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Comparison Between Different Types of Barcode Ribbons

Different Types of Barcode Ribbons

Implementation of barcodes is a good way for businesses to make asset tracking more efficient. Nowadays, almost all big businesses utilize barcode labels in their day-to-day operations. There are different types of barcode printing techniques, based on their utility and applications. One such type is Thermal Transfer printing using Barcode Ribbons.

Today, we will discuss barcode ribbons, their types & applications.

Different Types of Barcode Ribbons

Almost all barcode ribbons are made from polyester, due to their durability and ease of production. The difference comes from the coating. You can classify barcode ribbons based on the materials used to make the adhesive coating. There are three types of thermal transfer barcode ribbons, based on the coating:

Wax Ribbons

As the name suggests, these ribbons have a coating of wax mixed with ink on one side of the ribbon. Wax ribbons are impervious to water and moisture damage as it forms a layer between the water and the label. These ribbons operate on a low power/heat setting, due to the lower melting point of the wax.

Resin Ribbons

The other material that can be used to make the coating of a TTR barcode ribbon is Resin. Prints made from resin ribbons are highly durable and invulnerable. However, resin barcode ribbons are vastly more expensive than wax ribbons.

Wax-Resin Ribbons

These are sort of a mid-point between wax & resin ribbons. The coatings on these ribbons are made from a mixture of resin and wax. This makes them resistant to smudges, scratches & chemical exposure. All the while, cutting the cost down significantly.

A Comparison between Types of Barcode Ribbons

There are pros and cons to choosing from any of the three types of barcode ribbons. So, it’s best to compare their advantages & disadvantages first. Then decide which type of barcode ribbon is the best choice for your business. So, here are some criteria for having a comparison between different types of barcode ribbons.

Physical Durability

Due to their soft nature, wax ribbons are vulnerable to scratches and smudges. Resin ribbons on the other hand are not affected by physical damage or abrasions. While wax-resin ribbons aren’t invulnerable to scratches and smudges, they can still resist their effects.

A big problem with wax ribbons is that they can fade away or get damaged when exposed to certain chemicals. That is not the issue with resin ribbons.

Implementation Cost

Even with its overwhelming advantages over wax ribbons, resin ribbons still only dominate a small portion of the market. This is because they are significantly more expensive than wax ribbons.

Surface Compatibility

Resin ribbons are generally compatible with almost every surface, but due to their high cost, manufacturers only use them where they are needed. Wax ribbons are used for applications with normal environments and temperatures, like shipping labels, clothing labels, warehouse applications, etc. Wax-Resin ribbons are slightly more durable than pure wax, so they can be used with glossy & synthetic surfaces.

Below is a table showing the compatibility of each ribbon with various types of surfaces.


Surface Type

Wax Ribbon

Wax-Resin Ribbon

Resin Ribbons

Uncoated Tag Stock


Coated Tag Stock


Paper Label











Gloss Polyester



Matte Polyester







PVC Shrink Wrap




There are three different types of barcode ribbons, each with different applications. They all have advantages and disadvantages over one another when it comes to durability, cost, etc. Ultimately, depending on your organization and the application of the barcodes, you will have to choose which one suits you the most.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What are the different types of barcode printer ribbon?

Ans: There are three different types of thermal transfer barcode ribbons based on the material of their coating, namely – Wax, Wax-Resin & Resin.

Q2. What colors are best for barcodes?

Ans: Barcodes can come in all combinations of colors. However, the most important aspect of a good barcode is the color contrast between the bars, as allows the scanner to distinguish between a “1” and a “0”. So, the colors with the highest contrast difference will always be the best choice, that is, Black & White.

Q3. Can thermal printer print barcode labels?

Ans: Yes, direct thermal printers are used to print barcodes on labels. However, they need a special type of paper with a photo chromatic layer on it. 

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  • Created on Apr 18, 2023
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