Thermal transfer ribbons are a key component of the thermal transfer printing process. This process was invented in the 1940’s by the SATO corporation
and works by having material melted and applied to the medium being printed on. This can be paper, card stock or just about anything else that needs to have something printed on it.
Thermal transfer printing is not the same thing as direct thermal printing, which does not use a transfer ribbon at all. When purchasing a thermal printer it is important to take note of this difference to ensure you get the type of printer that you’re looking for.
Having a good understanding of both thermal transfer printers and direct thermal printers will allow you to make the most informed decision possible. Since every
business is unique, there is no one size fits all solution and taking the time to understand your options completely will avoid costly mistakes down the road.
Whenever discussing printers one of the first topics to come up is the ability to print in color. When looking at thermal based printers you will typically find that direct thermal printing is only going to be able to print in black and white. Some
models will allow you to create chromatic images but that is not the standard.
Thermal transfer printers, however, often do have the ability to print in color. This is done in a variety of ways (see below for details) but most often by using multiple thermal transfer ribbons, each with a different color wax ink. Having the
option to print in color is very important for many businesses so this is a key area to consider.
Another important thing to think about when choosing a thermal printer is where the items printed will be used. If they will be placed where direct sunlight will be on them, it is best to choose a thermal transfer printer. Thermal transfer printers won’t fade or be damaged when exposed to sunlight.
Direct thermal printing, however, can fade or even be erased with direct exposure to the sun. While it will take a prolonged exposure to cause the damage, it is a big concern. If you’re printing labels, for example, and they are applied to something
that will sit in the sun for more than a few hours then you will want to avoid direct thermal printing.
Another big difference between direct thermal printing and thermal transfer printing is how long what you print will last. Thermal transfer print jobs can last for years in most environments. They can stand up to most conditions quite well depending
on what you are printing on there is no reason to expect fading or damage to be an issue.
Direct thermal printing, on the other hand, will typically produce jobs that last for a year or less. Sometimes significantly less. This is why direct thermal printers are typically the right choice for temporary print jobs.
One of the biggest differences between these two types of printers is the process by which the image is transferred from the printer to the medium being printed on. With a direct thermal printing the printer will heat up precise spots on the special paper that is used. The paper reacts to the heat, which is how the images are created.
With thermal transfer printers the image is actually transferred from a thermal transfer ribbon. The printer will heat up the ribbon, which is then pressed against the paper. The ribbon will have a special colored wax or resin, which is what the
image is made of.
As you can see there are some significant differences between thermal transfer printers and direct thermal printing. While both are excellent options, they really do have very different uses. Understanding how the printers work will allow you to make
sure you get the right one for your facility.
When buying printers another option will be between thermal transfer printers and an ink jet printer. These are two very different categories of printers and they work in a very different way. If you’re not sure which will be right for your needs, consider some of the following important factors.
The biggest difference is that an ink jet works by directly applying ink onto a piece of paper or other medium. The paper is run through the printer and the print head applies the ink very precisely to get the exact results you’re looking for. Ink
jet printers are most commonly seen in people’s homes since they can create very high quality results quickly and affordably.
One potential downside of an ink jet compared to a thermal transfer printer is the ability to stand up to moisture or wet conditions. Ink jet print jobs can get runny and smear when exposed to water. Thermal transfer print jobs, however, are very
resilient to moisture. This is because the images are actually made out of a wax or resin that is essentially water proof.
Another thing to keep in mind is that ink jet printers are mostly used for printing on paper or card stock. Many thermal transfer printers can print on many other types of medium. This includes almost any type of label stock that you can imagine.
While ink jet printers certainly have a place for both home and business use, they absolutely can’t compete when it comes to creating custom signs and long lasting labels.
There are three general categories of thermal transfer printers available to choose from. Each one works a little differently and should be chosen for different types of projects. The following are the three major variants:
Choosing the right printer for the job is very important. In most facilities a good color thermal transfer printer is an ideal option since it will give you the ability to print in color when you need to. These printers can also create high quality
black and white or monochrome when color is not necessary.
If you choose a color thermal transfer printer it is a good idea to have an understanding of how the printer will work. The first thing to know is that just about any thermal transfer printer can technically print in color. If you put a color thermal
transfer ribbon into the printer, it will print in that color.
If you want to be able to create a label that has black text and red pictures, however, you’ll need a printer that can hold two (or more) thermal transfer ribbons. The number of ribbons able to be placed into the printer at once will determine how
many colors each print job can complete.
When you have a printer that can handle color it will usually have settings that allow you to identify what color is placed into which location. Unlike traditional printers that mix primary colors to get all the other colors, thermal transfer ribbons
can only apply the color of the actual wax or resin on the ribbon.
Fortunately, most people only need to use two or three colors on any given label or other print job. A good industrial thermal transfer printer can usually hold two, three or four color thermal transfer ribbons, in addition to a black one.
If you have a variety of print jobs that need to be completed, each with different color requirements, it is quick and easy to remove one ribbon and add another one between jobs. This will make it so you can have any color labels that you happen to
need based on your facility.
If a thermal transfer printer is right for you, there are some important tips that can help you to choose the right one. Think about the following items so you can make sure you are getting the printer and print ribbons that will work best for your
As you’re researching thermal transfer printers you will undoubtedly run into people who complain about smudging or blotting problems with their printer. This is one of the most common issues people have with a thermal transfer printer. This issue
is caused when the thermal transfer ribbon gets too hot so an excessive amount of the wax or resin melts onto the paper or label being printed on.
In most cases this will only happen when you are printing a large number of jobs at a time and the heat inside the printer builds up. It can happen more quickly if the printer is kept in a very warm environment such as at a busy factory.
These simple tips can help you to minimize the risk of this type of issue from occurring:
For those who have chosen to use thermal transfer printers for their business it is important to learn about the thermal transfer ribbon. This ribbon is a key component of the printer and one that will likely get most of your attention since you’ll
need to purchase the right ribbons and replace them as needed.
The first thing to learn about thermal transfer ribbons is what it is that is actually being transferred onto the paper or labels. There are three primary options when it comes to what is being used:
Most thermal transfer printers can use any of these types of thermal transfer ribbons without any trouble. You may need to adjust the settings on the printer to ensure the proper levels of heat are used to melt and apply the different materials.
As long as your thermal transfer printer is able to use all of these ribbon types you can have all of them available at any given time so those in the facility can choose which one is best for their particular jobs. This is a great way to limit expenses
and keep the overall price of printing as low as possible.
Labels and signs that are printed using thermal transfer ribbons can be a great option for just about any situation. They are commonly found in many industries and have been the standard for a wide range of different applications for years. For more
concrete examples, however, look at the following real life situations where labels printed with a thermal transfer ribbon are most frequently used:
While thermal transfer printing is obviously an excellent option for many scenarios, they aren’t the right choice for everything. In the following situations it is best to go with a direct thermal label or even having a laser printer or ink jet create
Whether you already have a good thermal transfer printer in your facility, or you’re just starting to think about getting one, make sure you stock high quality thermal transfer ribbons as well. Having these ribbons on hand at all times is a great
way to ensure you never run into situations where you need to create a label, sign or other item and you are unable.
Thermal transfer ribbons can be stored in a box for years without a problem, which is why many companies will buy them in bulk and store them near the printer itself. If you choose to do this, however, make sure you make it clear which color ribbons
are to be kept where. It can be quite a hassle trying to dig through multiple boxes of ribbons to find the one that you need for a given project.