Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printing

  • 2016-05-27

There are two thermal printing methods: direct thermal and thermal transfer. Each method uses a thermal print head that applies heat to the surface being marked. Thermal transfer printing uses a heated ribbon to produce durable, long-lasting images on a wide variety of materials. No ribbon is used in direct thermal printing, which creates the image directly on the printed material. Direct thermal media is more sensitive to light, heat and abrasion, which reduces the life of the printed material.


Thermal printing principle

Thermal printing uses chemically treated thermal media, when the media from the thermal print head through the black. Thermal printer does not use ink, toner or ribbon. Simple design makes thermal printers durable and easy to use. Because there is no ribbon, thermal printers operating costs lower than thermal transfer printers.


Pattern on thermal media will fade over time. If the tag is excessive exposure to heat, light or other catalysts, materials will be darker, so the bar code can not be read. Thermal labels can be read with the use of different conditions vary greatly, but the technology is rated labels and many other common bar code printing applications provides sufficient life. For example, after six months of storage distribution centers, direct thermal labels can still be easily read scanned.


Thermal transfer printing principle

In thermal transfer printing, a thermal print head to the ribbon heating, melting the ink on the label material to form a pattern. Ribbon material is absorbed by the medium, the pattern constitutes a part of the label. The technology offers other on-demand printing technology can not match the pattern of quality and durability.


Compared with thermal printers, thermal transfer printers accept more varieties of media, including paper, polyester and polypropylene materials. Thermal transfer printer to produce durable labels rated, UL / CSA labels, tags and notes, as well as wristbands, permanent assets indicia, shelf labels and other identification.


Different between direct thermal and thermal transfer printing

1.   Consumables

Thermal printers use thermal paper ( similar to the supermarket consumption ticket). Thermal transfer use a series self adhesive label paper (PET, PVC etc).

2.   Labels warrantly

Thermal machine printed media retention time is not long, usually six months! (Depends on the specific storage location, luminosity, temperature and other environmental determine the actual shelf life).

Thermal transfer machine printed media retention time is longer, usually two years or more (specifically depends on the quality of the label paper and ribbon).

3.   Application

Thermal printer: supermarket, clothing, logistics, retail and other less demanding barcode industry.

Thermal transfer printer: Manufacturing, automotive industry, textile industry, telecommunications industry, the food sector, the electronics industry, chemical industry, pharmaceutical industry, medical industry, public utilities, retail and distribution, transportation and logistics, government agencies and other enterprises.

4.   Cost

Thermal machine costs low, and lower consumables; no ribbon print.

Thermal transfer machines cost more than the cost of a high thermal machine, a label paper and ribbon together.

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