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Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printers

Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Thermal and Thermal Transfer Printers

Direct Thermal printers and Thermal Transfer printers usually cause confusion among their users for the best one. Each of them performs well in their application but the main question is dependent upon their usage. Where you are going to use them? What is the primary function of those printers in your organisation?

It can be simply answered by two questions, Do you need to print goods with shorter shelf lives, such as shipping labels, receipts, or tickets, or do you need long-lasting barcodes to identify goods and identify assets?

In this blog, you can acquire a brief knowledge of Direct Thermal printers and Thermal Transfer printers.

Direct Thermal Printer

Chemically treated, heat-activated label stock is heated by a thermal printhead in a direct thermal printer. The printhead warms the surface of the specially prepared label as the labels are fed through the printer. It requires a unique kind of heat-sensitive material that turns black when heated but does not use ribbon, ink, or toner.


•   This sort of printing is more economical because it requires no ink or ribbons.

•   The printer is often smaller than a thermal transfer printer. For labels with a shorter shelf life, like those for shipping and delivery of packages and food, direct thermal printing is the best option.

•   Printing labels in batches or on a single sheet using direct thermal produces almost no waste.

•   Sharp prints with good scan ability are produced by direct thermal printing.


•   Heat and light (fluorescent and/or direct sunshine) are two environmental factors that directly affect thermal printing.

•   The label's material is heat-sensitive, fading, and over time, it may become challenging to read and scan.

•   After printing, the direct thermal paper continues to be chemically active. To resist UV light exposure, chemicals, and abrasion, thermal labels, tags, or ticket stock are frequently top coated.

Indirect Thermal Printer

In thermal transfer printing, the passing ribbon receives precise heating from the print head's heating components, which causes it to melt onto the label and create the print image. With the presence of heat, a thin wax or resin coating present on a carbon-based printer ribbon is attached to the label by thermal transfer printers. The ink is absorbed by the label, becoming a component of the media. To get the best quality and longevity, the ribbon and label stock (material and adhesive) must be properly matched to one another and the particular application.


•   A strong, long-lasting picture is produced by the ink's absorption into the label.

•   Printing labels in batches or on a single sheet using thermal transfer produces almost little waste.

•   Compared to dot matrix, inkjet, and laser printing, the long-term maintenance expenses are cheap.

•   Long-term applications are perfect for thermal transfer printing. Thermal transfer printing is therefore ideal for asset tracking, blood bags and laboratory specimens, outdoor uses, everlasting identification, and cold and freezer storage.


•   Supply costs for thermal transfer printers are higher than for direct thermal printers since the ribbon is required. To keep printing at a good quality, they must be routinely replaced.

•   If there isn't much printing on a single-pass thermal transfer ribbon, it could be wasteful.

•   The ribbon used in thermal transfers is not a good choice for recycling.

•   The ribbon and media substrate MUST be compatible to achieve the best print quality possible when using thermal transfer printing. Otherwise, the printhead's heat could melt the ribbon onto the label, which would cause issues with the printer's internal mechanisms.

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  • Created on Jun 29, 2022

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