THERMAL TRANSFER AND DIRECT THERMAL LABELS
There are two print technologies used by Logopak print & apply systems, the direct thermal and the thermal transfer method. Both methods are commonly used for barcode printing applications. Logopak can supply systems that utilise either of these technologies.
Thermal Transfer Labels
Thermal transfer printers use a standard label material plus a carbon ribbon which is the ink that gets transferred onto the label via heat, hence the name ‘thermal transfer’. The ribbon sits between the printhead and thermal transfer label and thereby provides protection to the printhead as it negates the abrasion that occurs when printing by direct thermal. This can offer savings over time with the cost of replacement printheads. Thermal transfer printing is very crisp and durable so this method is excellent for high density bar-codes and can be used confidently for applications which call for labelling long-life products.
Typical uses for thermal transfer labels are warehousing, logistics, tracking and tracing applications. Thermal transfer labels must often meet high specifications, it is therefore especially important to choose the correct transfer ribbon, matched to the most suitable label stock. For more demanding applications and environments, thermal transfer printing is an ideal choice.
Direct Thermal Labels
Direct thermal printers apply heat via the print head on to paper which has been specially coated with a form of heat sensitive material. When the heat is applied, the coating turns black and this provides the illustration.
Direct thermal printing is primarily used in applications that don’t require a long label life as over time the labels will fade. If labels are left in sunlight for any length of time they will quickly start to go off colour, first grey and then ultimately black. It is a well established process that is used in just about every imaginable sector including retail, warehousing, and transport and is particularly popular in the foods industry, since most items are stored away from heat and sunlight.
Direct thermal labels will usually work out less expensive than thermal transfer, because the print process does not require a carbon ribbon, but they are more susceptible to fading and abrading in challenging environmental conditions although the actual life will be dictated by the application.
When sourcing either thermal transfer or direct thermal labels, buyers should be aware that there are various grades of material available which is often reflected in the buying price. Cheaper materials are more abrasive on the printhead and create a lot of paper dust. This can have a detrimental effect on the printhead as the abrasiveness will shorten its life and this component is one of the most expensive parts of a printer. Logopak only use the best available self-adhesive materials, sourced from the leading European suppliers.
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