Direct thermal or Thermal Transfer printer?

To help you choose whether to use a direct thermal printer or thermal transfer printer (or whether you should use thermal transfer or direct thermal labels), consider the following questions:

  • Will you ever need to print labels in different colours other than black?
  • Do the labels need to be scanned or have a shelf-life of over 1 year ?
  • Will you be printing high-density bar codes ?
  • Will the labels be subjected to heat or sunlight?
  • Will the labels be prone to abuse or surface friction?
  • Will you be printing on a variety of different substrates (i.e. papers, films, and foils)?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions then you should consider going thermal transfer rather than direct thermal.

Thermal transfer printers

Thermal transfer printers use the same basic technology as direct thermal printers, but with the elimination of chemically-coated media material. Thermal transfer printers require the use of a carbon ribbon which gets transferred onto the substrate via heat, hence the name "thermal transfer." Thermal transfer has been transformed into a highly successful technology for bar coding. The ribbons can be different colours, so the user is not limited to black print. The polyester ribbon is then peeled away leaving behind a stable, passive image. The other benefit is that thermal transfer printers can print on paper, film, and even foil substrates. The printing is very crisp and durable so this method is excellent for high-density bar-codes and labels that require longevity. The selection and match of label stock and the ribbon is critical to the overall quality and performance of printed media.

Direct thermal printers

Direct thermal printers require the use of heat activated thermal papers and films, but require no transfer ribbon. The print colour is limited to black, unless special, pre-printed direct thermal paper is utilized, and the printing is not as crisp as that of thermal transfer ribbon printing.  It has since been transformed into a highly successful technology for bar coding. Over time the labels will darken, particularly when the surface gets scratched, or is subjected to heat and sunlight. However, a true direct thermal label printer utilizes a print head that is made of thicker glass, for increased print head durability. Direct thermal printing is popular in the foods industry, since most items are stored away from heat and sunlight, and the label shelf life is less than 1 year. The primary benefit is an overall lower cost and easier media changeovers since ribbon is not required.

Direct Thermal Printing

Thermal Transfer Printing

Labels print only in black, unless they are pre-printed with special thermo chromatic ink

Labels can be printed in colours other than black

Labels have a shelf life of 1 year or less

Labels have a shelf-life of over 1 year

Labels not prone to sunlight or heat

Labels are subjected to heat or sunlight

Labels not prone to friction or abuse

Examples: UL Recognized Film Labels for Outdoor Use, Shelf Marking Labels, Product Labels

Examples: Shipping Labels, Library Date Due Labels

Labels contain high density bar codes (i.e. limited space)

 

Labels are required to be printed on a variety of different substrates (i.e. papers, films or foils)

 

Labels come in many different formats and a multiple of options. Some of the key factors when choosing the correct label printer are:

Label Size, particularly the width. Most popular is 4 inch

Environment product is used in.

The volume of labels required to print.

Type of material that the label is composed of

The graphics or text being printed

The simplest breakdown of label printer types, available across the manufacturers is:    

Mobile

Today’s mobile printers are lightweight, easy to use and durable, and offer rich print quality, along with support for a variety of media previously found only on stationary printers. The mobile printer has the flexibility that can bring to applications. Mobile printers when configured with options such as Bluetooth or wireless connectivity are prevalent in applications such as Field Force Automation, Retail, Hospitality, and Services. Most commonly used with a receipt paper, the label options are limited due to form factor and print method.

Desktop Printers

Ideal for small usage applications or light- to medium-duty use with a roll of stock up to 4". Casings tend to be plastic and therefore not ideal for the more industrial applications. They are quiet and inexpensive

Mid – Range Printers

Very popular range that is applicable to most industries as it can handle larger volumes and also more rugged casings than the desktop ranges. Small to medium-size manufacturing, warehousing, and distribution organizations require the ability to produce a moderate-volume of printed labels for a variety of applications including product labelling, shipping/receiving, compliance, and others. These small to medium operations are often looking for efficient, but rugged printers to help strengthen their day-to-day activities.  Depending on the printer you could comfortably handle anywhere up to 5,000 labels per day.

 

High-End Printers

High-end Industrial printers offer unparalleled barcode, text and graphics print quality on labels, invoices and packing slips. Designed to survive in the harshest industrial environments, these printers perform consistently in 24/7, mission-critical operations. State-of-the-art RFID encoding options are available to further advance process efficiency and accuracy.

For further information on how we can help you streamline your business contact us today 0161 330 0077 or websales@bcdata.co.uk

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Zebra 110Xi4 Industrial Printer Range

SKU: Zebra 110Xi4 Industrial Label Printer

Zebra’s flagship printer, the 110Xi4, offers fast, 14-ips print speeds and is designed for applications with high duty cycles.

 

From £1,636.32 excl Vat

Zebra 140Xi4 Industrial Printer Range

SKU: Zebra 140Xi4 Industrial Label Printer

Zebra's super-fast durable and reliable 140Xi4 combines ease of integration and mission-critical reliability.

 

From £2,547.19 excl Vat

Zebra 170Xi4 Industrial Printer Range

SKU: Zebra 170Xi4 Industrial Label Printer

Increase productivity and print high-volume, wide labels on demand or in batch with unmatched performance ideal for compliance, product identification and pallet labeling.

 

From £2,850.82 excl Vat