The Difference Between Thermal Transfer and Direct Thermal Printing

Differences in Thermal Printing

When it comes to thermal printing, there are a few important things you should know. First, there are two primary methods of thermal printing: thermal transfer printing and direct thermal printing. But while both are similar, they are used in different ways.

Perhaps the most important thing to know is the difference between the two. The main thing that separates them is the fact that thermal transfer printing uses a ribbon, whereas direct thermal printing does not. The former is one of the best ways to create barcode labels because it’s able to produce accurate and precise images with clearly-defined lines and edges. These high-quality images are crucial when it comes to barcodes because the clearer the code is, the easier it is for a scanner to read. But barcodes aren’t the only purpose of thermal transfer printing. It can also be used to create durable, long-lasting certification labels, wristbands and asset tags.

This kind of printing can also be performed on a wide variety of substrates like paper, polyester and other polypropylene surfaces. The diverse options available make this an invaluable form of label creation.  Thermal transfer printing uses a heated ribbon to transfer an image to the substrate. The labels created this way are often designed to last for a long period of time, as well as withstand harsh environmental conditions like extreme temperatures, chemicals, ultraviolet exposure and other circumstances.

Direct thermal printing, unlike thermal transfer printing, does not require the use of a ribbon to apply an image to its substrate. In fact, direct thermal printing requires no ink or toner. This form of label making uses chemically treated, heat-sensitive substrates that blacken after passing under the thermal printhead. And because of the lack of ribbon, toner or ink, this is a very cost-effective way to print your company’s labels. But this also leads to less longevity than thermal transfer printing. While the images can last a while, they don’t possess the lifespan of the latter.

This form of printing is often used to create barcode labels as well, but for different purposes. Instead of printing long-lasting harsh environment labels, direct thermal printing is often used for coupons, event and parking tickets, name tags, shipping labels and receipts, as well as a multitude of other functions.

If you have questions about how your company, brand or product could benefit from thermal printing, contact Whitlam Group today! We’d love to sit down and discuss potential labeling solutions.

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