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Direct Vs Thermal Transfer Printing

How do you know whether to choose thermal transfer printing or direct thermal printing for your products? In this fact sheet, we look at whether or not direct thermal printing is less expensive (because it has no ribbon) than thermal transfer printing, so you can select the most cost-effective option for your business..

Breaking it down

When selecting one method over the other, it’s important to understand that different technology is more efficient for different businesses. We’ve found that the cost difference between the two options is negligible – until you consider what happens to your product once it leaves your facility.

Before buying any equipment, make sure you understand the pros and cons of both printing methods.

What is Direct Transfer Labelling?

This option uses no ribbon and provides a lower contrast. It may seem cheaper to choose the method that doesn’t require a ribbon, but ‘saving on ribbon costs’ is the wrong question to ask yourself when assessing this technology. Consider :

  • The edges and texture of your paper will wear down the print head faster, especially if you print in the ladder orientation. You may end up spending more on print-heads when using this method
  • Label legibility can reduce dramatically if your product spends more than 12 months on the shelf, or your product is subject to fluctuating temperatures or direct sunlight
  • Frequent scanning, condensation and abrasive transportation can also rub off the label

When choosing direct transfer labelling, it’s important that you factor in the journey that your packaging makes after it leaves your warehouse. The criticism that this method faces is not actually the quality of the printer, but rather the quality of the installers.

What is Thermal Transfer Labelling?

Many are keen to avoid this method as it means avoiding the additional costs of the transfer ribbon. However, this option can result in a higher-quality barcode that stands the test of time.

  • The smooth, waxy surface of the ribbon creates less friction when applying the barcode to the product, allowing manufactures working to a deadline to enjoy a higher print speed
  • The life of the print-head is frequently doubled when compared to direct line printing, meaning you can recoup on the costs of the ribbon
  • The wax-resin that comes with the ribbon ensures your barcode is resistant to many chemicals, UV rays, humidity, abrasion, and climatic changes that your packaging may experience during transportation and shelving

Barcode Checklist

Uncovering your needs prior to purchase ensures you aren’t left with equipment that fails to meet your needs – or won’t grow with your business in the coming years. To avoid paying more in the long run, read through our quick guide:

  • Direct transfer is ideal for companies with perishable goods with a shelf-life of under of months
  • Thermal Transfer is best for businesses with products that must endure changes in temperature, dampness or friction
  • Thermal Transfer Label Printer Applicators are a fantastic alterative as they can be configured to run in both direct and thermal transfer modes