THERMAL VS. DIRECT THERMAL PRINTING
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
In simplest terms, thermal transfer printing utilizes a thermal ribbon and direct thermal printing does not.
THERMAL TRANSFER (TT):
Thermal transfer involves the thermal printhead elements (dots) heating the backside of a thermal transfer ribbon to melt and transfer the compounds on the front side of the ribbon to the label material, thus creating the printed image.
DIRECT TRANSFER (DT):
Direct thermal printing requires a heat sensitive paper or film material. The thermal printhead elements come in direct contact with the heat sensitive label material, where the heat from the elements cause a color change in the material to create the printed image.
THERMAL TRANSFER PRINTING
DIRECT THERMAL PRINTING
THERMAL TRANSFER (TT):
- Long life of printed text and images.
- Printed text and images do not fade in direct sunlight and are far more heat tolerant.
- Availability of colored ribbons to choose from.
- You typically have a longer printhead life.
- Wide selection of labels to choose from.
- You are able to print on Thermal Printable overlams and varnishes.
- Good chemical resistance with some materials.
- Operators must perform ribbon change-overs.
- More mechanical parts in a combo printer means potential for more downtime and mechanical failures.
- Opportunity for print quality problems due to mismatched labels and ribbon.
- Opportunity for print quality problems due to incorrect ribbon adjustments.
DIRECT THERMAL (DT):
- Simplified operator intervention; no ribbon to load or ribbon adjustments to make.
- No potential ribbon wrinkle problems.
- No mechanical failures associated with ribbon drive mechanisms. (When using a Direct Thermal only printer)
- Fewer inventory items due to lack of ribbon and fewer spare parts.
- No ribbon disposal.
- Typically, slower print speeds.
- Reduced thermal printhead life.
- Will fade or “yellow” over extended periods of time.
- Label will darken when exposed to extreme heat and direct sunlight.
- Specialty material (i.e. direct thermal films) can be costly.
- Limited selection of label material.
- Limited chemical resistance.
So, what’s the best option to fit your label needs?
- The label life will be greater than 1 year.
- The label could be exposed to continuous sunlight.
- The label could be exposed to high temperatures.
- The label could be subjected to chemicals or abrasives.
- You will be printing high density barcodes.
- You may want to print on a variety of different label types, such as papers, films and foils.
- You may want to print in colors other than black.
- The label life is less than 1 year.
- The label will not be exposed to continuous sunlight.
- The label will not be exposed for high temperatures.
- The label will not be exposed to harsh environmental conditions.