Direct Thermal or Thermal Transfer?

by Koey Nicholson on January 5, 2016 · 0 comments

in Barcode Printing,ScanSource POS & Barcode,Technical Education Portal

A common discussion when printing barcode labels is which printing method do I use, Direct Thermal or Thermal Transfer?

Direct Thermal labels have a chemical that turns the material black when exposed to heat. When a printhead element is fired, the small portion on the label turns black. When several elements are fired from the signal from a computer it produces organized text, barcode, or graphic on your label or tag. Most receipts utilize Direct Thermal media. That is why over time a receipt will turn gray or black due to heat or sunlight. This is also the preferred printing method for shipping labels, short-term name tags, parking tickets, etc. The labels are a little more expensive, but the overall material cost is less because no ribbon is used.

If your customer needs labels or tags to last for several months or years, recommend the Thermal Transfer method. This transfers ink from a ribbon to a label. Once the ink is burned to the label or tag, you will get crisp clear text, barcodes, or graphics that will last several months to several years depending on the material types. Overall, the cost may be more than Direct Thermal labels, but the quality and durability of the output will be better.

When purchasing a barcode printer, make sure that you are getting the correct features for your printing method. Some of the smaller desktop printers can be purchased for Direct Thermal printing only (they do not have a ribbon hub). These are less expensive, but only capable of Direct Thermal printing. If your customer should ever need Thermal Transfer printing in the future, I would recommend purchasing a Thermal Transfer printer. The good news is, all you need to do is change the setting in the printer, driver, or software to enable a Thermal Transfer printer to also print in Direct Thermal mode.

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