The History of Star Micronics America

Over the past three decades, Star Micronics America has established itself as a leading supplier of small printers, audio components, high-precision machine tools, and precision parts to the American market and established itself as one of the most innovative companies in its target industries.

“Star Micronics America was established in 1976 to bring the innovation of our parent company to the United States. Over the course of the past 30 years, we have established ourselves as one of the leading Point of Sale (POS) printer companies in America, providing customers with truly innovative products that address the needs of the POS market. Also, we have enjoyed strong growth by developing superior audio components for the automotive, communications, and medical markets,” said Takayuki “Blues” Aoki, president of Star Micronics America.

Star Micronics America has grown from a single office in New York, NY to a national company with regional offices throughout the United States supporting its North American headquarters in Somerset, NJ. The key to its growth is remaining committed to its core values – providing exceptional customer service that complements a full-line of high-quality innovative printers for the POS market.

Over the past three decades, business has changed and Star Micronics America has maintained pace and leadership through innovation. The printer business has seen strong growth, due to product innovation. Star Micronics introduced the first thermal printer – the TSP300 – in 1992, and followed that up two years later with the TSP400, the industry’s first label printer. In the past two years, Star has introduced the TSP800RX, a dedicated and secure prescription printer that addresses the concerns of hospitals, medical doctors, and EMR vendors, as well as the TSP100 futurePRNT™ POS printer with WHQL certification from Microsoft®.

How It Began

A star is born in the U.S.A.

In the late 1970’s the United States had just begun making smoke detectors/alarms mandatory in all public buildings. Star Micronics’ contact buzzers were the missing link for smoke detectors available at the time. Star immediately began producing contact buzzers (Star’s buzzers produced no contact sparks, unlike the buzzers that were currently in smoke detectors at the time) and with a little advertising that netted a 50% return response, Star quickly became one of the top suppliers for the industry. In a short time, Star Micronics America’s orders were exceeding its projections; Star America and its President, Mr. Yamaguichi were exceeding set goals. As Star’s market share continued to escalate during the 1980’s, its product lines evolved to include additional audio components like transducers and receivers.

Star’s Innovation did not stop there. In 1979, using its strong experience in Micro Mechanisms, Star started to produce small printing mechanisms. The same year that IBM broke through with their Personal Computer, Star was launching their first Impact Printers. In just a few years, Star became a leader in Impact Peripheral Printers.

From 1985 to 1995 Star sold over 10 millions printers. At about the same time, the first electronics cash registers were introduced to the market. Star, once again, was ready and were proposing their small printer mechanisms to be integrated into these systems. However, POS systems as we know them today did not really start before the mid 80’. By that time, Star Micronics was successfully selling its mechanisms to a very limited market of demanding engineers that OEM’d their products.

Always watching for new opportunities, Star decided to research new segments/markets where their mechanisms would be needed. At that time, a new group of developers were emerging, focusing on a new market, termed Point of Sale (POS).

New markets, like fast food and hospitality, were looking for more specialized POS systems that could be configured to their exact needs. Large manufacturers were attempting to construct their own housing and even design their own processors. However, the development was expensive and the return not always profitable since they could never find the product that would fit the masses. In the same time, a new technology was growing rapidly: Personal Computers.

This new technology would revolutionize the POS industry. Small software developers could quickly develop custom software for a specific customer or industry and assemble systems from existing hardware such as PCs, video terminals, keyboards or other peripherals. With minimal capital, any retailer could have a customized POS system.

However, this solution had a problem: Since PCs did not have drivers to open “dumb” cash drawers, expensive, intelligent cash drawers had to be used. These devices had to be connected to one of the computer ports and accessed through the software program. It would add hours of program development and use up one of the few PC ports.

A solution was found by a product manager at Star Micronics America. The product manager, who was highly skilled in electronics, developed a simple feature on the control board of the printer mechanism that would allow the print device to open the cash drawer by sending a 12v pulse of 20ms. This simple attribute would reduce the price of the POS system by 20%. Based on this concept, the DP8340 housed printer was developed in only10 months and became an immediate success.

The DP8340 was a rushed product made of existing parts. Star quickly came up to speed on the emerging POS market and launched the SP300 three years later. The SP300 became even more successful than the DP8340. This product is still referred to as “the horse” of small printers, as it keeps on running and rarely requires repairs.

In early 1990, the SP300 would be installed in virtually every kitchen, in the harshest of environments. Even today, the SP300 and DP8340 still makeup a large percentage of Star Micronics printer sales because of their reputations for being two of the most reliable products on the market. From 1989 on, Star Micronics moved quickly, bringing a diverse range of innovated products to a variety of markets, nearly every year!

In 1992, Star introduced its first single station thermal printer which would become the fastest and biggest market for POS printers.

In 1993, Star introduced to the United States, the first Re-writable Card Printer. This first re-writable printer used a display of three lines made of magnetic particles. Today, Star is delivering its fourth generation of Rewritable Printers and is recognized worldwide as a leader in this technology. The technology has now moved to high temperature thermal printing.

In 1994, with the development of back office software and warehouse management, Star introduced its first label printer. Today, Star is the only provider of a desktop label printer that can deliver labels by batch or use a peeler with the same printer and without printer modification.
In 1995, Star answered the industry’s request for kiosk printers and released the UP389. A year later, in 1996, during the true beginnings of the recognized interactive and Web-based kiosk market, Microsoft chief and co-founder Bill Gates said in his book The Road Ahead, "Access to kiosks will be essential, and available everywhere."

In 2003, Star Micronics America launched its most versatile kiosk printer, the TUP900. The same printer could now be used for 2” to 4” paper width and from 3” to 8” paper diameter, allowing many of our customers to propose their kiosk designs in multiple applications and industries.

Today Star Micronics America offers more than 15 different kiosk printers and releases a new product approximately every 6 months. Star kiosk printers can be found in applications ranging from ATMs, boarding pass kiosks, gift registries, gas pump systems, photo imaging, to DVD burner kiosks.

In 2001, Star Micronics America launched the TSP700, the fastest POS printer in the industry-complete with Linux, Mac and JavaPOS drivers making Star the most Innovative POS printer manufacturer in the industry. The TSP700 has been recognized worldwide for being the most reliable (in part, thanks to its patented jam-free cutter) and the fastest printer.

Always looking for new markets to penetrate, the TSP800Rx debuted in 2004 as the only dedicated prescription printer in the United States. As of today, the TSP800Rx is synonymous with high security prescription printing and because of its secure features, it is continually recommended, not only by EMR partners, but also by government agencies.

Last, but definitely not least, 2005 saw the appearance of the TSP100 futurePRNT™ for the retail and hospitality markets, answering the calls of many “Do-It-Yourself” end users and small-mid sized business integrators. Just one year after its launch, the TSP100 futurePRNT™ has became the most successful product in Star’s POS history.

Watch for 2007! Star Micronics America will surprise you once again! After all, it is not every year a company can celebrate 30 years of success in Innovation. Star will continue to deliver to the industry what it needs—before the industry even asks!!!

Key to Success

Throughout Star’s growth, Star Micronics America’s management team held steadfast to two fundamental business beliefs -1) That a company would remain successful as long as it continued to provide its customers with high-quality products and 2) That employees were a company’s greatest asset.
Star employees believed it as well. When Star decided to migrate to a distribution network as its sales channel in the early 1980s, Star’s sales force believed so much in the quality and potential of its products that some members of the original sales force became Star distributors and still are to this day.

“Our commitment to meeting the needs of our customers is as strong today as it was 30 years ago. We will continue to provide the best service and develop innovative products for our customers so that they can be successful for years to come. That, in turn, will allow Star Micronics America to maintain its position as a true innovator, which we have worked very hard to establish for the past three decades” said Aoki.

Past, Present and Beyond

1976 – Star Micronics America established in New York, NY

1979 – Manufacturing and sales of small printers mechanism begins

1981 – IBM launch the Personal Computer

1981 – Manufacturing and sales of computer printers begins

1986 – Introduction of the DP8340 Printer, first compact, wide format receipt/record printer

1989 – Introduction of the SP300 Printer – dot matrix printing solution

1992 – Introduction of the first Thermal Printer, the TSP300

1993 – Introduction of rewritable cards

1994 – Introduction of the first Label Printer, the TSP400

1995 – First shipment of Kiosk Printers, The UP389

1997 – Introduction of the first Multi Station Printer, the SCP700

2001 – Ultra high speed TSP700 released

2003 – TUP900 thermal kiosk printer released

2001 – Linux drivers

2004 – Star answers the call of hospitals, doctors and EMR vendors with the TSP800RX dedicated and secure Prescription Printer

2005 – TSP1000 - High-Speed ticket printer/stacker released diverse enough for (lottery focused printer ticketing applications as well as, a beverage solution for the bar areas of restaurants/bars.

2005 – Release of the TSP100 futurePRNT™ POS printer with WHQL certification from Microsoft

2006 – Launch of industry leading Service Agreement Programs – Swap-A-Star and Extend-A-Star
2007 –  Introduction of the SP700 Printer – dot matrix printing solution designed for kitchen printing
2008 –  TSP100GT thermal printer released
2010 – Introduction of the first Portable Printers, the SM-S200 and the SM-T300

2011 – iOS and Android drivers
2012 – Windows8 driver
2013 – Introduction of WiFi Power Pack
2013 – Introduction of the first MFi Bluetooth Printers, the SM-S220i, SM-T300i, SM-T400i and TSP650II BTi (First desktop Bluetooth printer)
2013 – Introduction of the AsuraCPRNT, Star's first Interactive Communication Platform and Printer
2013 – Introduction of TSP650II which replaces the TSP650.