How To Choose A Thermal Transfer Overprinter

When it comes to deciding what type of TTO (Thermal Transfer Overprinter) to choose there are some valuable points to consider. The two different types are direct thermal and thermal transfer.

Packaging regulation changes are now requiring food distributors to make sure that bar codes and expiration dates are clear on all packaging. You may be facing what is the best choice for your product.

Thermal label printers are ideal for barcode printing because of their accuracy, high-quality images that provide excellent edge definition. Thermal printers are engineered to print within tight tolerances and also to produce the exact bar-widths that successful barcode printing and scanning require. Both choices can produce one- and two-dimensional barcode symbologies, graphics and text at the same print resolutions and speed. Determining which type of printing solution to use will depend on your application needs and the environment in which your labels will ultimately have to perform.

The difference between the two approaches lies in the way they create an image. Thermal transfer printing uses a thermal ribbon. The printer’s thermal print head elements heat the backside of the ribbon to melt and transfer the ribbon ink onto the label. These ribbons may be manufactured with the base being wax, resin, or a combination of the two.

With direct thermal printing, the label itself is heat sensitive. The print head elements directly contact the label material, which causes a color change in the label and the creation of the image on the label.

While direct thermal printers are less expensive and don’t require ink or ribbon, they do present some critical disadvantages when it comes to mission-critical barcode and other labeling applications. They are susceptible to environmental damage and prone to fading.  The printheads may wear out faster, and they can’t print small text or high quality images and barcodes, and only print black on white.

Thermal transfer overprinter technology provides higher quality labels that last much longer, and can be deployed with a variety of label stocks.

Thermal transfer printing solutions offer more flexibility, as they can accept a wider variety of label media materials (and sizes) than direct thermal printers, which makes them a good fit for a wider variety of applications.

By selecting the right media-ribbon combination, as well as specialty adhesives, users can create archival-quality labels to withstand temperature extremes, ultraviolet exposure, chemicals, sterilization, and more. Typical thermal transfer applications include product identification, circuit board tracking, permanent identification, sample and file tracking, asset tagging, inventory identification, certification labels such as UL/CSA, laboratory specimens, cold storage and freezers, and outdoor applications.


Posted in Thermal Transfer Printing.