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Tag Archive: Thermal Transfer Ribbons

  1. How to Select the Right Thermal Transfer Ribbon Type

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    Thermal transfer ribbon printing is an efficient and cost-effective way to print labels on a variety of substrates. With the right label printer ribbon, these systems can print on paper, polyester, polypropylene, Tyvek, and other film substrates. However, to get the best quality prints, it’s important to match the transfer ribbon to the application. This process requires considering not only the substrate but also application requirements such as print longevity.

    The team at Technicode, Inc. is happy to help evaluate these constraints and develop a custom printing solution for your application. As a leading North American provider of barcode labeling supplies, we offer a full range of thermal transfer ribbons to meet any printing challenge.

    Why Choosing the Right Ribbon for Your Application Matters

    Thermal transfer ribbons are not completely interchangeable. A ribbon may be able to print on a suboptimal substrate, but there will likely be noticeable quality problems. For instance, incompatibility between these components can cause strange gray shading or partial ink transfer. Similarly, using a ribbon on a too-rough surface can cause pinhole gaps in the final print. Choosing the right ribbon prevents these problems and ensures a smooth, durable print.

    Thermal Transfer Ribbon Types

    Close-up of light blue thermal transfer ribbonsThermal transfer ribbons can be coated with wax, resin, or some combination of wax and resin. In general, wax ribbons are more economical, while resin ribbons offer a more durable print.

    Wax Ribbons

    Wax ribbons print dark, crisp images at a range of energy and speed settings. They offer a versatile, cost-effective option for printing on tags and both coated and uncoated papers.

    Resin-Enhanced Wax Ribbons

    Resin-enhanced wax ribbons have a unique formulation that minimizes static and creates crisper edges than pure wax ribbons. They can also be used with a wider range of substrates, including coated and uncoated paper, synthetic paper, polyethylene, and polypropylene.

    Wax / Resin Ribbons

    Wax/resin ribbons are formulated with a higher proportion of resin. This composition helps dissipate static and create cleaner prints. They are especially useful for achieving sharp quality on low-end synthetics like polypropylene, top-coated vinyl, polyethylene, and polystyrene.

    Full Resin Ribbons

    Full-resin ribbons are the most versatile, capable of printing at high speed on almost any substrate. Resin prints are also far more durable than wax prints, withstanding both mechanical and chemical damage. These tough ribbons yield excellent results on substrates as diverse as paper, tags, polypropylene, polyethylene, polyolefin, vinyl, and polyester.

    Within these broader categories, a variety of formulations are available, each with distinct benefits. Technicode’s printing experts can help you choose the best specific ribbon for your needs.

    Thermal Transfer Ribbon Applications

    Thermal transfer ribbons are typically used for retail labeling and product tracking. However, applications differ in several key ways:

    • Print volume and speed
    • Printed substrates
    • Conditions labels face after printing
      • Environmental exposures
      • Chemical exposures
      • Handling frequency

    These variables determine which transfer ribbons are most appropriate for an industry’s needs.

    General Purpose Wax Thermal Transfer Ribbons

    As described above, wax ribbons are best used for general-purpose applications such as:

    • Retail labels
    • Shipping and warehousing tags
    • Product identification

    Resin-Enhanced Wax Thermal Transfer Ribbons

    Resin-enhanced wax transfer ribbons can be used in a wider variety of applications, including those that require a higher degree of durability or a higher printing speed. These include:

    • Retail labels
    • Shipping and warehousing tags
    • Product identification
    • Logistics labels
    • Film labels
    • Flexible packaging
    • Lumber tags

    Wax-Resin Thermal Transfer Ribbons

    Wax-resin thermal transfer ribbons offer more durable prints and can accommodate a wider range of substrates. In addition to the shipping and product identification applications listed above, other uses include:

    • Compliance labels
    • Health care labels
    • Textile tags
    • Nursery and lumber labeling
    • Flexible film printing

    Full Resin

    Full resin ribbons are used where quality and durability are a priority. They are also used when products are stored outdoors or exposed to harsh chemicals. Examples include:

    • Chemical drum labels
    • Medical and pharmaceutical labels
    • Compliance labels
    • Textile tags
    • Nursery and lumber labeling
    • Flexible film printing

    High-Quality Thermal Transfer Ribbons from Technicode Labels Inc.

    Technicode, Inc. specializes in custom printing and labeling solutions for clients from diverse industries. To learn more about our comprehensive thermal transfer ribbon offerings, contact us or request a quote to receive personalized guidance.

  2. What’s the Difference Between Thermal Transfer and Direct Thermal Printing?

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    Thermal Transfer Labels

    Thermal printing uses one of two processes: thermal transfer or direct thermal printing. Both methods are similar in that they use a thermal printhead to apply heat to a surface. However, direct thermal printing requires chemically treated, heat-sensitive material, and thermal transfer printing uses a heated ribbon to transfer images onto a wide range of materials.

    In both methods, a printhead containing small heating elements delivers heat to specific areas to produce an image. The resolution of the image is determined by the arrangement and number of heating elements, or dots per inch (DPI), in both methods. The higher the DPI, the better print resolution and quality produced. The main difference between the two methods is the printing surface, which we will detail further below.

    Thermal Transfer Printing

    To choose the best thermal printing technique for a given application, it’s necessary to have a basic understanding of the functionality of each method. Let’s take a closer look at how thermal transfer printing works and its unique advantages.

    How Does a Thermal Transfer Printer Work?

    Thermal transfer printing uses heating elements located in a printhead to deliver punctual heat to a passing ribbon. The ribbon melts onto a label forming the printed image. The label absorbs the ink to apply the image to the media. In this type of thermal printing, both the ribbon and label stock must be carefully chosen. The material and adhesive qualities of the label and ribbon must be well matched to achieve prints that are of the highest quality and durability. Choosing the correct materials allows the final product the ability to withstand chemical and UV exposure, extreme temperatures, robust cleaning procedures, and more.

    Advantages of Thermal Transfer Printing

    Thermal transfer printing achieves crisp, high-definition images, text, and graphics that boast maximum readability, scannability, and long-life image stability. Both single and batch printing can be performed while producing virtually no waste, and nearly any media can be printed. Thermal transfer printers are more durable than conventional printers affording your application more reliability and lower maintenance costs.

    Applications of Thermal Transfer Printing

    Thermal transfer printing is compatible with a virtually unlimited variety of media stock, making the applications for this printing method just as diverse and applicable to many industries. Some common applications include:

    • Circuit board tracking
    • Asset tagging
    • Inventory identification
    • Cold storage
    • Outdoor applications
    • Certification labels
    • Marking laboratory specimens

    Direct Thermal Printing

    In direct thermal printing, the image is applied directly to the material as opposed to a ribbon as in thermal transfer printing. The following sections will explain how direct thermal printing works, its key advantages, and its most suitable applications.

    How Does Direct Thermal Printing Work?

    In this technique, the heating elements in the printhead apply punctual heat directly to a label featuring a heat-sensitive coating. The chemicals in this coating cause a reaction that changes the label color from white to black in the areas where heat is applied. Direct thermal printers are simpler in design than thermal transfer printers because they do not require a ribbon.

    Advantages of Direct Thermal Printing

    This method produces images that scan well and can be used with recyclable materials. This method is ideal for applications in which the image does not need to last long, such as receipts or shipping labels. Direct thermal printers are easy to operate since they do not use ink or toner. They produce virtually no waste and have low, long-term maintenance costs as they are very durable and don’t have supplies that need to be replenished.

    Applications of Direct Thermal Printing

    Thermal Transfer vs. Direct Thermal Printing

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    The labels used in direct thermal printing are extremely sensitive to heat, light, and other environmental conditions. As such, common applications include items typically used or stored indoors, such as:

    • Receipts
    • Tickets
    • Visitor identification for hospitals or schools
    • Shipping labels
    • Pharmacy Labels
    • Food Labeling Labels
    • Restaurant Order Labels
    • Barcodes

    In Need of a Thermal Transfer or Direct Thermal Labels?

    Technicode, Inc. has been a reliable source for thermal printing supplies for over 20 years. Our products are compatible with all the leading thermal printer brands and we also develop custom-sized labels, with or without printing. Thermal printing media by Technicode is proudly made in the USA and always ships quickly. If you have questions about which printing method is right for your application, please contact us. If you know which labels you need for your application, request a quote today to get started.