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IntelliTech University

Thermal Printing Considerations

There are many factors and variables that will affect your choice of ribbon and label media for thermal printing. The following section describes some of the criteria you should consider when making your selections:

Type of printing method
Thermal transfer or direct thermal?
Your labeling application
How will the label be used (asset tracking, warehousing, retail product identification, etc.)?
Operating environment
How often is the label exposed to heat, cold, moisture, dirt, ultraviolet light (sunlight), or chemicals?
Adhesive selection
What type of surface (paper, plastic, glass, metal, etc.) will the label be applied to and how long does it have to adhere to the surface? Different adhesives have certain characteristics which can be affected by the surface to which it is applied.
What is the life expectancy of the label? How long does it have to last - hours, days, months, years?
Rules and regulations
Does your label have to meet your customer's requirements, government regulations, or industrial standards?
Print speed vs. print quality and materials choice
For example, direct thermal printing is slower than thermal transfer. Resin ribbons combined with synthetic labels are more durable, but print slower than wax ribbons on paper labels.
Printhead wear (thermal transfer vs. direct thermal)
Printhead wear is normal, but it is minimized using thermal transfer printing because thermal transfer ribbons protect the printhead from label abrasion, whereas direct thermal does not use a ribbon and the label material abrades the printhead as a result. Choosing a ribbon that is wider than the label media protects the printhead from abrasion.
Scanning method
Visible vs. infrared scanners are limited to specific facestocks.
Recycling issues
Are there recycling considerations? If the surface material must be recycled, then the label facestock and adhesive used on that surface must be recyclable as well.
These factors are only a few you should consider when choosing your ribbon and label media. View the media selection and ribbon selection topics to determine how your answers to these questions translate to the media required for your solution.