Types of Thermal Transfer Ribbons

Thermal transfer is a type of printing that transfers text or design onto paper or other materials like synthetics, cards or textile materials. The print head of a thermal printer melts the wax of a carbon ribbon onto the desired material and that is why it is referred to as thermal printing. It is a popular process for printing identification labels and printing high quality barcodes in different industries.

Thermal transfer ribbons act as the “ink” to make long-lasting labels. But before you go out there and purchase one, here is a little overview of the different thermal transfer ribbons available in the market, and which one might best work for your needs:

  • Wax ribbons – This type of ribbon is ideally used on paper, semi-gloss, or matte label materials. Once printed on the label, they can last a long time if kept dry and away from oils, chemicals, abrasion, or anything that may dissolve the wax image. This type of ribbon is the most inexpensive for thermal transfer printer use.


  • Wax-resin ribbons – This type of printer ribbon is usually used for printing on smooth, very fine, and coated paper labels like semi-gloss, gloss, or synthetic stocks. The ribbon produces clear and fine images, and is more durable than those printed using wax ribbons. However, they should be kept away from moisture. This type of ribbon costs more than wax ribbons.


  • Resin ribbons – This type of ribbon is ideal for printing on hard film and plastic labels including vinyl, polyester, and polypropylene. The ribbon is designed to withstand exposure to oils, chemicals, harsh weather, smudging, water, and much more. That’s why this type of ribbon is usually used to label aircraft and automobile parts, hazardous chemicals, and things like that. Resin ribbons are used with label facestock, and in order to get the right combination you have to determine which surface, type of exposure, and elements the label might be exposed to.


It is important to know the differences between each thermal transfer ribbon and how it fits your needs in order to get high quality prints that last a long time. The right combination of materials and ribbons used in printing determines the quality of your prints and how they can withstand exposure to natural elements.





This Article is written by John C Arkin.


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