The Difference Between Thermal Transfer and Direct Thermal Printers

If you are thinking of buying your own thermal printer but are uncertain if it is best for you here are a few differences between thermal transfer and direct thermal printers. There are differences between Thermal Printer Labels and thermal transfer labels that should also be considered.

Thermal Printers and Thermal Printer Labels

When it comes to thermal printers you have many choices of substrates and colors. They provide a crisp and clear print out which makes them ideal for bar codes and they also last longer with good adherence to the label. They use a ribbon to apply the printed image. You do have to be certain you are using the proper ribbon for the substrate in question in order to get the proper adherence. Thermal printers apply heat in order to get such good quality. Thermal printer labels have a longer shelf life than direct thermal labels but should not be exposed to heat and sunlight.

Direct Thermal Printers and Labels

Direct thermal printers provide printouts in black only. They use heat activated paper and labels not ribbon. You will also not get as clear an image which means they do not work well for bar codes that have to be scanned accurately. Despite these challenges for some applications they do work well for the food industry as the labels are not required to last longer than a year and exposure to heat and sunlight is not as common. Exposure to heat and sunlight tend to cause the labels to darken. As well direct thermal printers tend to be more durable due to their print head being made of a thicker glass.

Further Considerations

Further considerations when looking at thermal printers are the quantities required daily, weekly and monthly as well as the size of the labels required. Higher quantities of 500 or more per day require an industrial size printer and larger labels need a wide web printer. If you require high density bar codes then you will require a high resolution printer. Finally, if you are not using the printer with a PC then you will have to look for printers that have a remote system allowing you to upload pre-formatted labels onto the printer’s memory.


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