Zebra to AS400 Systems


The Zebra printer can be attached to an AS400 or other 5250 IBM systems in a number of ways. This document provides a general overview of these methods.

The Zebra Printer Language

The printer only recognizes and responds to Zebra Programming Language (ZPL). ZPL consists of ASCII text commands that the printer interprets to image and print a label. It is important to understand that the text sent to the printer be in the form of ZPL and that the format prefix character is correct in the application so that commands are identified by the printer.

A simple ZPL format looks like this......

^XA^FO10,10^AD^FDThis is a test of ZPL^FS^XZ

As you can see in the above example, each ZPL command is preceded by a format prefix caret "^". Thus the printer sees the ^XA (Start label format), ^FO (Field origin/position), ^FD (Field Data) as appropriate ZPL commands and uses the data to create a label image. In addition to format commands there can be "stand alone" immediate ZPL commands preceded by a tilde "~" that are recognized by the printer such as ~WD (Print directory label).

The default format prefix is the caret "^" (Hex 5E) while the default command prefix character is a tilde "~" (Hex 7E). Here's where it gets interesting. The caret "^" character does not appear on most workstation keyboards and may lend a degree of difficulty to programming via a word processor or editor. For such applications you can use the Alt-Hex function to generate the desired character. Click here for details.

Another alternative is to use the EBCDIC "logical not" character in place of the "caret". Many protocol converters translate, or can be configured to translate, the EBCDIC logical not character "¬" (located at the keyboard shift-6 position) to an ASCII caret "^". Thus, you could generate a ZPL text file that looks like this...........
.¬XA¬FO10,10¬AD¬FD This is a test of ZPL¬FS¬XZ.....
Once this data stream is passed through the protocol conversion all logical nots "¬" will be changed to caret thus meeting the printer's format prefix requirements.

One more option is to alter printer's format prefix by using the ~CC (Change Caret) ZPL command. ( If your printer has an LCD Display, you can alter it from the printer's menu item FORMAT PREFIX.) For example, to change the format prefix to a dollar sign "$" you can transmit ~CC$ to the printer and now the ZPL commands preceded by the "$" can be used. (i.e. $XA$FO10,10 and so on)

Printer Fails to Respond

If you encounter an issue where the printer fails to respond to print requests and the jobs appear to be getting to the printer check the following:

Label Generation

There are software vendors that supply Zebra compatible applications (produce ZPL) for the AS400 and 5250 systems. Your Zebra distributor should have information on their recommendations. 

Zebra / AS400 compatible barcode label software vendor(s) are listed here.  Click here for T.L Ashford information.

Interfacing the Zebra Printer

The method used to interface the printer depends on both the system environment and the Zebra printer model. The AS400 does not provide a direct Zebra Printer configuration but since the printing commands are text based and require no escape sequences, you can set the Zebra printer up in the IBM environment using most of the IBM printer emulations (IBM Pro-printer, 5256, 5224 or 4214). We suggest that you avoid using Laser Printer emulations such as 3812 and 5919 since these drivers often embed line preambles that will corrupt the ZPL command language.

Internal Twinax Interface Option

The 105SL, Xi Series and Pax printers support an optional internal Twinax interface that will directly attach to the Twinax cable emulating a variety of IBM printers. This optional interface provides the IBM character code EBCDIC to ASCII conversion of data and translates the EBCDIC character "logical not" to an ASCII "caret" which is the Zebra printer default format prefix.

For the 105SL, XiIII Plus, and PAX4 the Twinax option is part number G48924.  For the Xi4 the part number is P1007562

There are external devices as well that will directly interface the Twinax system. You can contact IO Corp or Black Box for these interface devices.

IBM Display Terminal

The twinax attached display terminals typically provides a parallel interface to an ASCII line printer. The Zebra printer can be connected via this interface if the printer model supports parallel communications.. When configuring the printer connection for the display terminal, select an IBM Pro-printer, 5256, 5224 or 4214 emulation. (Actually any non-laser type printer can be selected). Be sure to use an IEEE1284 parallel cable to avoid communications problems.

ASCII Controller Work Station

The ASCII Controller or ASCII Work Station provides an RS232/422 interface compatible for Zebra printer interfacing (Assure your printer supports RS232 communications). When using serial communications, the printer and host baud rate, parity, data bits, stop bits and flow control settings must be matched.

Token Ring

Zebra does not offer a token ring interface. You can contact IO Corp or Black Box for information on these interface devices.

Ethernet Network

More recently, IBM has offered an Ethernet card for the AS400. With this option you can interface existing Ethernet networks. The AS400 system must have the LPR printing option and have telnet protocol TCP/IP enabled to support this function. If your system is compatible, Zebra offers the ZebraNet Ethernet interface option allowing you to connect to a 10 Base T network.

One item to note is that in order to assure that ASCII is communicated to the attached device the data must be directed through the IBM program HOST PORT TRANSFORM. This program converts the EBCDIC data to ASCII but does not support the native IBM features such as command pass-through or any logical not to caret conversions. There are devices on the market that take advantage of the EBCDIC command features and performs the EBCDIC to ASCII conversion internally. You can contact IO Corp or Black Box for information on these interface devices.

Click here for ZebraNet information.

Click Here for an example of an AS400 IP Print Queue setup.

AS400 to PC to Zebra

A PC can be used to provide the Zebra printer interface if the PC is fitted with a connectivity device attaching to your network or Twinax port. You can contact IO Corp or Black Box for for information on these interface devices.

IPDS Printing 

IPDS printing is not supported 

Related Information

Click here for the IBM supplied information on Zebra Printers

RS 6000 Remote Asynchronous Node 16-Port EIA-232 to a printer

RS 6000 serial communications configuration to a Zebra Printer

Click here for Client Access configuration

Click here for Zebra to an IBM 7318 RS422 Interface

AS400 Page Overflow message


If you have information to add to this document please contact us using the ZIP support email feature when you've ended your query. Email Zebra