Thermal Transfer Ribbons Simplified


Figuring out the right thermal transfer ribbon to use for your specific barcode printing application is fairly easy if you know some of the simple characteristics of the different ribbon types.

If you are unfamiliar as to how thermal transfer ribbons work, the first thing you need to know is that barcode printers use one of three basic types of thermal transfer ribbons: wax, wax/resin and resin.

In the printing process, as the label and ribbon are driven beneath the print head together, the ink from the ribbon is heated and transferred to the label. For a more detailed explanation of thermal transfer printing technology, visit this link:

The advantages to the thermal transfer printing process is that the labels last much longer, are heat and scratch resistant and dry instantly.

Choosing the correct ribbon type depends on what substrate you are printing on and the specific application for the label. Wax ribbons are intended for printing on paper labels where the life of the label can be years, as long as it is not exposed to moisture, chemicals or oil. They are generally used in retail labeling, compliance labeling and warehouse and receiving applications.

Wax/resin ribbons produce a more durable and sharper image on coated paper and some synthetic materials. These ribbons are used in applications that require greater image durability, such as general medical, automotive labeling and lumber industry applications.

Finally, pure resin ribbons are formulated to print onto plastic labels such as polyester, polypropylene and vinyl. The ink from a resin ribbon is designed to slightly dissolve into or adhere to the plastic surface of the label, making it useful for applications that require a great deal of durability, such as outdoor environments. Resin ribbons are ideal for use in industrial applications, chemical drum labeling, high temperature applications and prime medical and pharmaceutical applications.

No matter what printing application you need to fulfill, thermal transfer ribbons will produce high-quality print labels time and time again.  It’s important to note there are several different formulations of each of the ribbons (wax, wax/resin, resin) therefore it is always recommended you work with your reseller to make sure you get the best ribbon combination that is going to work with your media.