When it comes to picking a label printer, many businesses might find themselves looking between direct thermal and thermal transfer printers. But what makes them different, and how will they affect the labels over time? Here’s a quick guide on the two printers and their labels, to help you choose the one for your needs.
Main Differences and Advantages
The main difference between a direct thermal versus thermal transfer printers is the thermal ribbon needed in a thermal transfer ribbon, in order to print an image. The thermal ribbon is heated from the backside by the printer head (dots), and the other side of the ribbon, the heat transfers compounds from the ribbon onto the label. A direct thermal printer instead prints an image directly onto a heat-sensitive label using a heated printer head, without the need for a ribbon.
Due to their different printing processes, they each provide a different set of advantages. Direct thermal printers are great for labels that don’t require a long life-span, such as barcode labels on disposable food packaging (chip bags, meat and poultry wraps), receipts, or sensitive data (prescriptions, healthcare labels). Thermal transfer printers are instead best for printing more permanent labels that need to withstand environmental changes, such as labels on products stored outdoors, or hazmat labels that need identification over long periods.
Which One Should You Get?
When to comes down to picking a printer, it all comes down to what you’ll need your labels for (and where they will go), and a cost analysis the suits your company’s needs and budget. For example, a thermal transfer printer might not be suitable for someone printing large quantities of labels, since the ribbon needs replacement, which all adds up to increased downtime over months and years. However, direct thermal printers are susceptible to increased wear on the print head since they are in direct contact with the label, dust, and other small foreign particles (versus thermal transfer print heads buffered by the ribbon). There many printers have the capacity to print both thermal transfer or direct thermal, which might be worth obtaining if both types of labels are suitable for various products.
Whichever one you pick from our printer catalog, we also have the quality labels and thermal transfer ribbons you need for the best upkeep and maintenance of your printer. Give us a call or contact us for help and advice on your printer and label options.
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