mm tape printout sample for a 12AX7
9mm tape printout sample for a 12AX7
12mm tape printout sample for a 12AX7
For the title the user has three options as usual: user input, from the tube config file name and from the combo-test data file name. The "redraw label" button allows users to make changes to the label and check the result on the fly. The “Auto install/uninstall libusb-win32 filter for the Brother PT series label printer” checkbox, when checked, allows the software to install the USB filter driver when the software starts and remove the USB filter driver right before the software exits.
The USB filter driver
The etracer software send raster commands directly to the Brother label printers and for Windows operating system an USB filter driver is needed for each label printer. For applications such as the Windows printer management software and the Brother p-touch software they talk to the label printer through the USB driver supplied by Brother. This driver has to be replaced by the filter driver otherwise the etracer software has no way to talk to the label printer. If the user want to use the label printer with other software when the etracer software is not in use the USB filter driver has to be removed.
To install the USB filter driver for a Brother label printer, launch the Filter Wizard application, select “Install a device filter” and click “next”, a list of currently connected USB devices will be displayed, find and select the USB device you want to install the filter driver for and click “Install” to install the filter driver. The USB device is identified by a VID (vendor ID) and a PID (product ID). The length of PID and VID are 16 bits represented by 4 hexadecimal digits. The description might or might not give useful information to identify the device. For Brother label printers the VID is always 04f9. The following is a list of known PIDs for Brother label printers:
- QL-810W: 209c
- QL-800: 209b
- QL-700: 2042
- QL-550: 2016
- QL-500: 2015
- PT-D600: 2074
- PT-P700: 2064
Make sure the target label printer is powered on before launching the filter wizard application so that the filter wizard application can detect it on the USB bus. In the figure below two brother label printers are identified. One is a QL-800 (PID 209b) and the other is a PT-D600 (PID 2074).
Two label printers detected (marked in red) by the filter wizard application
To remove an installed USB filter driver, launch the filter wizard application and select “remove a device filter”, a list of installed filter drivers will appear and the user can select which filter driver to uninstall.
To remove all installed USB filter driver, launch the filter wizard application and select “remove all device filters”, follow the instructions and all installed filter drivers will be removed at once.
The USB filter driver is open-source and can be downloaded from their Sourceforge page https://sourceforge.net/projects/libusb-win32/files/libusb-win32-releases/188.8.131.52/ or from the etracer website:
When executing the installer, make sure the installer is executed under the administrator mode (right click->run as administrator) because the driver installation is a system-wide operation.
To check whether or not an USB filter driver is currently installed use the “remove a device filter” option in the filter wizard application and the currently installed filter drivers will be displayed.
- For QL series label printers make sure the “editor lite” mode is turned off. There is an LED light on the printer's panel indicating the “editor lite” mode. Make sure this LED is turned off.
- Remember to save the configuration for the label printers by selecting File->Save configuration file
USB address detection
If the USB filter is correctly installed for a brother label printer it’s USB address (VID and PID) will be detected by the etracer software and listed in the drop-down box under the “USB addr:” label. The etracer software will eliminate the USB address for known models for a specific printer series to reduce the items listed. For example, under the QL tab the USB address for all known PT label printer models will not be listed.
The combo-test is modified to support both types of label printers. As can be seen in the figure printing to the QL printer and PT printer can be done by click on the corresponding button. The "auto print when test ends" option can also be selected by checking the corresponding checkboxes.
Label printing function (marked in red) in the Combo-test mode
Printing errors in the combo-test mode might cause the software to freeze sometimes. Always make sure the label printers and labels are correctly configured before printing labels in the combo-test mode. Test printing can be done by clicking the “Print” button in the label-printer section in the main window.
Please also check the following video which provide a live demo for the support for the Brother PT series label printer: