The battle of thermal transfer vs direct thermal printing is most often won by answering a simple question: Do you require long-lasting barcodes to identify products and tag assets, or do you need to print items with shorter shelf lives, such as shipping labels, receipts, or tickets?
Most organizations with dedicated barcode systems use either thermal transfer or direct thermal printing to produce labels for tracking and identifying people, products, and locations. But sometimes they pick the wrong technology simply because they aren’t aware of their differences.
Thermal transfer printing use a heated print head and a thin ribbon to create high-quality, long-lasting barcode labels.
The ribbons have a wax, resin, or a wax/resin coating on one side. When a thermal transfer label or tag passes through a thermal transfer barcode printer, heat from the print head melts the wax or resin
Direct thermal printing also uses a print head to generate images. But instead of using ribbons to transfer ink, it creates an image directly on the label.
This print technology uses chemically treated, heat-sensitive media that turns black when it passes under a heated print head. Therefore, no ribbons, ink, or toner is needed—which is one of the reasons for the widespread adoption of direct thermal printing. The ongoing maintenance costs are lower than those for thermal transfer printing.
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