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Thermal Transfer Printing vs Direct Thermal

If you’re unsure which printing technique is right for your unique business applications, you’ve come to the right place. Depending on your specific needs, you may be considering the use of thermal transfer printing or digital thermal printing. Let the experts at Hughes Enterprises help you find the right solution today.

Thermal Transfer Printing

Thermal transfer printing is a unique process that stands unparalleled by other variable imaging technologies for bar code labeling solutions.Thermal transfer printing is a unique process that stands unparalleled by other variable imaging technologies for bar code labeling solutions. Unlike any of its counterparts, like direct thermal, thermal transfer printing provides fail-safe durability, versatility and high-resolution output. Using a heated ribbon to print the type or imagery on the paper, the ink is absorbed into the material, thus becoming a part of that material.

These printers can accept a wider variety of media than direct thermal models, including paper, polyester, and polypropylene materials; the specific label material and ribbon must be carefully matched to ensure print performance and durability. The end result? A long-lasting printed image that is precise and meets tight tolerances.

A few application examples include: durable wristbands, asset tags, product identification and inventory, circuit board/file tracking, certification labels, safety labels, pharmaceutical labeling and tickets. Because they are made to withstand extreme temperatures, ultraviolet exposure, chemicals, and sterilization, thermal transfer printed materials can be used for lifetime identification applications.

Direct Thermal Printing

Direct thermal printing utilizes nearly the same process as thermal transfer printing process. However, direct thermal printers do not use ribbon. In direct thermal printing, the thermal process occurs on the paper substrate itself – requiring a specially coated paper for optimum performance. The heat produced from the print head causes a chemical reaction with the top layer of the coated paper that essentially burns the transmitted image onto the paper. The images produced are sharp, with precise edges.

And because there aren’t any ribbons, ink or toner, direct thermal printers cost less to operate than inkjet, laser, impact, and thermal transfer printers. Although thermal media images tend to fade over time, their simple design makes them easy to use for short-term printing applications.

Primary uses for direct thermal printing are “Point-A-to-Point-B” applications, such as baggage checking in airports, shipping labels, ID bracelets, compliance labels, coupons, event tickets, name tags, etc. The printed material is more sensitive to light, heat, and abrasion than printed material from thermal transfer printing and is not intended for long-term identification or extreme environment applications.

Choosing the Right Application: Thermal Transfer Printing vs Direct Thermal

Choosing the right printing application requires matching your needs with the capabilities of your printer. And Hughes Enterprises provides the right packaging systems solutions to both large and small businesses. With a wide range of case labeling products and services coupled with experienced and knowledgeable product specialists, let us help you find the right product identification equipment. Call us at 1-267-409-6100 for more information.

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