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In Thermal Printing, a thermal print head applies heat to a ribbon, which melts ink onto the material to form the image. The ink is absorbed so that the image becomes part of the media.This technique provides image quality and durability that is unmatched by others, on demand printing technologies. Direct Thermal costs less to operate than inkjet and laser. Most mobile printers use direct thermal.Direct Thermal uses chemically treated heat sensitive media that blackens when it passes under the thermal print head. Direct Thermal printers have no ink, toner or ribbon. It may fade over time when overexposed to heat, or light. The material will darken, making text or barcode unreadable. Direct thermal printing is not used for lifetime identification applications.This method is commonly used for shipping labels, compliance labels, receipts, parking tickets, coupons, event tickets, parking tickets and name tags.


A thermal transfer printer is a category of non-impact printer that uses heat to create an impression on the print media. It uses a carbon ribbon that, upon heating, is moved to the substrate. Unlike some types of printers, a thermal transfer printer can print in color, as the ribbons used can be of different colors and, as such, it is not limited to black print. A thermal transfer printer can produce prints that are durable and of very high quality compared to other types of printers and can be used with different types of print media.

Direct thermal printing requires the print head elements be in direct contact with the label material as it is pulled across the print head. Conversely, thermal transfer printing has thermal ribbon acting as a “buffer” between the print head elements and the label material. Many thermal ribbons are designed with a back-coating that serves to increase print head life by reducing static and friction. This benefit is not possible when direct thermal printing due to the lack of ribbon. Instead, the label material is in direct and constant contact with the print head, resulting in increased wear when compared to thermal transfer printing.

Thermal transfer is ideal for barcode printing because they produce accurate, high quality images with excellent edge definition. Thermal printers are engineered to print within tight tolerances and to produce the exact bar widths that successful bar code printing and scanning require. Thermal transfer printing is commonly used for meat, dairy, barcodes, name tags, coupons, shipping labels, compliance labels, receipts, name tags.

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