Zebra Technologies, which makes a wide range of labelling, tracking and printing technologies, is announcing a refresh of its rugged scanner lineup. The company is introducing a new 3600-Ultra-Rugged series of scanners, which exceed Zebra’s prior standards for durability, performance and manageability. The 3600 series will replace the previous 3400 and 3500 series, which will gradually be end-of-lifed.
Zebra makes a wide range of scanner products, and has been making rugged ones targeted at industrial and commercial use cases since 1986. This legacy business was significantly increased in 2014 with the $3.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Solutions’ scanner business, a transaction which made Zebra the market leader in the space.
“With the 3600, we are redefining what rugged is,” said John Britts, Senior Director, Product Management for Data Capture Solutions at Zebra Technologies.
Britts said the 3600’s design philosophy has three key elements, all of which customers consider to be indispensable.
“When we looked at designing the 3600, there were three pillars,” he said. “The first was that the device has to be unstoppable, to exceed past standards for durability. These are ‘ultra-rugged’ devices. For example, they are now designed to survive an eight-foot drop to concrete, whereas our past standard was a six-foot drop.”
Britts said that the 3600 now has the ability to work in even wider ranges of temperatures. It is also the first IP67-rated scanner which can endure complete water immersion for up to 30 minutes.
“These can be hosed down or completely submerged, and still operate,” he said.
The second design element is performance.
“You still see some atrocious conditions for bar codes out there where these live, where it’s not uncommon at all for them to be torn, dirty or smudged, or under heavy shrinkwrap,” Britts said. “We need to make absolutely sure the scanners will work. As battery requirements are critical, these now have 50 per cent more battery power than our previous devices as well.”
Management of the battery is a key aspect of the third design principle – manageability. Zebra’s PowerPrecision+ smart battery technology offers the first charge gauge in its class, providing visibility into battery power and allowing users to monitor battery age.
“Before, customers were basically flying blind, without knowing how much battery power is left,” Britts said. “While one might think from consumer products that these commercial machines would have logically had this before, this is actually the first one that has this kind of battery indicator on it. Together with a trackable born-on date, it lets customers manage their fleet better. They typically keep these devices 3-5 years, so they can know now where all their assets are.”
With the retirement of the 3400 and 3500 series over the next nine months or so, the 3600 series will address all the rugged markets that Zebra participates in. Six different models will be available, each with different functionality. In turn, each of these will be available in both corded and cordless models, for a total of twelve.
“The prices will be the same as the current products in the same area that we sell,” Britts said. “There will be much more value, however, so you get a lot more product at the same old prices.”
Although Zebra does sell direct to some large tier customers, most of their product is sold through channel partners, of which they have thousands globally. In North America, their distributors are Ingram Micro, ScanSource and BlueStar.