There are two different types of thermal labels, Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer. The main difference between the two is:
Thermal Transfer labels
It needs a ribbon to imprint the barcode and information on the label. A printer capable of printing Thermal Transfer labels is required.
Direct Thermal Labels
It DOESN’T NEED a ribbon to print on the labels. These labels use the heat in the printer to activate the label to imprint the barcode and information on the label. Similar to EFTPOS receipts, they will fade over time.
Listed below is information displaying the difference, environments and requirements for the Thermal Transfer and Direct Thermal label types.
1. How it works
Direct thermal materials have a chemical layer applied to a paper or synthetic base that is activated by heat.
When the label is printed through a direct thermal printer, the small elements on the printer heat up and activate parts of the chemical layer to create the image required.
The labels are printed through a thermal transfer printer where, at the point of the print head, a layer of ribbon is placed on top of the label.
The print head elements heat up and cause the carbon pigment that is on the ribbon to transfer to the label, creating the required image.
Simple to use; a ribbon is not required as it images directly onto the label.
Used in most printers.
Greater productivity due to no ribbon changeovers.
Clear and consistent images for good readability and scan ability.
Suitable for both 1D and 2D barcodes.
Paper and synthetic material options available.
The quality, stability and durability of the image is suitable for most common requirements.
Excellent print definition for text, images and barcodes.
Ideal for small characters and line work.
Suitable for both 1D and 2D barcodes.
Wide variety of paper and synthetic materials available including clear, pearl, metalised, and fluorescent.
Coloured ribbons available for branding and promotional uses.
Better resistance to heat, moisture and chemicals.
Stable and durable images that are long-lasting.
Higher speed printing.
Longer print head life.
Can fade over time (6-12 months).
Overexposure to heat or UV light discolours the material, making the print harder to read.
Limited abrasion resistance.
Not all printers are thermal transfer compatible.
Ribbons must be kept in stock are an additional cost; a ribbon saver can reduce the amount of ribbon used.
Requires additional setup time and ribbon change-overs.
Ribbons can wrinkle and compromise print quality.
- Not Required
A ribbon is required; these are available in a range of different sizes, colours and grades. The common grades are:
Resin - typically used for industrial and chemical applications, where durability under extreme environmental conditions are required. Wax Resin - suitable for general purpose printing, with good scuff, element and chemical resistance. Wax - typically used in short shelf life applications, where there is low abrasion and low chemical exposure.
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