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Thermal Labels


There are two different types of thermal labels, thermal transfer and direct thermal. Each uses a heat process when imprinted. Shown below is a description of each, along with some advantages and disadvantages for each.

Thermal Transfer Labels

In thermal transfer printing, a ribbon runs over the top of the label material and together they pass between a metal plate and a print head. The print head, which is heated, comes down on the ribbon, causing the coating from the ribbon to be transferred to the label material to create the image.

Thermal transfer labels are manufactured on rolls or as continuous fanfolded labels. The label stock is not a special paper but must meet the weight, finish and size requirements of the thermal printer.

Advantages:

  • It produces high quality on demand printing.
  • It provides excellent density for printing bar code labels.
  • The print media is less expensive.
  • There is a larger variety of label stocks available than for direct thermal.
  • Uses simple inexpensive print equipment with low maintenance costs.
  • Printer is small and quiet to operate.
  • Print speed is generally higher than direct thermal.
  • It is more suitable to an industrial environment than laser, ink jet or dot matrix printers.

Disadvantages:

  • The printer speeds are limited due to the heating and cooling of the print head.
  • The print image of some thermal transfer ribbons can be scratched or smudged.
  • Color printing is limited to ribbon colors that are available.

Direct Thermal Labels

In direct thermal printing, no ribbon is necessary to create an image. The label material is heat sensitive. The print head is heated as in thermal transfer and when it comes in contact with the special direct thermal label stock, it causes a chemical reaction which creates the image.

Direct thermal labels are manufactured on rolls or as continuous fanfolded labels. The label is printed on a thermal label printer. Special direct thermal label stock is required.

Advantages:

  • It produces high quality on demand printing.
  • It provides excellent density for printing bar code labels.
  • Overall cost is lower than thermal transfer.
  • Uses simple inexpensive print equipment with low maintenance costs.
  • Printer is small and quiet to operate.
  • It is more suitable to industrial environment than laser, ink jet or dot matrix printers.

Disadvantages:

  • Special direct thermal label stock is required. There are fewer selections of different stocks available.
  • They have a short label life. Overtime, the special coating will darken with exposure to heat, sunlight and ultraviolet light.
  • The print heads wear faster due to direct contact with the abrasive surface of the direct thermal stock.
  • Running speeds are slower than other printing equipment.
  • Color printing is not available



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