Thursday, February 24, 2022

DYMO Label Printer RFID DRM

Mike Peterson (Hacker News):

The latest Dymo label printers sport RFID readers that can authenticate the labels that customers place within the printers. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, this allows Dymo to distinguish between first-party labels and cheaper alternatives.

Dymo touts the benefits of the chipped label paper in its sales literature, including auto-detection and remaining label counts. However, the chipping also forces Dymo customers to purchase first-party labels that are more expensive than many of their competitors.

It sounds like, if my current printer breaks, I won’t be able to use the remainder of the labels I’ve already purchased.


The chip inside each roll is a special NFC that identifies the label dimensions and remaining label count. The NFC comes pre-loaded with 0xFFFF-Count in a special register that increments when hit with a non-password protected NFC command emitted by the printer when any label is ejected. So even if you don’t print, you just eject, the labels are depleted. There seems to be a buffer at the end for this kind of “rewind” process or user error … but it’s limited. A roll of 50 labels might have a counter that can be hit 60 times. The command to reset this counter is password protected.

There are many label converters (print shops that make blank labels) bent out of shape about this. Moreover, there are entire industries (think dental offices) that have standardized their processes around custom die cut labels made specifically for their use case. Since DYMO won’t bless the labels, they will never work in the LabelWriter 550.

When the 550 was launched I started hearing about it from my customers. I bought one off Amazon and the reviews were terrible. A few weeks later I checked and DYMO deleted the 550 product page and renamed their older 450 to become the 550, effectively inheriting the thousands of decent reviews from the 450… hiding the upset customers of the 550.

Currently, at least, the DYMO 450 product page on Amazon seems to be intact, though that model is no longer for sale.


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