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The Benefits of Thermal Transfer Printing with Barcode Ribbons

The Benefits of Thermal Transfer Printing with Barcode Ribbons

Asset Tracking, Supply Chain Management, and Inventory Control are essential parts of running any organization. Nowadays, most businesses use barcodes to accomplish these tasks, avoid human error and improve efficiency. Thermal transfer printing with barcode ribbons is one of the most durable and quality methods of creating barcodes.

There are other ways of printing barcodes, but today we will discuss why TTR is better. So, let’s talk about the benefits of a Thermal Transfer printer with barcode ribbons.

What is Thermal Transfer Printing?

It’s one of the methods of printing barcodes on labels. Thermal transfer printing refers to the process of transferring heat through a thin film/ribbon to imprint the adhesive coating onto the barcode label. A little too complicated? Then let me break it down for you.

Thermal transfer printing consists of a printer, barcode ribbon, and barcode label. The printer uses the ribbon to imprint images/barcodes on top of the labels. So, before we take a look at how thermal transfer printing with barcode ribbons works, let’s discuss barcode ribbons.

Brief About Barcode Ribbons

These are essential components of thermal transfer printing. A barcode ribbon is a thin film of polyester with an ink coating on one side. The coating on the ribbons can be made of wax, resin, or a mixture of both. The printer uses the coating on the ribbon to print on the barcode label.

A barcode printer uses a combination of rollers & the printhead to press the coating side of the ribbon pressed firmly against the barcode label. Then, the elements in the printhead heat the ribbon from the opposite side; this melts the coating in specific shapes and patterns. The melted coating is then imprinted on the label.

Different Classifications of Thermal Transfer Barcode Ribbon

As discussed above, thermal transfer (or TTR in short) barcode ribbons are an essential component of thermal transfer printing (TTP). There are three different types of barcode ribbons, depending on the material used for their coatings.


The coating on these ribbons is made from a kind of wax mixed with some ink and adhesive. Barcodes made using wax ribbons are impervious to water and moisture damage. However, they are still vulnerable to scratches & smudges. These are the cheapest method of thermal transfer printing.


Alternatively, you can use a resin coating on the barcode ribbon. The biggest pro of resin is that the prints made from these ribbons are extremely durable. Resin ribbons give the best quality & durability of prints. They are invulnerable to oil, water, high temperatures, scratching, smudging, and chemical damage. However, at the same time, it is also the most expensive method of printing barcodes.

Wax – Resin

This is a middle ground between wax and resin, these coatings are made partially of wax and partially of resin. This gives them a lot more durability and resistance than a wax ribbon and brings the price down significantly.

Alternative Methods of Printing Barcodes

Barcodes made using thermal transfer printing offer higher durability and lifespan. They are resistant to almost all types of damage. However, it is very expensive, and therefore, many business owners prefer alternative & cheaper methods. This is known as Direct Thermal Printing.

As the name suggests, this method doesn’t involve a barrier like a barcode ribbon between the heating element and the barcode label. With direct thermal, we use a special kind of label paper covered with a special layer. This layer is photochromatic, i.e. it changes color when heated. The printhead presses against the label, the elements heat the paper at certain spots changing the color and creating a barcode.

Types of Label Materials Available & Their Benefits

Barcodes are in use in a variety of industries and environmental conditions; therefore, manufacturers have developed many different types of barcode labels. These labels are made of different materials and have different properties and surface compatibility. So, let’s discuss briefly the different types of label materials & their properties.


These are the most economical barcode labels, they are primarily used for shipping labels, packaging, etc. Their biggest problem is that they can be damaged by water, and physical damage& are very prone to tampering. They are ideal to use in scenarios where durability is not an issue, like transport or storage.


It is a type of polymer made from propylene; these labels are more durable than simple paper labels. They are resistant to water & oil; however, they can still be damaged by extreme weather conditions or chemical exposure.


This is a specialized label material made to work in conditions where high temperature is always a factor. They are more resistant to physical damage than their predecessors and can withstand temperatures up to 250 °C. Polyimide labels are excellent for applications in electronic products, as they usually produce heat but are well within the acceptable range of these labels.


This is one of the most versatile materials used in barcode production. Due to its inherent properties, vinal labels are resistant to chemical damage, and high temperatures. They are also very flexible, making them a good choice to apply on curved or nubbed surfaces. Perhaps the biggest advantage of vinyl labels is their strong adhesion, paired with the correct adhesive and the label becomes tamper-proof. Any attempt to remove the said label will result in its destruction.


When it comes to durability, there is nothing that can beat polyester. They are invulnerable to oil and water damage and durable against scratching and smudging. Polyester labels do not get affected by chemical exposure, high temperatures, or physical impacts. However, this is also their biggest failure, due to their rigidity, it’s not possible to apply them on curved surfaces.

Benefits of Thermal Transfer Printing Over Direct Thermal

Due to the cost difference in both methods, Direct Thermal is the primarily used method when it comes to barcodes. Almost 80% of barcode printing is done using direct thermal printing. However, TTR printing is still used by a lot of businesses, why? The answer is that there are certain inherent advantages of TTR printing, that you cannot get with Direct Thermal.

Surface Compatibility

Unlike direct thermal, TTR is compatible with a variety of label materials, like – Vinyl, Polyimide, Polyethylene, Polyester, Polypropylene, and Paper. This allows users to select the label that is best suited for their product. Giving these labels a longer operational lifespan. For example, for use in high-temperature or rugged environments, you can use Polyester labels with a resin ribbon.

Durability to Physical Damage

Even though barcode prints made of wax ribbons can take physical damage like scratches and smudges. They are still far more resistant to them than any direct thermal print. And for truly rough conditions, you can always choose resin ribbon with vinyl or polyester label, to make them invulnerable to scratching and smudging.

Chemical resistance

Barcodes printed by using thermal transfer resin ribbons are completely immune to the effect of chemical exposures. Making them perfect for use in environments where the barcode may be at risk of being exposed to chemicals, like – labs, chemical factories, etc.

Applicable in Extreme Temperatures

Lastly, both wax and resin barcode prints are suitable for application in environments with high heat exposure, unlike Direct Thermal. Due to the photochromatic nature of direct thermal prints, they can fade if exposed to direct sunlight for a long time or extreme temperatures. However, no such problem occurs with TTR barcodes. These barcodes can withstand extreme temperatures, making them suitable for use in manufacturing industries, foundries, etc.


As we have discussed above, both methods of barcode printing have their advantages and disadvantages. When it comes to direct thermal, the biggest advantage is its low-cost implementation, but they face several durability issues. Making them perfect for temporary or short-term applications.

In the case of Thermal Transfer Printing, they provide excellent durability against extreme environments, chemical exposure& physical damage. However, they also add up to the cost of production in the long run. Making them better suited for extreme environments & long-term or even permanent applications.

FAQs About Thermal Transfer Printing with Barcode Ribbons

Q1. What is the use of a barcode ribbon?

Ans: As the name suggests, barcode ribbons are used to print barcodes on labels.

Q2. What are the benefits of thermal printing?

Ans: The biggest benefit of thermal printing (both direct thermal and thermal transfer) is the quality of the images they produce. Unlike other methods, thermal printing creates sharp images & is immune to clogging or ink drying.

Q3. What is TTR ribbon?

Ans: TTR meaning Thermal Transfer Ribbon is a component of thermal barcode printing. A ribbon is a thin film made of polyester with a coating made of either wax or resin on one side. This coating contains an ink that prints the image on

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on Apr 20, 2023

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