Direct Thermal vs. Thermal Transfer
Unsure about the best Thermal Label for your customers?
Explore the fundamental differences between Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Labels.
Thermal Transfer Labels
Thermal transfer printing utilises a ribbon with heat-sensitive ink. A print head heats up and melts a wax-based or resin-based ink onto the media.
Face stock and ribbon
- Using different face stock and ribbon combinations can provide smudge, scratch, and chemical resistance.
- The material is less expensive than direct thermal printing.
- All materials are scannable in both visible and infrared light, offering many face stock options and a longer shelf life.
- Less efficiency is experienced due to ribbon changes, leading to increased downtime when ribbon lengths don’t always match label roll lengths.
Direct Thermal Labels
Direct thermal materials are printed using heat. When the label travels under the heated printhead, a chemical reaction takes place within the media – darkening the portions touching the printhead.
Face stock only
- More cost-effective for short-term uses and applications.
- There is less printer downtime with no ribbon changes.
- The Image darkens over time with exposure to light or high temperatures.
- Face stock costs more than thermal transfer, and there is a shorter shelf life.
- Limited scratch resistance and few options for chemical resistance contribute to its disadvantges.
- Additionally, there is a shorter printhead life than in thermal transfer printing.