Difference Between Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printers

Every business operation in any sector runs at a fast pace with the aid of printers. Businesses require printing barcodes, bills, shipping labels, name tags, and the list goes on. Printers are in everyday usage in the business sector. The technology has made the evolution of printers into another level possible, that they are purchased based on the required application.

However, people think so much before the purchase of these printers, does it suits their need or not. This article provides you with detailed facts, pros, and cons of the direct thermal and thermal transfer printers.

Both the thermal printers are used in printing variable data and barcodes, and produce high-quality labels and media; however, they come with distinctive characteristics.

Thermal Printers

Understanding the Facts – Direct thermal Printing:

A direct thermal printer usually comes handy, can be shifted from a location to another without any hustle, and operate without much noise.

They do not need any ribbon to print the labels, as the printer head of the printer applies the heat directly on the paper that is chemically treated, reacts instantly to the warmth, and turns greyish black to produce the image required. The printer is not so complex to operate. There is no insertion of ribbon, ink, or toner, so the printer doesn’t require any major maintenance, hence saves the maintenance costs to a greater extent.

Direct thermal printed labels generally have a decent shelf life of 6 – 9 months. After that, they get diminished due to the exposure of UV rays or excessive heat or heavy wear and tear. Hence they are best suited for bulk volume printing, printing the labels for packaged foods where the printed labels do not usually get exposed to heat; shipping bills are usually thrown after the product is delivered.

Limitations of Direct thermal printers:

The Thermal ribbons are manufactured with a back coating to avoid the frictions so that they add some years to the life of the printer head. That makes no sense in the case of direct thermal printers as they don’t use the ribbons – hence their printer heads are more susceptible to wear and tear when compared to Thermal transfer printers.

The label material stays sensitive to heat and reacts even after the completion of the process. Hence the image is utterly removed from the substrate and becomes hard to meet the purpose- the image goes unreadable.

Understanding the Facts – Thermal transfer printing:

The printing process involves the printer head heating the ribbon, which transfers the ink onto the material laid alongside the printer. Paper, plastic, or polyester can be used as the material in a Thermal transfer printer as there is no direct contact of heat on the substrate.

This gives a wide range of material choices and provides high durability. The labels printed using these printers can withstand extreme heat or diverse chemical reactions and harsh conditions. The quality of the images is unmatchable by any other printing technology.

These printers allow the usage of a wide range of colours in the printing process and deliver high definition text; sharp-edged, good quality images. The images once produced, do not move. Hence they are widely popular in office applications, permanent identification; and all the applications that require stable printed images.

Limitations of thermal transfer printers:

They are a bit difficult to reload them.

The supply cost is higher as they require ribbons. However, the life of the printing head is longer than direct thermal printers.

The ribbon used must be compatible with the media substrate (means the base material like paper/cardboard onto which the image is printed); otherwise, it will lead to severe internal problems in the printer.