Thermal Transfer Printing Understood

Understanding the process and benefit of thermal transfer can help decide if the solution is right for your needs. Thermal transfer printing is the process of passing a ribbon between a heated print head and the label surface. The wax, resin or combination of the two is heated, transfers as an image to the label where it adheres to the label and becomes part of the label.

There is another type of thermal transfer printing known as direct thermal printing which uses a chemically treated label substrate rather than a ribbon. When the print head heats the label substrate, it causes a reaction, turning the label substrate black and coating the label in the form of an image. Although both processes are similar, they each offer different application benefits, which may suit your needs.

Thermal Ribbon

Thermal Ribbon

Although thermal transferring itself produces very dark dense images and has a longer shelf life than direct thermal printing, it is not as environmentally friendly. Because thermal transfer printing, once exposed to the heat and solvents makes it extremely durable, it’s applications are used to produce labels which require less long term maintenance than its direct thermal counterpart.

While making progress in the technology Direct thermal printing, based on its chemical application may need a coating in order to protect the label from UL light exposure, abrasions and other steps during the process to keep its print darkness on the label substrate.

The typical applications for each of these types of thermal printing include product identification, shipper labeling, electronic label processing, shelf  labeling and outdoor applications. Outdoor applications typically use thermal transfer printing applications vs.  direct thermal printing, because direct thermal printing, as previously mentioned, does not have the shelf life that thermal transfer applications have so they are used for things such as receipts, which are ideal for temporary use printing applications.

For more information and to find out what solutions will best fit your needs visit our Printing, Coding & Marking page or contact us for a more in-depth analysis of your requirements.

Posted in Thermal Transfer Printing.