Direct Thermal vs. Thermal Transfer
Once you know what type of thermal printer you need, the next big concern is what print method you'll use. Thermal printers are capable of printing in 2 different ways - direct thermal (DT) and thermal transfer (TT). Depending on how long you need the label to last and the material it's made of, one of the two methods will be more effective for your application.
Direct thermal printers utilize heat- sensitive media that blackens as it passes under the printhead. Because they print without a ribbon, direct thermal printers are noted for their simplicity. Direct thermal printed labels typically have a considerable shelf life but are not well suited for environments that expose them to heat, long periods of direct sunlight or abrasion. Because of this, thermal labels, tags or ticket stock are often top coated to resist these elements. Direct thermal printing produces sharp print quality with good scan ability using only one consumable. For any short term labeling application, like shipping labels, direct thermal is the most efficient print method.
Thermal transfer printers use a ribbon, similar to a fax machine, which is melted onto the label by the printhead. This method makes it easy to use label materials beyond paper including synthetic materials, like polypropylene and polyester, for outdoor and harsh environments. Beyond the added durability, thermal transfer printed media also has a very long shelf life making it perfect for product labels, asset tags, and outdoor wristbands. Since you are using a ribbon, you also have the option to change the color of your print beyond just black. With the right combination of labels and ribbon, you can make a label for any environment or application. Though it does cost a little more to print thermal transfer media, the added benefits ensure your label or tag is readable throughout its life without ever needing to reprint. With all the options available for barcode printers today, it can be a challenge to find the right device for your business. Determining the type of printing, overall volume, and what features you need from above will make deciding on a printer easy. If you are still having difficulty or have additional questions, feel free to call we're happy to help you find the right printer for your needs.