Over the last eight years of reading this blog, we have learned a lot about the direct thermal label business, but have you thought about how using these direct thermal labels can help make for a greener environment? As we have learned over the years, direct thermal labels do not use a ribbon where thermal transfer labels must use a ribbon to create the image. This is because the direct thermal label material reacts to the heat from the print head to create the image. Because the paper reacts to the heat of the print head, the labels traditionally have not held up to any durability testing.
Scratching, exposure to sun light, exposure to heat, and chemicals can all cause the image to fade or become unreadable. Some of these elements have been muted a bit by adding a coating to the direct thermal labels that extends the life and prevents rapid fading. By using these newer substrates, the market for direct thermal material has expanded. The labels will still fade or yellow over time, but it is an extended amount of time now allowing the labels to have more uses.
So in today’s world of reduced carbon footprints it has become very important for organizations to reduce their waste. In fact, many organizations have used the reduction in waste and the ability to lower their carbon footprint as a competitive advantage.
Well, by using direct thermal labels a company can reduce the use of thermal transfer ribbon. This printer ribbon uses a poly based backing made in part from crude oil products. By eliminating the use of the thermal transfer ribbon companies can positively impact a company’s goal for a reduced carbon footprint. When using thermal transfer labels, the used ribbon and the cores must be disposed of, which adds to the company’s overall waste. Direct thermal technology eliminates this waste.
As the advances in direct thermal materials continue to expand the potential use applications also expand allowing for more of this elimination of waste to continue to make a positive impact. Currently there are still advantages and disadvantages to using direct thermal labels. Here are some of the advantages:
- Simplified operator intervention, no ribbon to load or ribbon adjustments to make.
- No ribbon wrinkle problems
- No mechanical failures associated with ribbon drive mechanisms
- Fewer inventory items due to lack of ribbon and fewer spare parts
- Eliminates potential for mismatched labels and ribbon
- No ribbon disposal.
Along with the advantages are some remaining disadvantages included below:
- Typically slower print speeds
- Typically reduced thermal print head life
- The will fade or turn yellow over an extended period of time
- The label will darken when exposed to extreme heat or direct sunlight
- Specialty substrates like films can be costly
- Limited selection of substrates
- Limited chemical resistance
So you can see some of the inherent issues with direct thermal labels still exist but they are being pushed to the extreme end of the scale allowing for new applications to emerge.
Just to be clear, moving to direct thermal does not necessarily mean saving money on the product cost. Direct thermal labels typically cost a little more than the counterpart thermal transfer label. The primary savings will be in the cost of waste.
As you explore whether direct thermal is the correct choice for your labels, be sure to contact our label experts to thoroughly walk through your application making sure this is the right fit for your label printing needs.