There are three main types of label printers: Thermal Transfer, Direct Thermal, and Laser.
- Thermal transfer (TT) printers are the industry’s choice for high-quality, long-lasting labels.
- TT printers can range from low cost, entry-level desktop models (such as the Zebra GK420t or the TTP-245C_Series to industrial-grade, continuous printing systems. The latter are used in professional, high volume settings.
- Thermal transfer printers utilize ink ribbons made of wax, resin, or a blend of wax and resin. It’s important to match the label material with the right ribbon to get the best print quality and durability so all of our labels come with ribbon recommendations.
- TT printers use lower heat settings than most other variable print technologies. This allows for the widest choice of facestock & adhesive options including paper, plastic, polyester, etc. With more variety in label materials, you will also find more solutions for tough label applications, including chemical resistance, oil resistance, cold and hot temperatures, outdoor exposure, long-distance scanning… the list goes on and on...
- Best part: they’re not as expensive as you think.
- Direct thermal (DT) printers are much like thermal transfer printers, but do not require an ink ribbon. Instead, labels that pass through this type of printer have a special layer of chemicals beneath the label surface that are heat-activated to create printed images.
- Without the need for a printing ribbon, the cost per label tends to be lower, but the labels themselves may be more expensive because of the special chemicals that are added to the construction.
- DT labels are not meant for long-term use, especially if there is UV light exposure.
- DT labels are primarily chosen for affordability and/or the ease in setting up the printer with only one media supply to monitor.
- Labels printed with DT printers usually are not as vibrant and sharp as those produced with TT print. If they are, it is likely you are using too much heat which can affect line definition and barcode scanner readability.
- Some DT printers have the capability to switch back and forth between direct thermal and thermal transfer printing.
- Laser and inkjet labels are ideal for utilizing your standard sheet-fed home or office printer. This makes label printing easy and inexpensive.
- Laser or inkjet labels sold in sheets are generally more economical and an excellent choice for on-site, on-demand printing.
- The durability of laser labels can vary from general indoor applications to wet or cold temperature applications.
- Laser sheets use dry toner – either in black only or full color that gives you the flexibility to add graphics and color coding. Print durability is quite good, even in UV light exposure, but laser labels are not recommended for rigorous chemical exposure.
- Inkjet label use a cartridge system of wet ink and generally have limited durability.
- The biggest drawback to sheet-form printers is that you can’t print one label at a time. Every pass through the printer requires printing a whole sheet – even if only need one or two labels and it is not recommended that you run a printed sheet back through to print the unused labels as it could jam up your printer.